Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The long road to Hit and Run

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  • Euan Mason, in reply to Neil,

    "Does "other people's war" mean no one in NZ cares or has any involvement?"

    No. Our politicians tell us we send trained killers to help build infrastructure. They know that the NZ public would largely reject the idea of going in with guns blazing at civilians because an ally thinks that is the correct response to "terrorism". So when we find our representatives may have been involved in war crimes, it is appropriate to question whether or not our response is really in keeping with our values.

    In this case war was not the correct response. It was someone else's response and we bought into it. Now we are suffering the consequences.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 258 posts Report Reply

  • James Littlewood*,

    Bit of an aside, but can you imagine what we would or would not know if weren't for these two journalists?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 410 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Neil,

    I’m not sure what’s meant by “other people’s war”.

    see:
    http://www.nickyhager.info/other-peoples-wars/

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7776 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready,

    Yes the sources for Hit and Run included NZ SAS who were on the ground. Wayne Mapp was very unconvicing on RNZ this morning. I wondered if Guyon has yet read the book or understands the basic weaponry. A young school teacher was shot four times in the chest apparently by a NZ SAS sniper 30 metres away. Sniper weapons are capable of killing at a distance of 1000 metres. Guyon needed to ask "At 30 metres and given the technology available, wouldn't it have been possible to see that the young teacher was unarmed?"

    It seems clear that the government has no control now over its media response. Guyon's interview with the SAS officer shows this. It was risible for the SAS guy to say let's not have an enquiry unless it clears us.

    BTW I was disappointed with Guyon saying the SAS was a respected institution. They are a law unto themselves and have no honour.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Barry Soper is a 'good ol' National boy' and ignores the fact that Wayne Mapp has confirmed civilian deaths (ie gone beyond the 'may have been civilian casualties' report Soper acknowledges)
    He also can't resist spelling Nicky Hager's name as 'Hagar' at least once - oh how they laughed in the newsroom.
    Dicks!

    see:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11823728

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7776 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Barry Soper is a ‘good ol’ National boy’ … see:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11823728

    “Nicky Hager adept at whipping up media frenzy” – could be paraphrased as “Nicky Hager – undemining small boys’ faith in their betters since 2002.”

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4590 posts Report Reply

  • Neil,

    I just find the phrase other people's wars a bit anachronistic.

    We live in an interconnected world, we are a member of the international community via the UN and other arrangements, we have people living in NZ from all parts of the world.

    We can choose to become involved or not but it's a choice we have to make. Not becoming involved doesn't necessarily absolve us of moral responsibility. And determining just who is "other" might not be straight foward.

    Since Nov 2016 • 296 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The high command of the New Zealand military, they argue, is increasingly dominated by former SAS officers: a tiny but highly influential component of the overall organisation.

    They’re not wrong.

    Lieutenant General Keating, Chief of Defence Force, did three stints with NZSAS, including as Commanding Officer.

    Major General Kelly, Chief of Army, has served with NZSAS including as CO.

    Brigadier Parsons, Deputy Chief of Army, has served with NZSAS including as CO.

    Warrant Officer Class One Mortiboy, Sergeant Major of the Army and the highest-ranking enlisted soldier, is a former Transport Sergeant in the NZSAS.

    And those are just the current serving senior members who have online biographies readily available. When one considers the small size of the Regiment, that’s a lot of representation at the top end.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    I was disappointed with Guyon saying the SAS was a respected institution.

    Within the military, nationally and internationally, they are absolutely respected. Any objective assessment of their capability puts them on par with any other special operations force in the world. You may disagree with their ethos, and you clearly have a problem with at least some aspects of the mindset of elite soldiers, but they are a very capable, competent outfit.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Neil,

    We can choose to become involved or not but it's a choice we have to make. Not becoming involved doesn't necessarily absolve us of moral responsibility. And determining just who is "other" might not be straight foward.

    For me the issue is not that we become involved but rather that we use our military to become involved.

    By it's nature the military will kill people. History tells us that every time we send the military anywhere incidents will occur that we all will be ashamed of. Sometimes the need is so great that we accept that cost.

    But at no point should anyone ever say
    "gosh I didn't expect soldiers to commit atrocities"
    because that's what happens when you people with that training and that mindset into situations like that.

    It's not something specific to New Zealand or Afghanistan. It is true of every military everywhere and every conflict ever.

    That is why the decision to send military forces should be the action of absolute last resort and considered with the utmost caution and in full knowledge that bad things will happen and for some of those our forces will be to blame.

    Sadly our MPs did not really understand that.

    Note this isn't a criticism of the NZSAS or the soldiers involved. There is simply no way I can at my computer fully empathise with the situation they were in. The problem is at a much higher level.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4432 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Matthew. Yes, possibly efficient killers if that's how respect is earned. Some SAS are clearly liars without honour who don't perform to their own standards integrity. Read the last paragraph of Hager's book. Some SAS are clearly courageous enough to call for a war crimes investigation, others, not so much.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready, in reply to Neil,

    positive contribution of the NZ PRT to the Bamyan Province.

    Scene of the Crime chapter of Hager/Stephenson shows the absurdity or this and documents NZDF people saying so. Our presence there was for purely political reasons (flying flag with USA) and to blood the SAS who hadn't seen combat for a while.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    Some SAS are clearly liars without honour who don’t perform to their own standards integrity.

    Oh, so they're human. Goodness, what a shock.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Now you're being silly Matthew. It looks like war crimes have been committed and you joke about it?

