Thursday 18 October 2018

No Country For Dishonourable Men.

Violating The Code: In an army, honour and courage cannot be separated. An honourable officer follows the code of military conduct – even if, in doing so, he or she may incur a senior officer’s displeasure. An honourable officer will refuse to abandon that code, even when his country’s allies ask him, just this once, to look the other way.

NICKY HAGER’S latest revelations concerning the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) could not be more timely. In the year of #MeToo, he has exposed a culture of toxic masculinity extending from the top to the bottom of New Zealand’s armed forces.

Although it is clear that Hager’s North & South article merely scrapes the surface of the NZDF’s moral turpitude, the crimes he has brought to the public’s attention: breaches of the Geneva Convention, dishonesty and cover-ups, sexual assault and torture; are more than enough to force the Coalition Government’s hand. Anything less than a full Royal Commission of Inquiry into the institutional integrity of the NZDF will be seen, quite rightly, as a failure to grasp the full seriousness of his exposé.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry must, moreover, be explicitly empowered to set aside any attempt by NZDF to sweep its actions under the highly embroidered carpet of “national security”. This is precisely what has been happening in relation to the official investigation ordered by the Coalition Government into the allegations contained in Hit & Run – the book co-authored by John Stephenson and Nicky Hager, published in March 2017.

No more than the law firm Russell McVeagh, should the NZDF be permitted to position itself above and beyond the reach of either its victims or the New Zealand public generally. In fairness, it is important to note that Russell McVeagh was willing to subject itself to the inquisitor’s scrutiny. What Hager’s article makes very clear, however, is that penetrating the veil of secrecy in which the NZDF has swathed itself will not be so straightforward. Great care will have to be taken to prevent the NZDF from doing what it has done so often in the past: offer the public fine words and phrases – which change nothing.

A very heavy burden thus falls upon the shoulders of the Minister of Defence, the Hon. Ron Mark. The inclusion of the honorific is deliberate. Because nothing comes closer to the heart of the matters exposed in Hager’s article than the concept of honour. Hager understands this well. It’s why he and his co-author made Hit & Run’s subtitle: “The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour”. As a former soldier, Mark needs no instruction in the meaning of honour. Nor does he need to be told that what Hager’s North & South article has exposed is an NZDF which has deliberately, repeatedly, and as a matter of conscious policy, dishonoured itself.

Enormous pressure will be brought to bear on Mark by the officer corps of the NZDF. He will be urged to protect the reputation and integrity of the armed services. He will be told that Hager is the sworn enemy of the brave men and women who stand ready to give their all – including their lives – for their country. That he cannot, therefore, be allowed to win. More darkly, the NZDF’s friends and allies in the “Intelligence Community” will warn Mark and his Cabinet colleague, Andrew Little, that New Zealand’s allies will look askance at any inquiry which threatens to breach the security undertakings given to and received from New Zealand as a member of the “Five Eyes Club”.

But, is it honourable to lie? To deliberately cover-up the truth? Would a man of honour, upon receiving complaints of sexual assault, repeatedly refuse to take the appropriate action? If there was the slightest possibility that a young, gay enlisted man was being subjected to unrelenting bullying and abuse, would not immediate remedial action be the only honourable course to take? And if a failure to take such action contributed in any way to that young man’s brutal torture and eventual suicide, what honourable officer, overcome with guilt and shame, would not step forward to acknowledge his part in the tragedy?

Because, in an army, honour and courage cannot be separated. An honourable officer follows the code of military conduct – even if, in doing so, he or she may incur a senior officer’s displeasure. An honourable officer will refuse to abandon that code, even when his country’s allies ask him, just this once, to look the other way. A medic does not join in the fight: lest, when his non-combatant status is most in need of respect, the recollection of two 12-13 year-old boys shot dead in defence of their village, causes our enemies to set aside their obligations under the Geneva Convention – just as we did.

Doing the honourable thing requires bravery. Any coward can behave dishonourably.

