Thursday, March 30, 2017



Even Wayne Mapp thinks we need an inquiry

Wayne Mapp, who was Defence Minister at the time, thinks we need an inquiry into their actions:

The man who as Defence Minister approved SAS raids in Afghanistan says further investigation is needed to find out if civilians died and to acknowledge those deaths properly if they are confirmed.

[...]

In a lengthy post on the Pundit website today, Mapp said he had no doubt New Zealand soldiers acted to the highest ethical standards.

However, from briefings provided to him after the 2010 raids he knew the operation, called Operation Burnham, had not achieved its stated aims of arresting or "otherwise dealing with" the insurgents leading Taliban operations against the provincial reconstruction team.


He also claims that he "also knew that other people had been killed", but that he had been told by NZDF that they had been "acting as insurgents" (which is American for "being a civilian in a country the US invades"). But even if you take that at face value, its hard to reconcile with reports that a 3 year old girl was killed, and Mapp is rightly upset about that - hence the call for an inquiry.

When the Minister at the time calls for an inquiry into what went on, that seems like a good reason to hold one. And it makes NZDF's refusal even more untenable. The natural conclusion is that they - or rather, the mafia of ex-SAS officers who currently run it - have something to hide.

New Fisk

In northern Syria, defeated Isis fighters leave behind only scorched earth, trenches – and a crucifixion stand

Climate change: America's climate censorship

How bad is the Trump regime's climate denialism? They've just banned the Energy Department's climate office from even talking about it:

A supervisor at the Energy Department's international climate office told staff this week not to use the phrases "climate change," "emissions reduction" or "Paris Agreement" in written memos, briefings or other written communication, sources have told POLITICO.

Employees of DOE’s Office of International Climate and Clean Energy learned of the ban at a meeting Tuesday, the same day President Donald Trump signed an executive order at EPA headquarters to reverse most of former President Barack Obama's climate regulatory initiatives. Officials at the State Department and in other DOE offices said they had not been given a banned words list, but they had started avoiding climate-related terms in their memos and briefings given the new administration's direction on climate change.


But while censorship may bring peace of mind to Donald Trump and his fellow deniers, who will no longer have to hear about climate change, it won't actually solve the problem. The climate will still change, even if rich Americans refuse to talk about it. But what they are making clear is that they are now effectively waging war on the rest of the world, with a conscious policy of destroying the global climate - and everyone's food supply - for the profit of a tiny American elite. I'm wondering how long the rest of the world will put up with that.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017



Climate change: The US walks away

The Trump regime has effectively walked away from the Paris Agreement by repealing Obama's emissions reduction policies:

Donald Trump launched an all-out assault on Barack Obama’s climate change legacy on Tuesday with a sweeping executive order that undermines America’s commitment to the Paris agreement.

Watched by coalminers at a ceremony at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, the president signed an order to trigger a review of the clean power plan, Obama’s flagship policy to curb carbon emissions, and rescind a moratorium on the sale of coalmining leases on federal lands.

But the move was swiftly condemned by environmentalists as a “dangerous” and “embarrassing” attempt to turn back the clock that would do little to revive the US coal industry while threatening cooperation with major polluters such as China and India.


The latter is important: China and India agreed to cut emissions because the US acted. Now the US has welched and the agreement has been broken. And while China has strong domestic reasons to reduce coal use (its people don't like air pollution - something US politicians may soon have to re-learn), politically its going to have consequences far beyond climate change policy. After all, if the US can't be trusted to keep its word on emissions reduction, it can't be trusted to keep it on trade, disarmament, or anything else.

New Fisk

Syria: Final evacuation of Homs begins under close Russian supervision

The first step on the road to Scoxit

The Scottish Parliament has formally voted to request powers to hold a second independence referendum:

Nicola Sturgeon has won a key Holyrood vote on her plans for a second independence referendum, triggering accusations from UK ministers that her demands are premature.

Sturgeon won by a 10-vote majority after the Scottish Greens backed her proposals to formally request from the UK government the powers to stage a fresh independence vote at around the time Britain leaves the EU, in spring 2019.

She is due to write to Theresa May later this week, asking for Westminster to hand Holyrood the temporary powers to stage the referendum under a section 30 order. She said she would avoid writing until the prime minister had invoked article 50 to trigger the Brexit process, which she is expected to do on Wednesday.


