Tuesday, May 21, 2019

NZDF's secret rules of engagement

There's been another dump of documents from the Operation Burnham "inquiry", this time about rules of engagement. In the past, NZDF has refused to release these due to "national security", on the odd theory that if it were publicly known that their soldiers could only shoot at people who were actively participating in hostilities, their enemies might somehow game the system and avoid being shot by not doing that. Which would be a Bad Thing, somehow. But now they're public (give or take redactions around specific weapon approvals), and they say exactly what people thought they said. Which really invites the question of why they were secret in the first place. But I guess NZDF's idea of secrecy is like US patent law: it can apply to things which are obvious, if not public domain.

If you read them closely, though, there's an unpleasant twist: the rules of engagement only allow use of force to defend themselves, "designated persons" or "designated property" against "hostile acts" (being use of force against NZDF, "designated persons" or "designated property"). Those "designated persons" definitions basicly boil down to the occupying forces and their Afghan government allies and their stuff. It does not in any way include Afghan civilians - the people our government told us the NZDF were in Afghanistan to protect. Protecting them may be covered in some circumstances under the "achieve the mission" clause, but at most, they're an afterthought. The important lives in NZDF's rules of engagement are those of Americans and their vassals, not the actual people whose country they're in and who they're supposedly there to help.

And then there's the mission, which is stated in another document as "to maintain stability, defeat the insurgency, assist the Crisis Response Unit (CRU) and enhance the reputation of the NZDF and GONZ" (emphasis added). Pretty obviously, one of these things is not like the others. In NZDF's own words, the SAS were sent to Afghanistan to make them and the National Party look good to America. Which is basicly the core critique of Hager's Other People's Wars. No wonder they wanted to keep it secret.