We know from the sheer number of serving and former military personnel who have found the courage to speak to journalists like Hager and Stephenson that our armed services are not without brave and honourable men and women. The great tragedy, of course, is that the very people who possess the courage to do the honourable thing are the very people whose careers in the NZDF are the most likely to be ruined. Worse still, it is clear that in the NZDF dishonourable scum rises. That, instead of a stronghold for brave and honourable soldiers, the NZDF is rapidly becoming a fiercely defended sanctuary for dishonourable cowards.

Our Minister of Defence cannot allow that situation to continue. Our soldiers, sailors and aviators are supported by the taxpayers to defend their nation from harm. That mission cannot be accomplished by people who lack the courage to conduct themselves ethically. Nor can it be fulfilled by people who are afraid to speak their minds; to take unpopular positions; to warn against the inadvisability (or, more importantly, the immorality) of a proposed course of military action. An army that is not composed of brave, upright and honourable personnel not only offers its nation’s citizens inadequate protection, it also constitutes a deadly threat to their rights and freedoms.

Dishonourable men do dishonourable things. Which is why New Zealand’s armed forces must be purged of them – immediately.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 16 October 2018.


Exkiwiforces said...

Mr Hager, probably needs to understand the difference between a combat medic and your bog standard vampire medic that you would see in Regimental Aid Post/ Casualty Clearing Post or at Field Hospital at A Echelon or B Echelon. The days of a medic armed with his Red Cross and his medical gear running around a battlefield ended around the latter stages of WW2/ Korean War due to a number of Nations had a habit of shooting Medics on the battlefield.

A Combat Medic is an Infantryman within a section, a Tankie/ a Crewman within an Armoured Vehicle Crew, A Gunner within a Gun section, a Field Engineer within a Engineer section, Airforce Gound Defence Section (Airforce Infantry) and in Special Forces Ptl or Section etc. As we are class Combatants we don’t wear the Red Cross on our sleeve.

A Combat Medic role is a secondary role within the Fighting unit/ Combat Platoon/ Team. As a result some Combat Medics are more highly trained than others within the Combat Medic role. For example some Combat Medics can perform basic minor surgery on the casualty and are trained similar to that of a Para Medic, A&E or ICU Nurse. My case as a basic Combat First Aid I was taught how to with trauma wounds, Minor first aid injuries, using drugs/ drips, stabilise the casualty IOT safety move the casualty back to the A Ech or help other Medics at a Cleaning Station or during clinics at local villages etc. One last thing I also delivered two babies in East Timor, as I was only the only medic around be it a Combat Medic trained (note delivering babies wasn’t part of my Combat Medic Training) until the real medic’s turned up.

So in my humble opinion, I don’t think it would be Vampire (Military slang for a Medic) running around battlefield kicking doors in and shooting up the place. Or else this person is in the wrong job for starters, as all the medic’s (Navy, Airforce and Army) I’ve come across or worked alongside do take their Red Cross, Geneva and LOAC obligations quite seriously which is more than I could say about some Medical NGO’s over the yea

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Hmmm.... Honour. It would be nice wouldn't it. But I suspect all Ron Mark will be concerned with is reputation, and there is a distinct difference there. Although the army doesn't always seem to know the difference.

Geoff Fischer said...

We are now well past the time for an inquiry into the crimes of the NZDF. All those soldiers and officers who planned, executed and covered up the Tirgiran reprisal raid, including the most senior commanders of the NZDF, must be tried for war crimes. Nothing less will do.

Anonymous said...