Its basicly unconstitutional for Westminster to refuse such a request, but the Tories will try. But by doing so, they'll make it crystal clear that they think England should be in charge of Scotland, strengthening the case for independence even further.

Monday, March 27, 2017



New Fisk

Tanks, suicide bombs and bayonets: On the front line in the battles around Damascus
'We see them as monsters. At least Israel makes normal, typical war': As Isis caliphate shrinks, Syrian anger grows

Tripling down on war crimes

So, NZDF's response to the allegations in Hit and Run that SAS soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan is that none of it happened and that they were blowing up a completely different (but nearby) village at the time, guv. And based on this, Bill English has decided that there will be no inquiry. And if you believe either, then I have a round building in Wellington to sell you. Instead, it seems like NZDF is producing yet more self-serving lies to continue its coverup - and compounding its crimes by lying to its political masters. When that's exposed, there'll be a bureaucratic bloodbath at Defence Force HQ, because it is simply not acceptable for soldiers to lie to Ministers.

Meanwhile, the Herald this morning has a piece about NZDF's suppression of an internal report into their failures in Afghanistan, which shows how such coverups happen:

Inquiries by the Herald have found the commander who shelved the report was in part criticised in its findings.

[...]

The Commander Joint Forces until March 2014 was Air Vice-Marshal Kevin Short, currently Vice Chief of Defence Force, commander of Crib 9 of the PRT in Bamiyan from July 2006 for six months.

His experience there would have given him a keen understanding of the issues raised in the report but also placed him directly in the command structure criticised by it.

He was succeeded by the current Commander Joint Forces, Major-General Tim Gall, who was the Land Component Commander at the time the review was "drafted" and directly responsible for our deployment to Bamiyan.


Yes, its all about personal arse-covering from the people who failed. In the case of the report, it led them to bury a report, then ignore a recommendation from the Ombudsman to release it - something which should result in instant dismissal. In the case of the SAS, it has led to a systematic coverup of war crimes and repeated lies to Ministers. That too should result in instant dismissal.

Finally, Graeme Edgeler points out that its not an inquory we need, but a criminal investigation, potentially leading to prosecutions. The core problem here is that the police are no more capable of conducting such an investigation properly than they are of investigating electoral offences by political parties - they know who they work for and will produce the result which pleases their masters. But on the gripping hand, when the police inevitably fail, the International Criminal Court can step in and maybe then get some real justice - from The Hague, not Wellington.

Friday, March 24, 2017



Places to go, people to be

Nothing from me today - I'm off to Hydra, Wellington's annual larp convention.

Normal bloggage should resume on Monday, unless I am eaten by Shoggoths.

Thursday, March 23, 2017



Drawn

A ballot for three member's bills was held today, and the following bills were drawn:

  • Ombudsmen (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill (David Parker)
  • Equal Pay Amendment Bill (Jan Logie)
  • Crown Minerals (Protecting World Heritage Sites) Amendment Bill (Ruth Dyson)
That's a pretty good lineup, and all three of them deserve to pass. And hopefully we'll see National forced to support at least two of them by public opinion. A full list of the bills is here.

New Fisk

It is President Erdogan's Turkey, not humane Germany, that is guilty of 'Nazi practices'

We need an inquiry

I read Hit & Run last night. And having read it, I'm deeply disturbed. Several of Hager and Stephenson's SAS sources openly admit perpetrating war crimes - specifically, the destruction of civilian property for no military purpose. No-one admits to being responsible for the murder of civilians, but there's serious questions about who ordered the US helicopters to fire on the village and villagers, who fired the shots that killed Islamuddin and Abdul Qayoom, and why the SAS troops refused to provided medical care to obviously injured civilians. And while people can claim that all that happened "in the heat of battle" (as if that justifies anything), there's no such excuse for the subsequent raid ten days later which seemed to have the sole purpose of demolishing the houses of those the SAS believed to be insurgents. This was planned, pre-meditated, and had no military purpose. Again, Hager and Stephenson's SAS sources admit it was done purely for revenge.

And then there's the torture. Not just turning over a man to the Afghan NDS, but beating him first. The SAS need to answer questions about that too.

And the coverup. The SAS and NZDF appear to have lied systematicly about the raids, both to the New Zealand public and seemingly their Minister. They knew within 48 hours that civilians, including a child, had been killed. But Wayne Mapp, who was Defence Minister at the time, is saying that he only found out about it when he saw Stephenson's Collateral Damage documentary in 2014. There are real questions about who bullshat who here - did NZDF bullshit the Minister, or did SAS bullshit their superiors? - which only an inquiry can get to the bottom of.

