John Armstrong on politics

John Armstrong is the Herald's chief political commentator

John Armstrong: 'Candyfloss' PR exposed in all its cynicism

113 comments
Nicky Hager. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Nicky Hager. Photo / Mark Mitchell

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.

There will be those who argue a war is a war and no one should therefore be hugely surprised those soldiers have been found to be sharing their base with operatives from America's Central Intelligence Agency.

Fair enough. But the Defence Force has sought to paint this deployment in a completely different light. Hager has cut through that pretence with the evidence to prove what has always been surmised - that the real reason for such deployments was not to help the inhabitants of Bamiyan but to impress the hawks in Washington.

While the information flow from Afghanistan has marginally improved of late, the public's trust in the Defence Force has largely been reciprocated with obfuscation and obstruction.

The lack of transparency and accountability reached its nadir in the blanking out of large portions of a Government review of the Bamiyan operation sought by Hager under the Official Information Act. This was done on the grounds that revealing those sections would prejudice the security and defence of New Zealand.

A complete copy later showed the only thing at risk was the credibility and reputation of the Defence Force, so damning was the review's findings.

When it comes to a political response, however, Hager's efforts are likely to fall on stony ground.

Predictably, only the Greens were yesterday urging official action be taken on the book's findings. Even they limited their call to establishing a parliamentary review of defence and intelligence relations with the US.

Neither National nor Labour - both having committed troops to Afghanistan while in government - have anything to gain from such an inquiry. Nor has the public mood shifted in sufficient quantity against the Afghan deployment to force any meaningful inquiry. It is more likely any Government going down that path would cop a backlash through being seen as undermining the armed forces.

And, with an election pending, neither of the two major parties will go there.

- NZ Herald

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 22 Oct 2014 16:19:58 Processing Time: 491ms