The actual reality is that in most serious military operations the NZDF and in virtually all actions the NZ Army depends on the fire support, logistics and intelligence assessment of the US,Australian and UK forces and in the past and near future Canada and Japan. We do not have the luxury of being able to put our allies on trial or the ridicule of public review. Serious military action is often so time and resource restrained that it cannot allow prisoners be taken. I do not believe military law and discipline can or should be aligned with civil courts. In the entire time I have written professionally for money as a defence commentator and leader writer for the Timaru Herald and NBR is for the standards for officer and rating selection be maintained and the armed forces tailor their equipment choice and numbers to that in which effective discipline is maintained and the military hierarchy and chain of command is adhered to with the authority that failure to follow commissioned officer orders can lead to 6 months military imprisonment and this extends to the RNZAF aircrew to serve on RNZN ships at sea to support helicopter operation. Had the RNZN deployed to the Falklands in 1982 or joint manned HMS/HMZS Bachantee south into the exclusion zone during armed conflict my belief of the acceptance of the option of discipline and control through lethal force was essential. My primary and secondary of many reasons for opposing the Leander and Anzac frigates is that crews of 170-250 are too large to be controlled and disciplined in the reality of a NZ ship.
Therefore Mr Hager is little more than a precious puritan troublemaker. The issues he refers to are mainly due to low standards in recruitment, intelligence of a lot of personnel matters, racial tensions and also absurd PC rules as effective military order and operation.requires a high degree of conformity in presentation in dress and appearance and cannot allow active gays or high gloss women. The issues raised my Mr Hagar are more serious in allied armed forces and police,.and it is interesting Mr Hager doesn't address them.My.understanding is the general advice to the besotted in the RN is get a room in a hotel for the duration at the next port and in the USN and RAN to women officer candidates is you have to accept it until you are commissioneded and have a revolver on your hip.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jesus wept, what is it with people today that cannot write a coherent piece of prose. Yes I'm talking to you anonymous 15:13. In so far as I can understand what you say, you seem to be against gay people in the armed forces – yet you call Hager a puritan. That's mildly amusing, but not having any idea what an "active" gay person is all I can say is that three grandfathers seven great uncles and one father all who served in the armed forces in World War I and World War II tell me that there were gay people in the Armed Forces then, and I can pretty much assume that they were have always been gay people in the armed forces – active or not. Right back to the Theban Sacred band. :) And their have long been women, although I'm not sure about the state of their "gloss".
You also seem to think that Hager should be criticising other militaries. I'm not sure why, he's a New Zealand journalist and generally writes about New Zealand. Jesus Christ the rest of it I just despair. I presume if you were writing professionally you were also the despair of your editors.

Geoff Fischer said...

Anonymous wrote: "Serious military action is often so time and resource restrained that it cannot allow prisoners be taken".
It is not hard to see why he or she chooses to be anonymous. Such amoral argument a disgrace, and goes to the core of the problem with the NZDF, which has too often been more willing to kill prisoners than to take them.
This behaviour is symptomatic of a deep spiritual malaise and the un-Christian belief that the life of a New Zealand soldier is worth more than the lives of enemy combatants or civilians.
From a practical point of view, prisoners may seem to be a liability, but in my limited experience prisoners treated with respect and humanity become friends for life. The approach of the NZDF and its allies - to kill civilians and to torture and kill prisoners - breeds hatred, resentment and contempt and will surely bring retribution.
The tragedy is that the colonial regime seems incapable of understanding these simple truths.

Anonymous said...

In May 1964 the Confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia intensified with Indonesian gurellas making lethal cross border raids into Kalimantan and landing terrorists on the Malaysian mainland. The Conservative Minister of Defence, Lord Thornycroft & CDS Earl Mountbatten decided to order naval units to operate provocatively in transiting the straights around Djakarta,Bali, Lombok and the naval and air bases in the vicinity of Djakarta full of Soviet supplied bombers and destroyers.The RNZN had a couple of frigates, minesweepers and Royalist in the area.The Marshall in charge of the RAF Lord Elworthy decided to trick Holyoake and NZCDS into sending the RNZAF 10 Canberra's to.Butterworth air base Malaysia where they were armed and fueled to immediately attack the Djakarta airbases with RAF Vulcan s, Canberras protected only by an inadequate number of Javelin fighters and the possibility of retalliation by nuclear armed Bucanners if the RNs scimitar tankers could clear Vic and.Centaurs deck in support.For several months Holyoake and Australian Liberal PM Menzies had demanded notification, before NZ and.Australian forces were used in combat or other lethal ops, but at every stage over several months Mountbatten, Thornycroft and Elworthy decided they had neither time or the trust to notify their closest allies.RAF Air Marshall Lord Elworthy decided at this time the risk war with China and the Soviet Union was too great for an air strike let alone with the motley bombers and Javelins available.Therefore Edward Elworthy decided on Operation Claret, ruthless cross border raids on which no prisoners would be taken or bodies returned. According to such sources as Mark Easton. Confrontation 1960-66.Taurus.NY/London(2004 & 2012)nThe forces involved werenUK,AU's and NZ SAS, other UK Army units.It is known NZ CDS Peter Phipps worked night and day to stop NZSAS involvement, but it appears he was probably not successful.One could also consult.Pugsley.Confrontation and NZDF 2006 consideration of eligibility for.medallic award for active operational service in the Confrontation.This issue is being reviewed by the current govt.I have been looking at this issue in relation to whether Royalist transit of the straights in 1964 was op service.Definitely in my view. The issue was considered by ret Rear Admiral Hunter, Captain Ian Hunter Waikato and HMNZS Southland, who is noted for bringing USS Haddo safely into Auckland, without the spectacle of Waikato's escort of Pintado a year earlier. Ian Hunter, pointed out that HMNZS Royalist had.made.a routine passage without incident.The std RN/RAN filed mark up at the time regardless, except in both 63 &/65 Royalist just made it toi Auckland