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    You’re the one who is phrasing it as though they have been mildly naughty, and has expressed disquiet over some pretty fundamental aspects of the mindset of elite military all over the world. It is unclear what, exactly, you’re talking about, especially as all I know of this is what I’ve read second-hand in the media as I haven’t read the book. Stop being oblique and speak clearly.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready,

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Pattison,

    The impression I got was that investigation by the ICC on this is inevitable. According to an expert on RNZ yesterday, there is scope for claims like this book in what is known as 'chapter 15' (of what?) whereby anyone can put this forward as evidence of a war crime and it will be investigated.

    That's what makes this so much more important than the previous books, this will result in a thorough, gold-standard investigation rather than your typical National Party white-wash/sham inquiry.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2014 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Tinakori,

    I think that our warriors – men and women – need to have more of a warrior culture than not, just as I would prefer our doctors to have a doctor culture and electricians to have an electrician culture, ballet dancers to have……etc

    That's a pretty silly observation. Truistic at best, and excusing every kind of bias by every kind of group at worst. Do doctors really need to have a culture of feeling like they are living gods? Do electricians really need to have culture of whistling at women? Is it really OK for ballet dancers to think the crippling of young girls feet is unreproachable? Do warriors really need to have a culture dedicated to glorification of killing? By your reasoning rape culture is something we'd expect of our rapists. The question isn't whether the groups should have a culture that is unique to them, but whether their culture has any place in our society, whether we should be aiming to change those cultures, to make them conform our wider cultural values.

    Warrior culture doesn't just mean "whatever culture our warriors have". It means a culture of exalting warriors as the highest and most worthy people. NZ is not a warrior culture, and the culture of our warriors should not be like the culture of, say, the ancient Spartans, or the Romans, or the Huns, or the Vikings, or the Samurai. Yes, they will have to kill on orders, that is what being a soldier is. But there are times when it's right and times when it is wrong, and our warriors should be trained to know the difference, to treat the difference as important.

    Furthermore, the higher up the chain of command they are, the more culpable they should be for such moral choices. There is almost no other reason for the chain of command, and furthermore, it is why the chain of command ends with the democratic leadership of the country, rather than stopping short. They are not blameless in their toleration of the culture under their command.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    Do warriors really need to have a culture dedicated to glorification of killing?

    No they don't and really we'd hope they don't.

    But most humans are really shit at killing humans. So one of the most difficult things about making a soldier is training humans to be willing and able to kill. Modern tech helps distance soldiers from the people they kill but it isn't enough. Essentially, if you want a group of soldiers to be effective then you need to select and then train them to kill. And even then a huge proportion of them suffer major mental health problems as a result.

    Because soldiers are really not representative of society we need to make sure they don't make the decisions about when they should be applied to a given problem. That decision must be in the hands of people who can make that decision balancing the values and needs of our society.

    Sadly our government seems to have failed us in that latter step.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4432 posts Report Reply

  • Alex Coleman, in reply to BenWilson,

    Spot on Ben.

    there's a good post here, (by a US Army Staff Officer) decrying the growing trend in the US military to talk about 'warrior culture' and explaining why it pretty much sucks in every respect.

    https://angrystaffofficer.com/2016/12/14/stop-calling-us-warriors/

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 247 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Stop being oblique and speak clearly.

    You're being silly again Matthew. Follow me on twitter if you're serious about this. See #HitandRunNZ

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Within the military, nationally and internationally, they are absolutely respected.

    They are. For what the SAS does.

    The book seems to make a pretty clear case that having a top command dominated by SAS veterans may not be the best thing.

    I don't have a lot of contact with military culture, but the Army officers I know (a relative and a family friend) have impressed me with their restraint and discipline. If other soldiers worry that that restraint is missing from SAS culture in command, it seems worth paying attention to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22584 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    Follow me on twitter if you're serious about this.

    Does the irony meter of anyone else trigger on this sentence? Or is it just me?

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Stephen R,

    Does the irony meter of anyone else trigger on this sentence? Or is it just me?

    Heh. For some reason this sprang to mind (scroll down slightly for full context).

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4590 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Russell Brown,

    They are. For what the SAS does.

    Well, yes. You generally respect a collective for what the collective does, at least in my experience.

    The book seems to make a pretty clear case that having a top command dominated by SAS veterans may not be the best thing.

    I don’t have a lot of contact with military culture, but the Army officers I know (a relative and a family friend) have impressed me with their restraint and discipline. If other soldiers worry that that restraint is missing from SAS culture in command, it seems worth paying attention to.

    I don’t think it’s a lack-of-restraint thing, particularly. It takes serious self-control and discipline to get into the regiment, after all, and their operations do not lend themselves to being a rabble. That said, Danyl’s summation – “the culture of the SAS is one of secrecy, elitism and unaccountability” – is probably not far of the mark. When much of what you (as a special operations force) do is literally classified, and you are a strategic asset for national policy as well as the best-trained military unit in the country, you will not be readily accepting of scrutiny from outside your immediate command. That is largely true of special forces around the world, from what I have read.

    Those are not characteristics that should be fostered beyond the edges of such a unit, and they’re possibly questionable within. So when you have multiple top-level officers who have been the dispenser-of-accountability behind tightly-closed doors -as well as the protective buffer between their subordinate unit and meddling others who could be perceived as not having earned the right to poke in their noses - that raises legitimate concerns about institutional adoption of a culture of cleaning up messes in secret rather than the exposure-to-sunlight appropriate to the military of a democracy.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

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