Hager/Stephenson Allegations against the NZSAS: Analysis of available information

A reader has submitted this analysis of the Hager/Stephenson allegations.


Background:

Overview

The NZSAS forces were operating in Afghanistan as part of an international Coalition following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Prior to the invasion by the Coalition, Afghanistan was governed by a jihadist organisation, The Taliban, who governed via a literal and jihadist interpretation of Islamic law.

Amongst their beliefs:

  • Subjugation of women – treated as slaves.
  • Harbouring of terrorists – Al Qaeda, Bin Laden and co.
  • Hatred of the west and non-Muslim countries. (NZ included in the wider scheme of things)

Underneath the top layer of Taliban rulers Afghanistan also has a large number of tribal leaders/war lords who rule local areas by force of arms.

Many of these tribal war lords also have similar beliefs to the Taliban – extreme Islamism etc.  

Afghan Invasion and Occupation

In 2001/02 when the Coalition forces occupied Afghanistan they did so by force of arms.

Some Afghan citizens welcomed them and many didn’t.

Those who didn’t carried on a guerrilla warfare against Coalition forces evidenced by ongoing attacks, explosion of IED devices, and suicide bombs.

Insurgents/Militants/Jihadists

These militant fighters who have carried on fighting against the Coalition forces wear no uniform.

Apart from being in possession of weaponry there appears to be no easy way to distinguish them from the civilian population.

These fighters also live amongst the civilian population and are supported by them in terms of food and shelter etc.

From this we can tell that much of the civilian population of Afghanistan are not neutral observers – to a greater or lesser extent they support the Taliban and their extremist views.

Hager/Stevenson’s Allegations

They have alleged that the NZSAS conducted a reprisal raid on two villages killing civilians and destroying houses.

They made these allegations based on the following evidential sources and conducting investigation several years after the event.

  • Information supplied to them 3rd hand via apparent civilian witnesses to the events.
  • Photos supplied to them 3rd hand via people connected with the location.
  • Sources in NZ from someone (or more) with some connection to the NZ Army.

No names of any of these witnesses have been supplied. Neither the photos nor what happened were observed by Hager or Stevenson themselves.

Investigation Problems

1. Scene Investigation. Neither journalist visited the village sites to view the ‘destroyed houses’, interview eye witnesses, or take scene photographs. Not to mention taking independent GPS coordinates etc.

2. The civilian population (we are told the area is now under the control of the Taliban) who the information has come from is under the influence of extreme jihadists.

There is little incentive for any ‘witnesses’ to say anything that doesn’t back the Taliban worldview that the west are infidel. If they did their relatives and themselves would likely be put in mortal danger.

3. Photographs. They speak a 1000 words it is said. However, how can you tell where a photo has been taken? Are there wider scene shots with visible and identifiable landmarks to verify the location? Was Photoshop employed?

Photos are great but in the hands of a propagandist is a wonderful means of misleading the viewers.

4. Identification of Soldiers. The Coalition Forces were conducting many raids all through Afghanistan – no doubt involving Special Forces and Helicopter gunships.

Think this through logically. If you were the SAS commander planning a raid to kill civilians would you have allowed your soldiers to wear easily identifiable uniforms?

Would you have a chat to the villagers and say oh by the way we are the top secret NZ SAS soldiers. Here are our names and ranks so we can get in trouble later.

If you were a villager, all you would know is that some soldiers and a helicopter were firing at you. You would either shoot back or go hide. (You would likely assume the soldiers were American – the great majority of soldiers in the country)

5. Prior History

Jihadi/Islamist groups fighting the great infidel have made use of the internet and propaganda techniques to further their cause for years. It is nothing new.

How can Hager/Stevenson be sure that they have not fallen for some propaganda ploy by the Taliban jihadists? Sowing discord amongst your enemies is an old trick.

6. Validity of the Authors

Hager has a long history of activism, especially against the NZ Government. He appears to have political views which are hard left and his books reflect a world view that socialism is good; capitalism is bad, and must be seen through this prism.

Can the reader of the book have confidence that Hager has acted in a fair and impartial manner through this investigation? Have the allegations been made in good faith?

It appears also that the authors did not approach the NZDF for response before publishing – this violates a basic principle of fairness that professional journalists adhere to.

7. Attention to Detail

Upon the release of the book the authors claimed that they had meticulously fact checked and corroborated every detail contained.

We then find out that they erred (and admitted as such) upon the very location of this raid.

They then claim that it is “impossible” for their story to be incorrect.

If they have failed to be accurate in a very basic fact (location) surely this casts doubts on the accuracy of the whole account?

8. Opposing Evidence

After the publishing of the book, the Chief of the Defence Forces Lt General Keating responded with a media conference during which he laid out the alternative viewpoint of what occurred.

This included a map showing the actual scene of the raid, the outcome of the raid, (militants killed) and the fact that a video of the raid was captured via video and may be available for viewing.

I note that General Keating has access to the actual soldiers who participated in that raid and to the planning and authorizations behind it. (Direct eye witness testimony)

I note that General Keating also has the account of a Legal Advisor who oversaw the operation.

I note that General Keating also has a logical explanation for (in the event that they actually occurred) how civilians may have inadvertently been killed. (Malfunctioning Apache cannon)

If the authors’ assertions are correct then General Keating must have boldly and brazenly stood in front of all NZ (and the Government) and told bare-faced lies to the public.

Why would he do that? He is putting his occupation and freedom in jeopardy and the reputation of the whole NZDF.

The NZDF account is corroborated by Hager admitting that they got the location incorrect – this admission makes the NZDF account more reliable.

Possible Conclusions:

1. As the NZ Army says they raided a completely different village, no massacre took place, Hager/Stevenson’s story has no validity. This is backed up by Army records, a video, and the testimony of an Army legal advisor.

The story published is a fictitious/malicious account designed to sow discord on Coalition Army forces and passed on to two naïve and sympathetic ‘useful idiots’ who then publish it as gospel truth.

2. There has been a major conspiracy to cover up an illegal raid. However despite being amongst the most highly trained soldiers in the world somehow the NZSAS betrayed their identity to the surviving villagers, and also were bleating about the raid to colleagues who have then told this to Hager. (All anonymously of course)

Also we are meant to believe that Lt General Keating has also lied barefaced to the public about this despite the associated risks of this.

I believe that the account provided by the authors has no validity and should be relegated to the section of political fiction in the local library.

 


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