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New Zealand General Resigns Following Journalists' Claims of War Crime Cover-up in Afghanistan


April 6, 2018
Martyn Bradbury / The Daily Blog & New Zealand Herald

Commentary: Our New Zealand media have a sorry history of being played like propaganda sock puppets by the NZDF. Now that we have full and undisputed evidence that the NZDF lied again where is the wall-to-wall media focus demanding accountability? In 2017, NZ troops killed and wounded 21 Afghan civilians -- mainly women and children -- burned down their village, and lied to cover up the crime. A new book, "Hit and Run," reveals the NZ troops operated out of a CIA compound called "Camp Kiwi."

https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2018/03/20/herald-catch-nzdf-out-in-war-crime-lie/

Herald Reporters Catch NZ Defense Force Out in War Crime Lie
Martyn Bradbury / The Daily Blog


TVNZ (August 18, 2017)

(March 20, 2018) -- Our media have a sorry history of being played like propaganda sock puppets by the NZDF. Here they are with full and undisputed evidence that the NZDF lied again and where is the wall to wall media focus demanding accountability?

Last week the NZDF admitted they lied about claims the photos used by Hager & Stephenson were false. Today they have now admitted that they conducted a military operation in the exact same place Hager & Stephenson claimed war crimes were committed . . .



NZDF confirms photos in 'Hit & Run' was where Operation Burnham took place.

Satellite imagery obtained by the Herald shows that villages pictured in the book Hit & Runare the locations where Operation Burnham took place.

A new NZ Herald interactive details the geographic location in which the authors of the book and the New Zealand Defence Force argued where the infamous Operation Burnham took place in Afghanistan.

Last week the NZDF confirmed the photos in the book were in fact the same location where the mission took place.


. . . the week after the book was released, Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating fronted the media and lied directly to the country by pretending Hager & Stephenson were wrong . . .

"The central premise of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson's book, Hit & Run, is incorrect . . . "

"NZDF troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book as having been the scene of combat operations and civilian casualties,"

. . . the Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating is a manipulative liar.


Let's remember the context.

Months before the 2017 election, Hager & Stephenson detail a revenge raid by the SAS that was poorly planned with wrong intel. Instead of catching insurgents, the NZ SAS killed and wounded 21 mainly women and children -- Afghan civilians -- while burning down their village.

The entire fiasco was personally signed off by Sir John Key.

The NZ media are still missing in action on this story and its legal ramifications, which leads to the question, can the mainstream media in NZ ever hold the NZDF to account?

Based on our recent past, the answer to that is a resounding no.

If we look to Nicky Hager's previous work, Other People's Wars, the insidious ability of the NZ Defence Force to manipulate and co-opt mainstream media into being their propaganda tools is well researched, and unsettling.

Take for example 'Kiwi Camp' in Afghanistan 2011. It was sold via the embedded mainstream media as some type of Engineering peace corps rebuilding schools, bridges and wells. Independent reports citing the work we did for the locals called our efforts "poorly planned" and "wildly exaggerated".

Embedded journalists Guyon Espiner and Vernan Small both visited Kiwi Camp and later noted (after being outed by the book) the CIA were using our base as a cover, yet both failed to mention that as anything worth informing NZers about. The CIA were using our base as a front because Provincial Reconstruction Teams don't get attacked the way Forward Operating bases do, but neither journalist thought that manipulation was newsworthy at the time.

The media's self censoring compliance with the NZDF and their willingness to don flak jackets and helmets to play the intrepid journalist shtick is actually part of the problem.

From Other People's Wars . . .

having CIA operatives inside the Kiwi base fitted poorly with the deployment's stated goals. Why would the New Zealand authorities risk the New Zealanders working at Kiwi Base, and the credibility of the New Zealand peacekeeping mission, by mixing them up with a CIA operation?

After the suicide attack on the FOB [forward operating base] Chapman, the issue of CIA operations inside a provincial reconstruction team was widely discussed. The Times wrote that "PRTs have been criticised widely for endangering civilian aid workers by blurring the line between development staff and the military.


