Hager and Stephenson want full Afghan inquiry

 

Not surprisingly Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson want something out of their newly released book – and it’s a full inquiry into what they claim was a botched military operation in Afghanistan.

RNZ: Hit & Run authors plead for full inquiry on Afghan raid claims

Hit & Run, co-authored by investigative journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, claims six civilians were killed and another 15 injured in raids on two villages in 2010, in what the book said was a botched operation led by New Zealand troops.

The authors alleged the soldiers, alongside US and Afghan troops, burned and blew up about a dozen houses and then did not help the wounded.

The book claimed the attacks were retaliation for the death of New Zealand soldier Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell.

The Defence Force said an investigation into claims of civilian casulaties at the time concluded the allegations were unfounded, and it stood by those findings.

But Jon Stephenson said he wanted Prime Minister Bill English to launch a full inquiry.

“He’s a decent man and I think we would appeal to him as a son, as a father, as someone who understands what it might be like to lose kids, that he will reach out and do the right thing here, because this is a wrong that’s [laid] festering for years.”

Nicky Hager said the book was based on information from unnamed sources – including SAS troops involved in the raid.

“We can safely say that there are grounds to suspect that there have been war crimes, but that obviously is a very serious allegation and it has to be determined by experts – which is why we’re calling for an inquiry,” Mr Hager said at the book’s launch in Wellington last night.

It is unclear how much then-Prime Minister John Key was told after the raid, and if he was misled by the military, Mr Hager said.

Both Stephenson and Hager seem to be taken a non-confrontational and relatively non-accusatory approach to  Prime Minister English and ex Prime Minister Key, which probably gives a better chance of encouraging an inquiry.

If there was to be an inquiry it is unlikely to be any outcome before the election, for both political and practical reasons.

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44 Comments

  1. Stephenson is being interviewed by Duncan Garner and says that almost certainly it was Americans who killed people in the raid, but there is some doubt about whether an SAS soldier may have been involved in the death of one.

    This is a lot different to what the initial headlines and summaries suggest.

    Reply
    • And he’s saying he thinks politicians were poorly informed by the Defence Force.

      Stephenson’s main beef seems to be with NZDF, Hager seems to be targeting Key and the Government more.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  22nd March 2017

        There is nothing new about the Americans blasting anything and anyone they can see. The NZDF were probably just happy they didn’t get shot up themselves. During WW2 the occupied French would come out and wave when the Brits flew over and hide when the Yanks did.

        Collateral damage is just an inevitable fact of war when the Americans are on your side and there is certainly nothing NZ can do about that. You have to decide whether you want to help them or the Taliban/Al Qaeda/ISIS. Doing nothing helps the latter.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  22nd March 2017

          One thing you can say about the Russians is they don’t give shit, they only attack terrorists, so you never have to challenge their enquiries. 🙄

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  22nd March 2017

            The only difference between the Russians and the Americans is that the Russians shoot anyone who asks for an inquiry as well.

            Reply
  2. NOEL

     /  22nd March 2017

    Jon you got your taxpayer deformation payout. Go peddle elsewhere.

    Reply
  3. Gezza

     /  22nd March 2017

    It said NZDF did not undertake investigations or inquiries into the actions of forces from other nations. That was the role of the joint Afghan-ISAF investigation.

    “The NZDF is confident that New Zealand personnel conducted themselves in accordance with the applicable rules of engagement,” the statement said.

    The authors said during the raid in 2010, the military had acted against something NZ should stand for, that may have amounted to war crimes.

They added that the elite soldiers mistakenly believed they would find the insurgents who had attacked O’Donnell’s patrol 19 days earlier in Bamiyan.
    Elite SAS officers commanded and led the attack, supported by US helicopter gunships and Afghan forces.

    “The insurgent group wasn’t there. Instead, at least 21 civilians were killed and injured – many of them women and children – and the SAS and US forces burned and blew up about a dozen houses,” Hager and Stephenson said.

    The SAS had also failed to help the wounded. None of the insurgents were found.

    At the launch, Hager said the Defence Force and Government then tried to keep the whole thing secret.

    “The insiders who we talked to were not happy people,” said Hager.
    “They believe that they and their colleagues were involved in things that seriously went against our military and our country is supposed to stand for, which they believe amounted to serious breaches of law, and war crimes.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/90690165/new-book-claims-john-key-gave-green-light-to-deadly-sas-raid-in-afghanistan

    Not sure how reliable a joint Afghan-ISAF investigation would be tbh.

    Reply
  4. Reply
  5. Chris

     /  22nd March 2017

    I seem to recall that Jon Stephenson has been pushing the SAS barrow for a number of years now, and has ended up at the bottom of the barrel having Hager write the book for him. If this is so good why did he not write the book himself, or have a more reputable journalist work with him, someone like, dare I say it, Ian Wishart.
    I don’t think anyone of right mind believes anything written by Hager is the truth.

