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Release of Nicky Hager's new book: Other People's Wars

Release of Nicky Hager's new book:
Other People's Wars: New Zealand in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror

News release 1 September 2011

"For 10 years New Zealanders have been vaguely aware that their country is at war but have mostly been kept in the dark. Nicky Hager has spent five years interviewing insiders and gathering information to allow the stories to be told. His new book tells the story of the New Zealand military and intelligence agencies in the ten years since the September 11 attacks and is being released to coincide with the 10th anniversary.

"The book tells the story through the voices of military people on the ground in Afghanistan and through classified New Zealand military and intelligence documents. It reveals to New Zealanders what the New Zealand navy, air force, SAS, intelligence officers and others did in the wars of the first decade of the 21st century."

"The book covers the periods of both Labour and National governments, describing their decisions and private roles, but it is much more about the senior military officers and officials. As one of the people interviewed is quoted in the book saying,

‘People assume that politicians make decisions, but often they’re busy, ill-informed or actively excluded.... The worst decisions were made by senior officials and military officers, often without [the ministers’] knowledge’ — senior New Zealand government official'"

"The public servants (military and civilian) seemed to believe they could go to war but only had to tell the public and politicians the things that suited them. When they see what is revealed in the book, politicians from all parties should be very unhappy at being misled and sidelined," Nicky Hager said. "The book reveals a military and foreign affairs bureaucracy that need to be brought under control."

"Much of the book is the voices and concerns of officials and military officers who were directly involved in the wars and unhappy about what they had seen," he said. "As well as interviews, I was given access to thousands of leaked military and intelligence documents. I could not have written the book without these people's trust and support."

"Anyone who reads the book will know more about New Zealand military and what it did in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gulf than any politician in parliament."

What's in the book:

"Even before the Afghanistan war began, there were military personnel questioning the justification for New Zealand going to war and, from the early stages of the war, warning that it was going wrong. These fundamental issues were kept secret and discussion on the purpose, strategies and problems of the war was kept from the public."

"Hundreds of military personnel did their best, working in harsh conditions and risking their lives in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. However documents show that the main purpose of the deployments was diplomatic and political agendas that had nothing to do with the stated reasons for the deployments."

"The main driver of New Zealand involvement was senior officials and military officers, who used the war to pursue their goal of closer US military relations. Internal documents show that much of what they did was about this bureaucratic agenda, rather than being about real issues of war and helping people in need."

"The officials and military officers appeared to believe that they could hide any bad news or unpopular bits and, when challenged, dodge questions or simply not tell the truth. There are blatant examples of misleading the public and government. For instance,

** 'Peacekeeping' troops that were really loading CIA helicopters and explosives for combat operations (Chapter 6)
** Prime Minister Helen Clark giving explicit instructions to the navy to stay out of the Iraq conflict and then navy frigates escorting a large proportion of the Iraq invasion force into the war zone; and air force Orions helping to protect the invasion force (Chapters 9 and 11)
** Widely publicised development aid projects in Iraq and Afghanistan that turned out to be poorly planned, wildly exaggerated and/or part of military pacification programmes (the book, for instance, contains a damning official review of the Bamiyan aid work, of which all critical sections had been kept from the public.)" (Chapters 6, 13 and 18)

"At the same time, anything that might be unpopular or controversial was kept completely secret. For instance,

** Secret intelligence postings that involved New Zealand in the bloodiest parts of the Afghanistan war, which were increased after 2008 under the National Government (Chapters 19 and 20)
** Undeclared US military officers in the Kiwi Base Bamiyan
** SAS soldiers who were unhappy about some of what they witnessed in Afghanistan (eg Chapter 5)
** New Zealand intelligence agencies that reoriented after September 11 to fight 'terrorism' but ended up mostly just joining in US intelligence projects against US enemies, largely against countries and groups that are not enemies of New Zealand." (eg Chapter 14)

And much more.

"Finally, a major theme throughout the book is the military media control and public relations. I was leaked the military PR strategies, that show the publicly-funded PR staff planning how to control journalists and keep most information about this crucial period of New Zealand history from the public and politicians."

"It is important that we do not mistake this as necessary operational security. The result of the PR strategies was shutting the media and public out of information about the wars and closing down discussion about New Zealand being part of an increasingly confused, counter-productive and ultimately failing war."

"The ten years of the war on terror have been extremely frustrating for many journalists. Snippets of real news have usually only come out by accident and most of the time the wall of PR people and secrecy has got in the way of pursuing stories. This was my initial motivation for researching the subject and it spurred me to keep going during the years of research."


Quotes from the book:

‘We got ourselves into habit of saying, “Hmm, what’s New Zealand’s view? OK, the first thing we do is ask the Americans, we ask the Canadians, we ask the Brits, we ask the Australians,” and when we’ve got all their views we synthesise them into our own view' ¬¬¬— former New Zealand diplomat

‘I don’t think it’s beneficial for us to be there. It’s a political game to get favour with the US’ — New Zealand soldier who served in Bamiyan, Afghanistan

'It would be nice for someone to pause and say, “Hell, we’re coming up to the 10th anniversary [of the September 11 attacks], are we better or are we worse?” I think the answer is we’re worse. How stupid are we to have allowed a reaction led by the United States that has actually made it worse for the world? And where are all the people who advocated spending money on their favourite project over the last decade, what are they saying for themselves now when they’ve actually worsened the problem?’ — senior defence official

'Every time we work with the [Americans] it is a risk. That was one of the reasons I agreed to talk to you' — New Zealand SAS soldier


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