. . . John Armstrong probably summed up the media's inability to look past the war PR spin best with his 2011 column on the book, 'Candyfloss' PR exposed in all its cynicism . . .

Those who think Nicky Hager is just another left-wing stirrer and dismiss his latest book accordingly should think again.

Likewise, the country's politicians should read Other People's Wars before condemning it.

Whatever Hager's motive for investigating New Zealand's contribution over the past decade to the United States-led "war on terror", it is pretty irrelevant when placed alongside the mountain of previously confidential and very disturbing information his assiduous research and inquiries have uncovered.

With the help of well-placed informants and thousands of leaked documents, Hager exposes the cynical manner in which the Defence Force has purposely misled the public by omission of pertinent facts and public relations flannel.

This is particularly the case with regard to the "candyfloss" image the military has built around the deployment of New Zealand soldiers in the Bamiyan province of Afghanistan.

That image is of our soldiers acting more like peacekeepers armed with nothing more dangerous than a shovel.


. . . what was more concerning than our media's embedded compliance was that the NZ military lied and deceived our own politicians . . .

Defence Force staff responsible for the deployment of Orion aircraft and Anzac frigates to the Gulf in the "war against terror" ignored instructions from then prime minister Helen Clark to keep their operations separate from those being conducted by the United States against Iraq.

The book quotes unidentified officials and former diplomats as agreeing that Clark -- lacking a strong defence minister -- fought a lone battle against never ending efforts by the Defence and Foreign Affairs ministries to rewrite Government policy and buy military equipment which would enable New Zealand to build bridges with the United States.

New Zealand diplomats resorted to underhand tricks when they did not get their way with the last Labour Government. For example, when Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials did not like a particular Government policy decision, New Zealand's ambassadors in Washington and Canberra were told to sound out the views of the local bureaucrats.

The ministry would then tell Government ministers that the Americans and Australians had made it known they were very concerned and there could be "relationship implications".


. . . and what of the allegations that NZ SAS were involved in war crimes for handing over civilians to known torture units in Afghanistan? Well, the Journalist who broke that story, Jon Stephenson, was blacklisted and had smears spread about him by the NZDF in an effort to discredit him. So good was the smear and spin, Stephenson shockingly had his defamation case against Lieutenant General Rhys Jones halted by a hung Jury in 2013.

Our media have a sorry history of being played like propaganda sock puppets by the NZDF. Here they are with full and undisputed evidence that the NZDF lied again and where is the wall to wall media focus demanding accountability?

Did NZ military forces commit a war crime, and if they did, then surely the Prime Minister who personally signed off on it must be held to account in front of the UN.




NZDF Confirms Photos in 'Hit & Run'
Was Where Operation Burnham Took Place

New Zealand Herald

(March 20, 2018) -- Satellite imagery obtained by the Herald shows that villages pictured in the book Hit & Run are the locations where Operation Burnham took place.

A new NZ Herald interactive details the geographic location in which the authors of the book and the New Zealand Defence Force argued where the infamous Operation Burnham took place in Afghanistan.

Last week the NZDF confirmed the photos in the book were in fact the same location where the mission took place.

Tomorrow it will be one year since the book was released by journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson.

The book details a New Zealand Special Air Service-led raid on two isolated villages in Afghanistan in search of fighters they suspected were responsible for the death of a New Zealand soldier.

None of the fighters were found and by the end of the raid 21 civilians were dead or wounded, most of whom were children and women, including a three-year-old girl who was killed.

Hit & Run originally identified that Operation Burnham took place in Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, two villages in the Tirgiran Valley.

The week after the book's release, Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Tim Keating released a statement saying "The central premise of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson's book, Hit & Run, is incorrect . . ."

"NZDF troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book as having been the scene of combat operations and civilian casualties," Keating said.

He went on to confirm that an Operation Burnham did take place, but in "Tirgiran village", 2km south of the locations identified in Hit & Run.

