In this book Nicky Hager has proven once again to be a formidable investigative journalist. With the unofficial help from some New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel, together with the Ombudsman’s office, and Wikileaks, Hager shines a bright light into the dark recesses between the NZ parliament and the NZ military and intelligence agencies. It appears that senior officials in the “public service” and military purposely misled both elected government and the public to further their own objectives. Their private agenda―to be as fully involved in the Anglo-American alliance as possible―led the military and NZ intelligence agencies to mislead and often ignore the wishes and policies of the elected government.
As Hager puts it in the preface of his book (p. 8):
A generation earlier Vietnam had been a television war, where people around the world could follow events day by day and debate the rights and wrongs. Those at home learned what the troops were experiencing and got an impression of what war was like. But the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been public relations wars: more than ever before, military media staff were controlling what the public saw and heard.
Hager writes about how the New Zealand Defence Force went to Iraq and Afghanistan and often acted against the wishes of the New Zealand Government. This was mainly because it has become more deeply involved in the US military machine’s war-actively fighting much more than the New Zealand Government had directed as a United Nations-lead peacekeeping and reconstruction effort.
The book covers the New Zealand Defence Force’s public relations campaign to both shut out any bad news or to reveal how much the NZDF had became a small cog in the US war machine. Hager in this book champions the need for political transparency by revealing what the defence force actually did and what happened in the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hager goes into great depth about the different occasions on how the NZ military top brass have moved to use the war on terror to reintegrate NZ into the US, UK, Canada and Australian alliance. How later that in both Iraq and Afghanistan mostly the supposed reconstruction and aid work the NZDF was supposed to be doing became military security work for the occupation forces. The NZDF personnel were integrated into the British armed forces in Basra, Iraq and were also with the US in the Bamiyan province of Afghanistan.
It is overall another powerfully written piece of investigative journalism covering another time period and area of NZ politics that is not really covered by anyone else. Hager’s ”Other Peoples Wars” is extensively researched and meticulously referenced. He does a service for the NZ public by revealing the highly secretive and anti-democratic nature of the top brass of the NZ military in these cases. Also Hager shows how countries need to have much more accountability and transparency in their military and foreign affairs departments and to insure that their military is properly under the control of the civilian government.
In how to achieve this, his book is a very good start, by getting the real picture of the NZDF’s involvement in the US president Bush’s and Obama’s “War’s on terror” out to the public, to parliament and to the New Zealand Government.
Other People’s Wars by Nicky Hager
Craig Potton Publishing 2011
Reviewed by Matthew Hodgetts