Finally, there's the matter of the SAS itself. A secret military organisation which effectively runs its own foreign policy, lobbying foreign governments to get involved in other people's wars so they can prove how important and vital they are, is not acceptable in a democracy. Neither, obviously, is one that systematically lies to the public and to its superiors. The SAS needs to be inquired into and tamed, and its disproportionate influence on the wider NZDF tamed.

We can not trust NZDF to do any of this. They've proven repeatedly that they're a closed shop, hostile to civilian oversight. We need a truly independent inquiry to get to the bottom of things. And if the government refuses to provide such an inquiry, we should elect one that will.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017



Member's Day

Unless the government calls urgency, today is a Member's Day. First up is Gareth Hughes' Student Loan Scheme (First Home Repayment Diversion) Amendment Bill. After a short break in which former Prime Minister John Key will pretend he had nothing to do with SAS war crimes, the House will move on to Scott Simpson's Employment Relations (Allowing Higher Earners to Contract Out of Personal Grievance Provisions) Amendment Bill and James Shaw's Public Finance (Sustainable Development Indicators) Amendment Bill, before making a start on Clayton Mitchell's Broadcasting (Games of National Significance) Amendment Bill. If all goes well, there should be a ballot for three bills tomorrow.

Ashley Peacock to be freed?

Ashley Peacock has been tortured by Capital Coast District Health Board for the past five years. Now, finally, they're going to stop:

Ashley Peacock's family say he is set to be released back into the community after a decade controversially locked up in a mental health facility - but there's plenty of work yet to be done to make it happen.

The autistic, severely mentally ill, intellectually disabled man has been in a secure psychiatric unit in Porirua for about a decade. His care costs about $1 million a year.

His treatment has been widely criticised by the Ombudsman calling the use of seclusion in his case degrading.

Ashley's parents, Dave and Marlena Peacock, told a parliamentary health select committee the news on Wednesday in an emotional hearing, as they presented a petition to them calling for the Health Minister to intervene in his case.

Ashley has not been told of his impending freedom yet, the committee was told - as it would take about six months and they wanted to fully prepare him.


CCDHB has lied about plans for Peacock's release before, so I don't think this can be believed until he's actually released. Still, its potentially a positive sign.

Unfortunately, there's no word yet on whether those responsible for his torture will be prosecuted yet.

A conspiracy against democracy

That's the only way to describe the latest revelations about the UK police's campaign of spying on peaceful protestors:

The police watchdog is investigating allegations that a secretive Scotland Yard unit used hackers to illegally access the private emails of hundreds of political campaigners and journalists.

The allegations were made by an anonymous individual who says the unit worked with Indian police, who in turn used hackers to illegally obtain the passwords of the email accounts of the campaigners, and some reporters and press photographers.

The person, who says he or she previously worked for the intelligence unit that monitors the activities of political campaigners, detailed their concerns in a letter to the Green party peer Jenny Jones. The peer passed on the allegations to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating.

Hacked passwords were passed to the Metropolitan police unit, according to the writer of the letter, which then regularly checked the emails of the campaigners and the media to gather information. The letter to Jones listed the passwords of environmental campaigners, four of whom were from Greenpeace. Several confirmed they matched the ones they had used to open their emails.


The UK has laws against computer hacking and unauthorised account access, and it appears that the police have been colluding with foreign counterparts to systematiclaly violate them for anti-democratic purposes. This isn't acceptable, and those responsible for this crime need to be exposed and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Of course, this is Britain, so they won't be.

A bad idea

While news of SAS war crimes is brekaing at home, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has been in Iraq, and is signalling yet more involvement for NZ troops and spies there:

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has just left Iraq after a secret visit to hold high-level defence meetings in Baghdad and to meet New Zealand trainers at Camp Taji north of the capital.

While there, he hinted there was a role for New Zealand in the reconstruction of Iraq.

And he suggested there could be a move to extend the mandate of the Kiwis at Taji to work on intelligence beyond any immediate threats to the camp.

[...]

Brownlee hinted that intelligence work, although still done at Taji, could extend to a wider area.

"What we are going to need to know is, as cities like Mosul fall, as pressure on some of the smaller towns that may harbour the last of the [Isis] fighters grows then they will run somewhere," Brownlee said.