    Reply
  6. Kevin

     /  22nd March 2017

    More taxpayer money wasted. Don’t give them an inch, Bill.

    Reply
  7. Loki

     /  22nd March 2017

    Spare a thought for Slater at this difficult time.
    His screeching and hoping for another book on him has failed.
    He must be desolate

    Reply
  8. duperez

     /  22nd March 2017

    There should be a Full Enquiry.

    To save Shipleyesque consultancy fees in designing terms of reference and the framework for such an enquiry I have come up with the same. I generously do that for free.

    Purpose of Enquiry: To establish whether claims made by authors Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson in their book “Hit and Run” are true.

    Scope of enquiry: Full and thorough

    Duration of Enquiry: Given the level of public interest in the issue it is critical the enquiry is conducted immediately, be done in a time frame which delivers its conclusions in as short a time as possible yet reassures the public that it has integrity by the methods it uses.

    Personnel involved:
    Prime Minister Bill English
    Gerry Brownlee Defence Minister
    Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Timothy Keating
    Wayne Mapp Defence Minister 2010
    Jonathan Coleman Defence Minister 2014
    “Hit and Run” book written by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson

    Method of enquiry:
    In order to satisfy public expectations about wise use of public funds the enquiry questions will be done by mail. This will save assembly costs, the use of rooms, associated power costs, and of course obviate the need for morning tea. Written questions and answers will be very specific minimising misinterpretation and the affects of hearing problems.

    As current Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee is best placed to conduct the enquiry. His experience in resurrecting Christchurch shows he is the one for the big jobs.

    Mr Brownlee will send relevant material to Bill English, Lieutenant General Keating, Wayne Mapp and Jonathan Coleman.
    Submissions by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson are sufficiently made in their book so no further consultation with them is necessary.

    Questioning
    To reflect modern methods, questions will be multiple choice.

    Questions:
    There will be one question.

    Getting the truth:
    The one question will be: Are claims made by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson in their book true?

    Form of answers: Choices presented will be a) No and b) Yes.
    Respondents will be asked to circle the correct answer.

    Collection of data:
    Respondents should have ample time to consider their responses so within 48 hours their responses should be returned to Mr Brownlee.

    A stamped addressed envelope will be included but since they’re to be returned to Parliament no stamp is required so that is even more money saved.

    Reporting:
    Mr Brownlee should have ample time to collate information from the responses so within 48 hours of receiving the responses will present a report to the Prime Minister which fully addresses the issue.

    The Prime Minister after due consideration of the final report will seek leave to address Parliament on the issue. There will not be need for debate.

    For brevity, succinctness and accuracy Mr English will say “Nothing to see here.”
    ———————————————

    There you are. Saved us heaps. Mind you if Bill sees this and uses it as a proforma I’d expect a “thanks.” I’m sure though something of this style would already have been suggested to him and will be challenging some Wellington minds as I write.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  22nd March 2017

      Terms of Reference?

      Reply
      • duperez

         /  22nd March 2017

        That’s them. ToR outline the purpose and the how. (If I have to go into lengthy explanations I might have to reconsider not charging!) 😊

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  22nd March 2017

          Terms of Reference?

          ”Purpose of Enquiry: To establish whether claims made by authors Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson in their book “Hit and Run” are true.”

          Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  22nd March 2017

      There cannot be an enquiry since it is obvious that significant responsibility and involvement was from parties beyond NZ’s jurisdiction who will refuse to participate. In those circumstances any enquiry would be so hampered and one-sided as to be incompetent to reach any conclusion.

      Reply
      • Kevin

         /  22nd March 2017

        Good point.

        Reply
      • Gezza

         /  22nd March 2017

        I’ve drawn a blank googling trying to find the full Afghan-ISAF report. The Defence Minister & PM & possibly others in government must have seen it. Time to release it. It’s the other side of Hager & Stephenson’s story.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  22nd March 2017

          NZ may not have the right to release it.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  22nd March 2017

            If not, it has the right to make a formal request for permission to do so, and publish the request & any response. I can’t see the problem with redactions where necessary, provided they are minimal, names etc. If there’s a problem getting that approval, it may indicate there’s a problem with the enquiry.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  22nd March 2017

              It might. Or it might indicate the authors want to control the defence of it themselves.

  9. Having been directly affected by claims during and after the Vietnam war of training children in war-like activities and of NZ troops killing children, I just hope that those who use this opportunity to denigrate the actions of NZ Soldiers in combat reflect upon the damage they cause to the morale of the soldiers. If you are not prepared to give them total support, do not send them.