Hager and Stephenson conceded they got the locations wrong, but insisted their eyewitness accounts were from the villages where Operation Burnham took place.

They say that "Naik" and "Khak Khuday Dad" were the local names for the villages on either side of the valley, and that "Tirgiran" referred to the valley rather than any village.

NZDF finally came to the same conclusion, 352 days after first claiming that "NZDF troops never operated in the two villages identified in the book".


Tim Keating to Step Down as NZDF Chief,
Says Departure Not Linked to Operation Burnham

Lucy Bennett / New Zealand Herald

(April 3, 2018) -- Defence Force chief Lieutenant-General Tim Keating is stepping down from the role, but says Operation Burnham had no influence in his decision. He won't seek reappointment at the end of his term on June 30.

Keating revealed his decision in an email to staff today, saying it had been his absolute privilege to have served in the role since January 2014.

Keating's announcement comes during close scrutiny over the Defence Force's admission last month that photos in Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson's book Hit & Run were accurate -- reversing the Defence Force's initial claim that it never operated in the photographed areas in the Afghanistan operation.

"One thing I wish to place on record is that my departure had nothing to do with the recent spurious publicity about Operation Burnham – a 2010 NZSAS operation in Afghanistan.

"The allegations contained in the book Hit & Run effectively alleging war crimes and indiscriminate destruction of property are wrong.

"There has been no recent 'admission' by the NZDF which reverses the position we carefully set out in March of last year when the book came out.

"The conduct of our ground forces during Operation Burnham was exemplary and nothing has changed that fact," he said in the email.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) referred all questions to Defence Minister Ron Mark's office.

Mark said in a statement that there was a big programme of work ahead for the NZDF and he believed now was the right time for the next leader to "stand up, be part of the decision-making process and own those decisions".


'Kiwi Camp' a CIA Base
New Zealand Herald

(September 1, 2011) -- A new book on the war in Afghanistan reveals that the base which has long housed New Zealand soldiers carrying out reconstruction and aid work is also home to covert operatives from America's Central Intelligence Agency.

Other People's Wars -- authored by investigative writer Nicky Hager -- says the Defence Force has deliberately kept the public in the dark about the presence of United States intelligence staff at the headquarters of New Zealand's provincial reconstruction team in the Bamiyan province.

Hager says "Kiwi Camp" has been doubling as a secret CIA base -- one of several across Afghanistan charged with gathering "actionable intelligence" for use in special forces operations and aerial attacks on insurgents.

The book quotes unidentified former soldiers who have served in Bamiyan during New Zealand's eight-year deployment as saying half a dozen plain clothes American intelligence officers live on the base full-time and are privy to intelligence gathered by New Zealand troops when they go out on patrol across the region.

The book includes a photograph taken last year in Bamiyan of one American intelligence chief with gun and holster.

Under the deal with Washington by which New Zealand took over the base, the CIA operatives receive protection, meals, medical assistance and logistical support courtesy of the Defence Force.

Hager says the camp has also been used by America's National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping on electronic communications worldwide.

He also claims that under a secret agreement with the United States, New Zealand intelligence personnel have worked out of Bamiyan following training by the National Security Agency.

Hager -- best known for his expose in The Hollow Men of the inner workings of the Don Brash-led National Party -- points to what he sees as a glaring gap between the official picture of the provincial reconstruction team's work in Bamiyan and the reality of a deployment long "entangled" with the American military's strategy for countering the Taliban.

New Zealand has had a provincial reconstruction team of up to 140 personnel in Bamiyan since 2003. According to the Defence Force, the team is tasked with maintaining security, providing advice and assistance to the provincial governor and the Afghan National Police, and managing New Zealand aid projects in the region.

Hager, however, accuses the Defence Force of running a continuing public relations campaign concentrated on producing "rosy stories" showing friendly New Zealand soldiers building schools, sinking wells and handing out gifts to smiling children.

He obtained copies of confidential reports which reveal the Defence Force has sought to "generate and maintain public support" for the deployment through a "continuous flow" of positive commentary.

