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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Detaining in the name of

New Zealand is an odd place. When a reporter uncovers evidence that the NZ SAS special forces rules of engagement to not take prisoners in Afghanistan have been broken no one seems to query the rules of engagement or the actual killings they do there. I haven't read the Metro article because in all the reams of discussion on the subject there have been no king hits. Not that it doesn't raise interesting questions regards the legality of overseas military operations, and not that it isn't a timely article on an angle of the Afghanistan war, and not that it isn't a triumph for a resurgent Metro magazine under a new editor, but there was no outspoken victim or SAS member on TV, no smoking gun (as it were) and consequently no resignation - no scalp (as it were). In that regard - because the threshold was not enough for resignation and it has been batted aside by the select committee - it is not a scandal - more an SAS exposé.

At least there can be no scandal over secret operations while they close ranks. With Gen. Mateparae designated as the next Governor-General and the government resting their denials on his account as Chief of Defence Forces it is a story with the potential to take down the highest office in the land, but it has run into a dead end (as it were) and it will be difficult to take it any further in these circumstances. The story had legs when it was published, but turned out to lack a body.

To the question: is it wrong to turn someone over to the Americans or the Afghan government where we suspect they will probably be tortured - we can say yes. I take it some of the SAS themselves had similar misgivings. But then we must ask how credible, how realistic, indeed how relevant, is any such policy against detention and transfer of custody when the purpose of their presence is to fight and kill. They sit as easily together as Tom and Jerry would if the lights went out.

No one seems to ask how many individuals the SAS have killed, who they were (Afghans or foreigners?) and in what circumstances were they killed by the SAS. But by God if the SAS should actually NOT kill someone! Then they will be made accountable! That's the last time they not kill someone and get away with it.

You have to wonder whether they have been inadvertantly incentivised to kill them all next time. Less paperwork. Just like "our allies in the War on Terror" those trigger-happy, double-tapping Yanks. All EKIA. COM ENDS.

I find it hard to get too wound up over this prison-taking when there's all this slaughter going on.


At 17/5/11 2:49 pm, Blogger AAMC said...

Fair enough Tim, obviously there is a bigger story here re the whole Afghan enterprise and surely this should occupy us more.

However, as a separate - although obviously related issue - surely our adherence to our own supposed principles should also be of concern? As you point out this hasn't resulted in a scandal, is that cause for disinterest or increased pressure?

If we were to accept the argument that the SAS are to be there, as both recent Governments have done, ( I'm not suggesting you do ) and acknowledge that they will occasionally kill people in the coarse of their fighting. Surely it is credible that in the event that the SAS don't kill but rather capture, we should expect that they, as our representatives, abide by the conventions of War of which we are signatories.

After all, haven't even the Brits now passed laws in parliament to prevent their soldiers from being complicit in torture at the hands of the NDS, putting themselves in the line of later criminal prosecutions?

As for how realistic it is, as long as we have a leader with these sentiments, I can't see our Government making a fuss...



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