There was a time when questions about what happened in Afghanistan that August 2010 night would've only been that: questions about what happened.

Now, though, the questions cut to the heart of the Defence Force's credibility.

This week, seven years after our SAS soldiers led an attack on two villages in Afghanistan, the NZDF stood its ground that no civilians were killed. It did so despite compelling evidence in Nicky Hager's book Hit & Run, despite confirmation from former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp and despite even more confirmation from a soldier inside the SAS.

The position has become increasingly untenable as the week has progressed. It now appears near certain civilians did die.


We first found out about the attack a year after it happened.

At the time, former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said no civilians were killed. If the
Defence Force knew then civilians had died, it should have said so.

Then, in 2014 a Maori TV broadcast claimed a 3-year-old girl died in the attack. Prime Minister John Key changed the official language. Instead of saying there were no civilians killed, he said there were "no civilians killed by New Zealanders". If the Defence Force knew then that civilians had died, it should have said so.

Had the Defence Force told us from the start what appears likely to have really happened, the public might've accepted it as a mistake in the confusion of war. We know our soldiers' lives are at risk and they carry guns for a reason. We understand errors happen in the uncertainty of night time darkness and that intelligence about the enemy's whereabouts is not always right.

That can be understood.

Covering it up for seven years - if that is what has transpired - cannot be understood so easily.

That is why the Government must order an inquiry. Not just to find out what happened that night, but also to find out what the Defence Force knew and did or didn't tell us.
And also to correct what can only be described as the excitement that - as usual - surrounds any revelation by Nicky Hager. As is his style, Hager has taken events and attached motivations to them that resemble something out of a Hollywood thriller.

What was portrayed in his last book, Dirty Politics, as a sinister conversation between two political players was more likely simply an unattractive, bitchy, schoolyard chat between political friends. What appears a red-fog revenge attack in Hit & Run might really have been a huge mistake made in the confusion of war.

There will be arguments that an inquiry is too expensive or too difficult, that the events were too long ago or too far away to care. None of that should matter.
This isn't just about civilians dying. That's not even the biggest revelation in the book.


That fact had already been alleged.

The biggest revelation is the suggestion at least two of the civilians might have been shot by our soldiers. The biggest revelation since the book is that the NZDF might have hoped to hide this all from us.

Matters of far less importance - like leaks from within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - have prompted inquiries.

We deserve to know what happened in those villages that night. Those soldiers were flying our flag and speaking with our accent. If it's true what Hager says, then that story will be told and retold with New Zealanders remembered as villains.

This is on all of us so the truth should be told to all of us.