    Reply
    • Anonymous Coward

       /  22nd March 2017

      So … Soldier maybe kills child – do nothing because soldiers don’t like getting their feelings hurt? What about the child and it’s family? What about the truth?
      Cheer up Snowflake.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  22nd March 2017

        The truth is that the risk is accepted by those who make the decision to fight. Those doing the fighting are captive to those risks and not in control of them.

        Pretending otherwise is deceit and cowardice.

        Reply
      • MaureenW

         /  22nd March 2017

        What about the truth? Lets start with the truth for going to war in the first place and work back from there?

        Reply
      • The point is AC Kiwi soldiers never make war on children and treasure them for what they are. I am not pretty enough to be a snowflake, but you know that.

        Reply
  10. Nelly Smickers

     /  22nd March 2017

    Wayne said it’s Paywalled – but *NBR’s Rob Hosking* writes:

    “Well, someone’s lying. Verdict on Hager -Stephenson book. At the end of this process, someone’s credibility is going to be shredded…. forever”

    (*Hager* – rhymes with *Lager*) XD

    Reply
  11. “Based on information from unnamed sources and SAS troopers involved in the action”. That really stretches the credibility of the whole book. The troopers involved from the NZSAS are all known to Defence HQ, and should be the subject of a Court of Inquiry into the matter. A SAS Major lost his commission because he spoke to media during SAS operations in Borneo. I personally was required to explain to the CGS why I had commented to the media on an action I had been involved in, despite being ordered by the British Brigade Commander and my CO to speak to the Reuter’s correspondent in Sarawak, Borneo.
    SAS operations are always secret to protect future operations.
    Damp squib, nothing to see here, chaps. Take Missy’s advice it is gospel.

    Reply
    • Anonymous Coward

       /  22nd March 2017

      Sir Bruce Fergusson in 2010 when asked “Was it a breach of duty for a soldier to voice his disquiet in such a way [whistleblow to the media, specifically Hager] – or his duty to do so?

      Replied….

      It’s probably a combination of both. My first, my gut reaction is very disappointed that people whisteblow with respect to the military. I do take Nicky’s point though, there will be people who are concerned. In every war, again, soldiers will see things or be ordered to do things about which they are not happy.

      It takes a very gutsy soldier, sailor or airman to go to the commanding officer and say “I don’t want to do this”. Now, until probably about 20 or 30 years ago it would probably end up with them being put in the slammer.

      But if they get no traction from that and they still firmly believe in their views, I can understand, while not sympathising with them, I can understand why they may go further.

      I would not ask Nicky for his sources because I know damn well he wouldn’t give them to me. And actually it doesn’t worry me anyway, because I’m retired.

      I would always continue to be disappointed that people felt so strongly about it they couldn’t go to their commanding officers. But they may well have done, and I would not have known that. They may well have gone to their commanding officers and the commanding officers, to use their words, covered it up. I would not see that.

      Reply
      • I will ask Sir Bruce when he is home next. To be honest, it is a soldiers duty to refuse to disobey what they perceive to be an unlawful command. If that perception arises due to a lack of information about the whole picture, then it is the duty of his/her commander to explain and clarify. If those actions are carried out, and the soldier still does not accept the order then the Commander has to consider whether of not the soldier, while on active service, is disobeying an order given to him personally by his superior officer. This is a judgement that earns the officer’s pay. There are some who counsel the soldier to do what they are ordered to if it is time imperative on operations and complain to a superior officer afterwards. If by not acting as ordered, the soldier places his fellow soldiers in peril, he must be arrested forthwith, and charged. The CO or the Court Martial can then decide on the evidence, the guilt or otherwise of the soldier. I have fortunately never been placed in this sort of situation on active service or elsewhere.
        There is another point, this sort of hypothetical situation was discussed during Military Law studies, as it is almost as bad as desertion in the face of the enemy because of its potential effect on other soldiers.
        Sir Bruce was a senior airforce officer whose contacts with infantry tactics was slim and his personal exposure to enemy fire was similar to a lot of senior officers who never heard a shot in anger. I am not disparaging their years of honourable service that speak for themselves.

        Reply
        • Sorry, “It is the soldiers duty to disobey when they receive what they perceive to be an ulawfulcommand. … etc

          Reply
  12. Brown

     /  22nd March 2017

    Alas, Unity Books launched this. That’s their right of course but I’m off their customer list and, most reluctantly, will source off the web or second hand via other book shops. I miss Capital Books terribly – thanks Amazon.

    Reply
  13. Patzcuaro

     /  22nd March 2017

    Collateral damage, welcome to the reality of war. What about all the victims of suicide bombers, collateral damage.

    All forms of violence will result in collateral damage.

    Reply
    • Collateral damage is a disinformation expression used to colour (hopefully) a description of war damage. CD is meaningless.

      Reply

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