Hager skating on thin ice; Defence Force reputation on the line

Yesterday after coming home from work, I noticed Nicky Hager was having another book launch live on Facebook, via The Daily Blog. Thinking he was going to announce another book on the National Party and corruption, which I believe is increasing in New Zealand, I tuned in.

Mr Hager, whose 2014 book release, “Dirty Politics”, appeared at the time of the General Election, is an investigative writer who also wrote a book on Waihopai surveillance base and its role in E.C.H.E.L.O.N.

So what is the book about, and what are his claims?

In short, the book details what Mr Hager says was a raid in Afghanistan, where the New Zealand Special Airborne Service is alleged to have killed civilians.

In the first claim according to Mr Hager the incident involved a raid where 6 people were killed and 15 injured.

In the second claim, Mr Hager said the Prime Minister John Key authorized the raid. The raid was based on flimsy evidence and did not show due regard to the local knowledge.

But most seriously Mr Hager has accused the Government and New Zealand Defence of a particularly serious offence: war crimes.

This is an extremely serious allegation to be laying against any organization or individual. But if true it would be hugely damaging and shameful to New Zealand’s reputation as a peace loving nation and one that abides (or claims to) by international law.

However, if Mr Hager’s claims are false then his credibility shall forever be tarnished. I could not look at his work again because this opens Mr Hager to more serious allegations other than not being a credible journalist, such as whether or not he deliberately set out to tarnish the New Zealand Defence Force.

So, where to from here? As Amnesty International insist, we must have an inquiry to determine whether the claims Mr Hager have made are true, and if so who is responsible. These allegations are too serious to ignore, irrespective of what one thinks of Mr Hager. It needs to be held before the election, because New Zealanders pride themselves on being fair and having a sense of social justice. Having it before the election enables them to make an educated choice on which combination of political parties can best uphold our commitment to international law.

On one hand I sincerely hope that the Defence Force is not complicit in any wrong doing, because it would be a massive stain on an otherwise outstanding New Zealand institution. On the other hand, Mr Hager is one of very few journalists capable of carrying out seriously heavy journalism such as this – to be found to have made false claims would be hugely damaging to his reputation.

Time will tell who is right.

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