The explosive allegations made in Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s new book, Hit and Run, are still being processed. But in the meantime, here are some of the most interesting and insightful immediate responses to the book published since the launch at 5pm yesterday.

1.

Perhaps the hardest hitting response comes from Andrew Geddis, professor of law at the University of Otago. Geddis not only brings a strong legal understanding to the matter, but also a rather hard-hitting emotional way of viewing the gravity of what is alleged - see:

Geddis' whole column is highly recommended reading, but the most important part is his explanation that this alleged war crime reflects upon New Zealand as a whole: "What sets this story aside from all the other sad, cruel deaths in that country is this small child - Fatima was her name - died because of us. Or, rather, she died because of the plans and actions of soldiers wearing our flag on their shoulders and our Kiwi on their vehicles."

And he concludes with an important contemporary point: "For at a time when our defence forces are asking us to give them some $20 billion from the public purse to upgrade their equipment, it is incumbent on them to prove to us that they deserve it. And the first step they must take in doing so is showing that we can trust them to tell us just what it is that they do in our name."

Advertisement

2. It's expected that the political left - traditionally sympathetic to Nicky Hager - are going to have the most supportive and serious responses to the Hit and Run allegations. But what about the right? And what about political commentators who have animosity towards Hager? Matthew Hooton fits this bill, but has come out with an analysis that the book requires an independent inquiry, given the seriousness of the allegations - watch his brief NBR video response here: It's an absolute no-brainer that the Prime Minister should announce an inquiry into the Hager-Stephenson allegations.

Also at the NBR, Rob Hosking says "someone has it very very wrong. And this time it's a serious matter, not just about who wrote what on which blog or which person leaked what to whom. At the end of this process, someone's credibility is going to be shredded forever. The allegations are too serious" - see: Well, someone's lying: verdict on Hager-Stephenson book (paywalled).
3. "War crimes" are the emphasis of the hard-hitting No Right Turn blog post, War criminals must be punished. He explains: "The SAS deliberately demolished civilian houses as revenge for the death of one of their comrades. That's a war crime. They refused to provide medical care to the wounded, resulting in some of them dying a slow, lingering, and completely unnecessary death. That's a war crime too. And when they finally captured one of the people they were looking for, they turned him over to the Afghans to be tortured.

That's a war crime as well, not to mention straight out conspiracy to torture." The blogger goes on to detail the appropriate remedy: "These people need to go to jail. All of them. We should not tolerate war crimes by our defence forces, and we should not tolerate the authorisation of war crimes by our politicians. And the solution to it is to charge them, try them, and if convicted, jail them for a very long time, so that there will be some justice for the dead and so that all future soldiers and politicians will know that we will not tolerate that. Anything less - resignations, excuses - is just bullshit." See also: Doubling down on war crimes.
4. If true, the book exposes "a massive deceit of the New Zealand public" says another investigative journalist - the Herald's David Fisher - see: Grim assertions - if true - spell serious betrayal of public trust. He says the cover-up conspiracy, if true, "should spell the end of the Special Air Service's aura of secrecy". Fisher makes a strong call for an official inquiry: "It is essential for the health of our military and the trust it needs from the public to find the truth." See also, Fisher's very good account of the book: SAS revenge raid killed six Afghan civilians, claims new Nicky Hager book.
5. What do the allegations say about the state of New Zealand's military? In Danyl Mclauchlan's review of the book, he draws attention to Hit and Run's final chapter: "It's obviously based on interviews with disenchanted defence staff, who think that the ultimate cause of the raid is a change in the culture of their department. 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 worry that the culture of the SAS is one of secrecy, elitism and unaccountability, and it is transforming our military into an organisation that privileges the operations carried out by special forces, like raids and targeted assassinations. It also acts as its own lobby group, petitioning Australian and US officials to request SAS involvement in their military adventures" - see: Hit & Run: A depressingly credible account of blunder, bloodshed and cover-up.
6. What might the International Criminal Court have to say about the allegations? Alison Cole is a New Zealand international human rights attorney and an international criminal law investigator, and she writes about this here: Could New Zealand Face the International Criminal Court for War Crimes in Afghanistan?. Cole says "The key aspect which could potentially trigger action by the International Criminal Court will be inaction by the New Zealand government." She elaborates: "the key way to avoid investigation by the International Criminal Court is for the national political process to kick in and pursue accountability within our own courts. And as Nicky rightly pointed out during his press conference after the book launch, John Key resigning may well provide the best opportunity for creating political space to pursue this accountability, particularly as Mr Key is alleged in the book to have directly approved the SAS actions."

7. According to Tim Watkin, "the good thing about this book is that it again shines light on New Zealand's years in Afghanistan", and raises questions about whether the decision to join the war on terror - thereby supporting the US - has led to these tragic outcomes: "The use of our SAS was always contentious -- a chance post-9/11 for the Clark Labour government to mend bridges with America after the anti-nuclear arguments and the end of ANZUS. The SAS was, ironically, our peace offering to them in their time of need. National then doubled-down when it came to power, building towards the Wellington declaration. Awful to think how the geo-politics of the Pacific may have had such fatal ramifications for some villagers living half a world away" - see: The O'Donnell raid in Afghanistan: The seeds of the new Hager book. Watkin also details how former defence minister Wayne Mapp dealt with some of these issues in a 2011 Q+A interview with Guyon Espiner.

8. "These are deadly serious allegations. If true, the implication is that New Zealand soldiers may be guilty of war crimes", says Fairfax newspapers political editor Tracy Watkins - see: Claims of blood on New Zealand's hands need answers. She draws attention to the apparent "level of access to the inner circles of Government" that Hager and Stephenson have obtained. To her, the crucial quote from the book is the one allegedly from former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp, referring to the raid as "our biggest and most disastrous operation, a fiasco".

9. Amnesty International New Zealand's Grant Bayldon has come out and said: "It is crucial that New Zealand is committed to upholding human rights both here and overseas. Conflict zones are no exception. The New Zealand Government must now ensure that a thorough and impartial investigation takes place to determine whether war crimes have been committed and New Zealand has responsibility" - see Vernon Small's New book claims John Key gave green light to deadly SAS raid in Afghanistan. You can also sign Amnesty International's petition calling for an inquiry: Did NZ commit war crimes?.

10. Martyn Bradbury delivers in his usual bombastic style - see: John Key - you have to tell NZ if you committed a war crime. Bradbury asks: "Why were we lied to? Who did we kill? How did it happen? Have we committed war crimes? Will John Key be charged for these war crimes if they are war crimes?". He says "The Prime Minister has blood on his hands and we must demand some answers before he steps down."

Finally, if you want to find out more, the Hit and Run publishers have set up a new website.