"We need to be in the loop in an intelligence sense, knowing where they are going because we don't want them coming our way.


The obvious problem is that in Iraq "intelligence" inevitably means a) torture and b) drone strikes. And these are things we don't want NZDF to have anything to do with. The use of intelligence obtained by torture is prohibited under international law, and both the SIS and GCSB are now prohibited by law from handling such material (and from helping with drone strikes). With NZDF already tainted by torture and war crimes, we don't want them further tainted by torture and murder in Iraq. Instead, they should just come home.

New Fisk

Martin McGuinness dies: The 'super-terrorist who became a super-statesman – like so many others

Doubling down on war crimes

Last night, investigative reporters Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson revealed that NZ SAS troops may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan, and that the NZDF covered them up. There is an obvious natural response to such serious and well-supported allegations: announce an independent inquiry. Instead, the government has doubled down on denial:

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett says there's nothing she's seen that "disturbs" her in a book claiming elite New Zealand troops in Afghanistan may have been guilty of war crimes, including the death of a 3-year-old girl.

[...]


"I've seen the statement from Defence and I think they have our best interests at heart and have huge integrity and I'm backing them," Bennett said.

Asked whether anything in the statements and reports she'd read about the book disturbed her, she said, "not at this stage, no".

[...]

Bennett said she hadn't read the book and described Hager as a "left-wing conspiracist" who was "very good at putting his views through".

"You're asking me to pick a left-wing conspiracist, someone who's written a book, puts it out at 5pm at night, gives no one a chance to read it and put their views so it's reported the next morning like it is now without us having a chance to go through it and make sure we're able to respond in the right way," she said.


Its the usual stuff we see from governments about Hager's work, and its worth remembering: nothing substantive he has published has ever been proven wrong. Its also worth remembering that Jon Stephenson won a substantial defamation suit from NZDF after they attacked his integrity like this over his previous work on Afghanistan. These are people of unimpeached credibility, and I would believe them over NZDF any day.

Meanwhile, by responding in this way, Bennett has essentially joined the coverup. And when war crimes and the murder of civilians (including a child) are at stake, that is... not a good look. And by tying themselves so closely to the NZDF's cover-up, they're implicitly asking to be judged by voters when it is inevitably proven to be false.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017



War criminals must be punished

Tonight, Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson launched Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour, about the SAS's "revenge" raid in Afghanistan. At the time, the NZDF said that the raid killed only "insurgents". They lied. In fact, the raid killed and injured only civilians; the insurgents they were targeting were nowhere near the area.

It gets worse. 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.

So who's responsible for these crimes? According to Hager and Stephenson's Q&A:

Most of all, people in the SAS. They gathered the intelligence, planned the raid and commanded and led the operation. The authors believe that the deaths and injuries of 21 civilians, the destruction of homes, and the beating and torture of a detainee were due in large part to their actions and inactions, and that they led the efforts to keep it quiet afterwards. Next there are officers in the defence force who were responsible for overseeing the SAS and who should have investigated more responsibly when news of civilian casualties emerged. This includes the then-chief of defence force Lieutenant-General Jerry Mateparae, who was in Afghanistan at the time, and who watched on the screens at the SAS operations room in Kabul as the operation unfolded. Then there are the political leaders. Most government decisions are made by individual ministers or by Cabinet as a whole. However in this case, as Chapter 2 describes, the prime minister John Key was briefed by phone from the SAS compound in Kabul and personally gave his approval for the raid.

Yes, John Key is a fucking war criminal. And he made one of his co-conspirators in those war crimes Governor-General.

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. We need prosecutions, and (if the evidence supports them), convictions.

And as a general comment: this is what happens when we involve ourselves in American wars. If we don't wage war, our soldiers don't commit war crimes. So don't wage war, except in immediate self-defence. Duh.

Liar!

When allegations emerged that National MP Todd Barclay had illegally bugged his electorate office staff, he assured the New Zealand public that he would cooperate fully. But he lied:

National MP Todd Barclay refused to co-operate with detectives carrying out an investigation into allegations he had secretly recorded staff in his electorate office, according to documents released from the official police investigation.

Instead, Barclay did not return phone messages left for him by lead detective on the inquiry and had a lawyer contact police to say he would not be making a statement.


Obviously Barclay has a right to silence. At the same time, the public are fully entitled to judge him and his party at the ballot box on his deceit - and they should.