Good on the New Zealand Herald for publishing this picture of two NZ SAS soldiers in Kabul.
And cheers to the Dominion Post for going for it again today.
It’s a Kiwi version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and really quite pathetic that the Defence Minister is upset about this image. He’s said that identifying the soldiers puts them in harm’s way. Presumably because now those pesky Taleban can put a name or a face to the troopers.
That’s just bullshit. These guys wander around Kabul in heavy body armour, armed to the teeth and ready to take potshots at anyone who looks remotely suspicious. That’s about 90 per cent of the population in the reasoning of the occupying forces.
Let’s be clear about this; these SAS troopers are in harms way because of a series of political decisions taken in Washington and Wellington.
What’s actually more interesting is that we only found out about Kiwi military involvement in the recent fire-fight in Kabul because of a story in the New York Times. No statement from the New Zealand government, just a deafening silence from Wellington.
NYT Kabul correspondent Dexter Filkins reported the actions of the SAS in his 18 January story about the Kabul fire-fight. Then he blogged about his surprise that most New Zealanders had no idea about it.
The attack on the Central Bank in downtown Kabul this week revealed many things about Afghanistan. But one of the more surprising things it brought to light was that New Zealand is at war.
New Zealand? At war?
Not a lot of New Zealanders, apparently. The news that a team of commandos from New Zealand had joined Afghan soldiers at the scene caused a sensation in the little country off the coast of Australia.[Kiwis in Kabul]
Apart from the typically patronising tone (little country off the coast of Australia) this is quite amusing.
Prime Minister John Key only confirmed the details of the NYT story two days later under pressure from Press Gallery reporters. Even then he did so reluctantly and insisting it was right to maintain secrecy.
What do these fools think is going to happen? Does anyone seriously think that the Taleban have got time to seek out and read New Zeland news media online, or even the New York Times for that matter?
Key also made ridiculous comments about the Kiwi soldiers not being in harm’s way or doing any harm to anyone else:
“To the best of my knowledge they weren’t involved in particular instances that caused harm.”
He did not believe any New Zealanders had caused harm either.
So, Prime Minister, what are the SAS boys doing in Kabul? Making sandwiches? The whole point of the SAS is to cause harm. In fact, mayhem, destruction and targeted “decapitation strikes” are the order of the day for these secretive soldiers.
The long-standing convention of not publishing identifying marks or faces of SAS soldiers that the Herald has breached is actually bullshit too.
Why would the media go along with the idea of hiding the faces of SAS soldiers on active duty?
Given that the whole argument for having New Zealand troops in Afghanistan is that it is in the nation’s public interest – a dubious argument at the best of times – then doesn’t the New Zealand public have the right to know what the soldiers fighting in their name are doing and who they are?
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” convention is just an exercise in keeping the news media in line. It is part of the whole myth that the news media MUST take the side of the nation state in matters of national interest.
The presence of Kiwi troops in Afghanistan does nothing to advance the public interest of ordinary New Zealanders. The whole justification for them being there – to fight global terror – is spurious. It certainly isn’t an argument accepted by everyone and the media has a responsibility to be critical of the deployment, the strategy and the politics behind it.
Historical footnote: I’m currently working on a research project with a postgrad student, Josh, looking at the media’s coverage of New Zealand deployments to Afghanistan going back to 2001.
The secrecy has always been there. In 2001, then Opposition leader, Bill English, criticised Labour for not revealing more details about the first SAS deployment. Then, as now, Kiwis found out details from the overseas media, and even from official US military announcements.
Today, the same issue, but the shoe’s on the other foot.
It’s also interesting that the defence force is scrambling to cover its embarrassment over having the “Jusus Saves” superscopes on its rifles.
It’s not beyond the pale to suggest that the government is making such a fuss over the photograph in order to draw attention away from this other interesting story.
Who knew…we had God on our side.
This is my favourite version of this powerful Dylan classic.