This "pro-active strategy" was considered necessary to assure the New Zealand public that Defence Force personnel were "not going to war", that the focus of the mission was reconstruction and that Kiwi Camp was very much a New Zealand operation.

The book, however, questions just how much successful aid and reconstruction work has been carried out by New Zealand soldiers in Bamiyan, quoting one Army commander as saying there was no long-term view of what the provincial reconstruction team was trying to achieve.

Hager also claims that some of New Zealand's SAS soldiers were privately unhappy about being deployed by the current Government in frontline operations in Kabul against suicide bombers and that being used as a signal of National's "pro-American loyalties".

Hager's latest book, which chronicles New Zealand's near-decade long involvement in Afghanistan as part of the post-September 11 "war on terror" and examines the last Labour Government's struggle to stay out of the Iraq war, is the result of interviews with military officers, defence and foreign affairs officials, Beehive-based political staff, intelligence operatives and other insiders. He also obtained thousands of pages of classified documents from a variety of sources.

The book was delivered to retailers this morning without any prior publicity for fear that authorities might seek a court-imposed injunction to block its sale because of security sensitivities surrounding its contents.

While it is expected that attempts will be made to discredit the book and its author, the veracity of the findings of Hager's previous investigations, which include a landmark expose of New Zealand's security and intelligence organisations in the 1990s, has never come under serious challenge.

His Seeds of Distrust, which covered Labour's political management of the vexed issue of genetic engineering, had a major bearing on the 2002 election campaign.

While both Labour and National may be embarrassed by Hager's findings, Other People's Wars is unlikely to have the same impact on this year's election. The work is instead highly critical of New Zealand's defence and foreign affairs bureaucracy for crossing the line into politics in its desire to see a resumption of the strong security ties the military enjoyed with the United States and Britain prior to New Zealand's adoption of the anti-nuclear policy in the 1980s.

Other notable features of the book include:
* Defence Force staff responsible for the deployment of Orion aircraft and Anzac frigates to the Gulf in the "war against terror" ignored instructions from then Prime Minister Helen Clark to keep their operations separate from those being conducted by the United States against Iraq.

The book quotes unidentified officials and former diplomats as agreeing that Clark -- lacking a strong defence minister -- fought a lone battle against never-ending efforts by the Defence and Foreign Affairs ministries to rewrite Government policy and buy military equipment which would enable New Zealand to build bridges with the United States.

* A New Zealand Defence Force signals intelligence officer
working alongside the Americans at Afghanistan's Bagram air base tracked Taliban insurgents in Pakistan which were later the targets of attacks.

* Another New Zealand intelligence officer seconded to Bagram joked on his Facebook page about not finding Osama bin Laden but added he had "widowed a few wives, though".

* New Zealand SAS soldiers deployed to Afghanistan in the early stages of the "war on terror" got fed up with the gung-ho "killing terrorists" mentality of the Americans and their treatment of captured or suspected insurgents.

* The Ministry of Foreign Affairs drafted a letter on behalf of the Kabul-based government and got it signed by the Afghan president to maintain the pretence that New Zealand's provincial reconstruction team had been "invited" to come to Afghanistan.

* New Zealand diplomats resorted to underhand tricks when they did not get their way with the last Labour Government. For example, when Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials did not like a particular Government policy decision, New Zealand's ambassadors in Washington and Canberra were told to sound out the views of the local bureaucrats.

The ministry would then tell Government ministers that the Americans and Australians had made it known they were very concerned and there could be "relationship implications".

* Senior officers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars using the Air Force's 757's to fly themselves to international air shows and take part in international study tours.

Related Articles
NZDF staff asked to 'tell the truth'
21 Mar, 2018 5:30pm

NZDF confirms 'Hit & Run' photos were right
20 Mar, 2018 5:56pm

Political Roundup: Defence cover-up starts to unravel
15 Mar, 2018 6:00pm

NZDF releases more info on SAS raid
13 Mar, 2018 1:24pm

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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