Explanation of Canadian soldier’s death and behaviour of ‘allies’ should ring alarm bells for all Kiwis.

Roughly a week ago, Canadian soldier Sergeant Andrew Joseph Doiron died in a "friendly fire" incident in a village north of Mosul in Iraq.

He was the first Canadian casualty of "Operation Inherent Resolve" - led by America, and involving a large group of different countries, including, very shortly, New Zealand, to eradicate Isis.

Doiron was part of a special ops team of 69 men sent by the Canadian Government. No one knows definitively what they are doing there. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says they are "advising and assisting" Iraqi forces "behind the wire". They're not on the frontline, nor guiding airstrikes - although there would not be "limits" placed on the mission either. It's almost word for word what New Zealanders - and Americans, and everyone else - have been told about our own opaque involvement.

There are conflicting reports about how Doiron died. The Canadian Government has said he and three others were "mistakenly engaged by Iraqi Kurdish forces following their return to an observation post behind the frontlines". That's pretty much all they've disclosed.


Kurdish media say the Canadians were either close to or at the frontline for unknown reasons, left their car, and were approached by Peshmerga fighters, who asked them who they were. When the Canadians answered in Arabic, the Kurds thought they were Isis fighters, so they fired, killing Doiron and injuring his three colleagues. It's certainly a mysterious tragedy. Not only did four Canadians speak Arabic so well they were mistaken for native jihadists, but Doiron - pale with bright red hair - looked the part as well.

Some believe the men were, in fact, "directing airstrikes" - perhaps guiding the Royal Canadian Air Force bombers sent to help in the war efforts. But as Canadian journalist David Climenhaga points out, "directing airstrikes by aircraft using precision munitions requires the presence of soldiers on the ground very close to where the bombs will fall to 'paint' targets with lasers.

In other words, well within the combat zone". Also, the fatal bullets were fired toward the frontline, not away from it, suggesting the men were close to the action - if not active participants.

Why does all this matter to us? Because, this may also be the blueprint for New Zealand's involvement. Since we are being told so little, we must piece together clues from our allies who seemingly got exactly the same call sheet. And Canada's mysterious and small operation has become a lot bigger and more costly since it began. Which could be our fate, too.

The atrocities of Isis continue to provide provocative cover for our leaders to gin up support for the war in Iraq and Syria, and certainly those atrocities have not lost their power.

But as the case with the dead Canadian soldier, the truth of any situation when it comes to war in an ancient foreign land is far from clear. It turns out this week, as predicted, Iraqi forces fighting Isis alongside Shia militias are carrying out horrific attacks against Iraqi civilians and captured Isis fighters, complicating the drive by our politicians to neatly label each side either "good" or "bad".

The so-called "Dirty Brigades" which have often been "advised and assisted" by the allies are slaughtering people, beheading them, throwing them off tall buildings, and putting their crimes on social media. A photo posted online late from last year showed a severed head of an alleged Isis fighter tied to a US-donated Humvee with an Iraqi Army licence plate.

These people are "our side" - the "right side" as we are told - and we're gutless if we don't want to throw our lot in with them and wring peace from a chaotic, intractable situation. Peaceniks and greenies are complicit, we are told, in leaving women and children to die at the hands of Isis.

The idea that New Zealand uses its role on the Security Council to forcefully push for global funding of the refugee camps of Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan instead is far too sedate an idea by far.

I'm not sure what is scarier: that our leaders think they can actually bring peace and prosperity to the Middle East, or that they know they can't and have to dress it up as a righteous crusade anyhow. Either way, for the sake of the young men and women being sent into harm's way, we need to know the truth.