By Olivia Pierson
I have learned with the New Zealand media, that whenever a story gets sprayed out in a one-sided fashion from almost every single media orifice known to man, it is monumentally out of sync with the facts and an attempt at propaganda; eg -“Donald Trump is just a buffoon and could never win the Presidency,” or, “It would be a total economic disaster for the UK if they vote to exit the EU,” and the more recent, “New Zealand is suffering from an embedded rape culture.”
This being the case, when I read this week’s media hype about Nicky Hager’s latest piece of scurrilous handiwork (co authored by Jon Stephenson), I sighed - here we go again!
Hager & Stephenson’s new book Hit and Run about the New Zealand Defence Force’s 2010 “Operation Burnham” security raid into two Afghanistan villages of Baghlan Province, has resulted in a widespread call for an official inquiry to see whether or not our Special Air Service (SAS) is guilty of War Crimes. The book claims the SAS conducted the raid as a ‘vengeance mission’ over the death of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell in Bamiyan Province at the hands of Taliban insurgents.
New Zealand Forces have been in Afghanistan since 2001 under the wider auspices of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) operated out of Bamiyan Province until 2013. The SAS have accomplished some amazing acts of heroism against the savage forces of the Taliban, resulting in the much deserved decoration of some of the team.
The Taliban have been a brutal foe, employing all the same tactics as the Islamic State, adhering to an intensely orthodox interpretation of Islam (in other words, taking their Koran and Hadith seriously). They have been, and continue to be, hugely funded by Pakistan & Saudi Arabia drawing many fighters from there, and also drawing from the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, the Pashtuns (originally of Iranian descent).
In 2010, around the time of the contested raid, the Taliban were seeking to take back towns and villages in the province of Baghlan (its major city is Kunduz) because it's the main artery between the capital, Kabul, and the North. Strategically it's important and can be either a corridor or a chokepoint. Both the Afghan government forces and the insurgency want control of the area. Alarmingly, many of its various districts are now in the hands of the Taliban according to recent reports.
When Taliban savages try to gain control of an area, they use the local villages and hamlets as shelter, supply and recruit. The will of the civilian population is irrelevant – they know how barbaric the Taliban’s operating rules are and they either live under oppression while abetting them, or they flee. If anyone doubts the brutality of these despicable animals, read here: ...rapes, burning people alive, beating small children to death in front of their parents, death squads and mass executions, chopping off body parts, crucifixions etc.
This is what our Armed Forces have been up against.
It is also worth noting, for the sake of context, that the Taliban hide in the villages behind the shield of civilians. It’s a tactic we see right through the Middle East, Gaza, Mosul, Fallujah, Aleppo, Damascus – anywhere Jihadis operate. This makes them the very opposite of any kind of warrior, it makes them villains of the highest order.
So, this was the backdrop of ‘Operation Burnham’ - which, Hager and Stephenson assert resulted in 6 civilian deaths and 15 injured – (very small potatoes by any scale of Taliban war crimes, or genuine civilian casualties).
The NZDF, however, deny this assertion, stating that the SAS did not conduct a raid into the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad. They state they conducted a coalition force operation into a village named Tirgiran, separated by jagged, hilly terrain from the two other villages, and that NATO had investigated into civilian deaths at the time in 2010:
"This investigation concluded that this may have resulted in civilian casualties but no evidence of this was established," the NZDF's statement said.
Hager and Stephenson have heavily relied on the testament of local civilians from the wrong villages - villages with Taliban insurgents living in and around them. That makes them utterly unreliable to offer up a truthful account, the villagers will do and say what their oppressors tell them to do and say – and all Jihadi killers make up civilian death statistics. For all we know, the Taliban could have murdered their own villagers for this purpose after the Operation in the neighbouring village of Tirgiran. They murder their own civilians all the time – and I never hear the likes of Hager ever drawing attention to those barbarities. They like soft targets instead – such as their own Defence Forces to be damned in the court of public opinion in a baby’s-bum-soft little country like Godzone. They like to brandish about big terms like “war crimes” and “cover ups” as if to be seen to be playing with the Big Boys now on the world stage of a theatre of war. Give me a furkin’ break!
Mention that one little Fatima was killed and the whole of New Zealand has an apoplexy, mention six may have died and they bay for someone’s blood. Never mind that if the ISAF was not operating in Afghanistan there would be the spilled blood of (as there already has been) millions and millions of little Fatimas murdered (or raped, or burned, or beaten). These things never bother the likes of anti War on Terror, Left wing “investigative journalists” enough to write about.
So, you can take the word of an attention seeking activist, Nicky Hager, and his testimony provided by specious civilians and anonymous Armed Forces personnel (how convenient), or you can take the word of the NZDF, backed by the ISAF Afghan government and their testimony from a NATO investigation into the operation.
I know who seems a darn sight more fact based, therefore credible and it isn't the attention seekers.