Rob Miles said...

In Afghanistan the NZ Army is involved in coalition operation as only a cog in the wheel and can't remain a serious alliance partner in land operations if it disputes coalition doctrine or the reality of US fire support in intelligence and helicopter guns ships. That is why I would prefer NZ support for Anzus was provided by the sort of force structure I suggest, 10 helicopter carrying OPVs like the Holland class with missile and torpedo armed helicopters and two deployable battalions , allowing the NZ armed forces to maintain say a presence on a resource dispute issue in the Southern Ocean or deploy to a North Asian coast to maintain a ruthless blockade after a limited US nuclear strike. The current purchase of the new tanker HMNZA Aotearoa seems motivated partly by the US opinion that minor allies can not contribute useful combat assets but could provide useful support for operations and the NZ desire to contribute to the fight against global warming through providing a sort of low tone para military environ space ship enterprise platform. My own view if only have 1 and its not available 40 percent of time and easily taken out.
I dispute the idea of sexual orientation or mental illness have scientific truth or there is fundamental difference between serious and minor mental illness. The idea that serious mental illness is terminally degenerative is garbage. A few people may be inflicted with some physical illness or infliction that constitutes terminal brain rot but for the most point the so called schizos are the victims of wrong diagnosis and legal or illegal addictive drugs or simply low IQ and bad luck. Like many New Zealanders victims of bad luck, Classifying people as mentally ill allows ordinary New Zealanders to see themselves as superior to somebody. They aren't. The nation would be much better if we reduced the military and police and recognised half those employed in NZ wast resources and detract from National employment and happiness.
The relentless righteous bullshit that mental illness and mental breakdowns are serious and clearly defineable events is the sort of bullshit we should have escaped from 30 years adn in my view if Helen Clark's government had any serious purpose it was to get away from this sort of bullshit and encourage happiness through all day sex, all day drinking and ending for all time the need to force people to work on pointless created work so everybody suffered together. We need to stop people working in four of five jobs or 65 hours a weekand ensure that serious well paid jobs only go to people with real qualifications. Real academic qualifications require the ability to think and reason. Nothing to do with good spelling or grammar or the ability to drive a car which is nothing to do with what education or intelligence is
My impression was the 1985 Gay liberation legislation was simply intended to give these people time to change in to being hetrosexual as surely the standard high class English homosexual into schoolboy arse could on all the evidence equally transfer to have sex with hot 16 schoolgirl backside. All the evidence is that Guy Burgess, Bruce Chatwin and Marplethorpe were perfectly successful with both sorts and totally ambiguous so I cant image why we are still tolerating these people. The idea that we have to allow people to be gay or LGBT because society wont tolerate them being hetro is too ridiculous. Of course modern women go to be with each other all time but that has nothing to do with traditional butch lesbians in the armed forces. Those who wear an officers uniform should look like it, not Chelsea Manning and it seems to me there are specific roles for women naval officers at sea but they do not include command on the basis of the disaster USS Cowpens, USS Winston Churchill and Cmmander Sarah West RN. The problems are obvious in virtually every BBC/ITV video ever posted since 1989 even the ones on HMS Brilliant in 1991 in the Agean.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well, the all-day sex sounds great, but I really think you could do with an editor here Rob. Because real academic qualifications would make sure you could get your ideas over to someone else without them having to head scratch the whole time.