Hager’s book

September 2nd, 2011 at 9:11 am by David Farrar

Two different takes on ’s latest book. John Armstong writes in the Herald:

Those who think Nicky Hager is just another left-wing stirrer and dismiss his latest book accordingly should think again.

Likewise, the country’s politicians should read Other People’s Wars before condemning it.

Whatever Hager’s motive for investigating New Zealand’s contribution over the past decade to the United States-led “war on terror”, it is pretty irrelevant when placed alongside the mountain of previously confidential and very disturbing information his assiduous research and inquiries have uncovered.

With the help of well-placed informants and thousands of leaked documents, Hager exposes the cynical manner in which the Defence Force has purposely misled the public by omission of pertinent facts and public relations flannel.

This is particularly the case with regard to the “candyfloss” image the military has built around the deployment of New Zealand soldiers in the Bamiyan province of .

That image is of our soldiers acting more like peacekeepers armed with nothing more dangerous than a shovel.

The last couple of paragraphs do resonate with me to a degree. People forget that Helen Clark sent soliders into both Iraq and Afghanistan. With the exception of the SAS deployment (which she simply wouldn’t talk about), they were portrayed as just being engineers and builders who happen to be soldiers. Their role we were told was purely to help the locals, and nothing to do with those nasty wars.

Fair enough. But the Defence Force has sought to paint this deployment in a completely different light. Hager has cut through that pretence with the evidence to prove what has always been surmised – that the real reason for such deployments was not to help the inhabitants of Bamiyan but to impress the hawks in Washington.

Hopefully it is a mixture of both, but I’ve never doubted that Clark sending troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan was about keeping the US and to a degree the UK happy.

has a different take at Stuff:

A speed read of Nicky Hager’s latest book shows his usual impressive access to detailed documents and meticulous sourcing.

The insiders’ claims about ministers being kept in the dark may be true; the SAS in particular is obsessive about secrecy to the point that even a description of the ceremony farewelling Corporal Doug Grant was refused.

But the lens Hager uses gives a different view of New Zealand’s base at Bamiyan than one gleaned from a week-long visit there last month.

For instance, he claims that, despite media visits and hundreds of soldiers passing through the base, the military managed to keep secret the fact that they shared the Bamiyan camp with a United States intelligence base.

In fact, I, and other reporters before me, were introduced to US intelligence and communications staff at Bamiyan and at other Kiwi forward bases and ate and chatted with them. The stars and stripes flies alongside the New Zealand flag at Bamiyan to advertise the US contingent.

I’ve said before that Hager has good research skills, but his failing is he sees (or portrays) everything as a conspiracy or deep dark secret.

It was not a surprise that New Zealand is plugged in to the US-Nato intelligence and communication system across the war-torn country. It is something this reporter was specifically briefed on, although with a request not to publish details for operational security reasons.

Suffice to say that, from my observations, the information Kiwi troops glean is far more extensive than anything that flows the other way. Was the CIA there? I don’t know, and Hager only surmises.

The links tell New Zealand forces where other coalition forces are operating and let them call in US air support, both key factors in a multi-national force. Problems getting air support were highlighted in the report on the attack that killed Lieutenant Timothy O’Donnell.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Hager also points to a lack of understanding among the public about the Kiwis’ role in Bamiyan; that coverage was all airbrushed PR spin showing “friendly New Zealand soldiers handing out gifts to smiling children, building schools and wells”.

He may have had a case in the early years.

But for almost three years now, after the 2009 attack on the base at Do Abe and the first Kiwi casualties caused the military to upgrade its armoured vehicles from Hiluxes to LAVs, there has been no shortage of coverage highlighting the risks and the dangers.

Far from trying to cover that up, the soldiers on the ground I talked to were eager for the New Zealand public to know they were fighting in a dangerous war zone.

I think this is right. Early on things were somewhat sugar-coated, but I think in recent years we’ve come to understand better how the Bamiyan mission is not some safe engineering operation.

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42 Responses to “Hager’s book”

  1. Lance (2,309 comments) says:

    The image of Hager giving solders combat advice on TV last night went down like a shit sandwich

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  2. lofty (1,295 comments) says:

    I posted this on general debate, but fits better here.

    So what if the Kiwis are assisting intelligence matters from within their base?????

    The key to war is to win at all costs.

    Nice to have peace, true, the more the better, but when the call for troops to armour up comes, only 1 rule prevails, win at all costs.

    No use going to war to lose is it?

    Kill or be killed, use all available weapons to destroy the enemy.

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  3. Ryan Sproull (6,661 comments) says:

    The main shocking thing about Hager’s “revelations” is that anyone believed that anything else was going on in the first place.

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  4. davidp (3,319 comments) says:

    >A speed read of Nicky Hager’s latest book shows his usual impressive access to detailed documents and meticulous sourcing.

    I had a flick through the book in Whitcoulls yesterday. Noticed a passage referring to a couple of US Navy ships as being an “Airbourne Reconnaisance Group”. He has mangled the ARG acronym that normally means “Amphibious Ready Group”, but you’d think his common sense would lead him to question a situation when ships fly. I get the feeling that Hagar writes down everything he hears and coughs it all back up, errors and all.

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  5. scrubone (2,971 comments) says:

    If the interview on National Radio this morning was anything to go by, he’s simply taken his sources and read stuff into them that isn’t there.

    Which is exactly what he’s always done.

    Oh, what a surprise.

    The only difference with this one is that some of his “big scandal” items fall under the “well, duh” heading.

    And I agree with the comment above – his combat advice (don’t shoot back – come back tomorrow in daylight and sing kumbaya instead) is inevitably going to make the entire country wonder about his sanity levels.

    But the worst part is that when he did this for “the hollow men” he attacked a political figure. Nasty, but that’s politics. This time he’s going after civil servants – not cool.

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  6. backster (2,000 comments) says:

    The surprise to me is that Hager was allowed anywhere near any of our military establishments let alone anything secret. I don’t think anything he writes should be taken seriously. I could well imagine sundry soldiers being questioned by him feeding him a few lines of crap.

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  7. Scott Chris (5,675 comments) says:

    The SAS don’t play tiddlywinks. I’m curious to know what specific executive directives the military hierarchy are supposed to have ignored, and whether the chain of command in Afghanistan is empowered to issue separate directives. Might simply be a case of too many chiefs.

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  8. tom hunter (3,998 comments) says:

    The main shocking thing about Hager’s “revelations” is that anyone believed that anything else was going on in the first place

    Indeed:

    … that the real reason for such deployments was not to help the inhabitants of Bamiyan but to impress the hawks in Washington.

    As DPF points out, this is not news to we cynical souls (of both left and right) who squinted our eyes at Aunty Helen during this period. I have a very distinct memory of the Labour-Alliance government looking (and sounding) like stunned mullets in the 2-3 days after the 9/11 attacks. You could almost see the wheels grinding away as 20-30 years of immersion in the world of screaming AmeriKKKan Imperialism fought to be given full voice whilst the reality of a very angry US population suggested how poorly that might be received.

    In the end Aunty returned to calm everybody down and find a nice slithering middle way of doing the bare minimum, mouthing the right public platitudes (lots of emphasis on the beloved UN and International Consensus) and keeping one’s darker thoughts very, very quiet.

    … that coverage was all airbrushed PR spin showing “friendly New Zealand soldiers handing out gifts to smiling children, building schools and wells”.

    Again – Duh. You can probably go back to numerous threads in this blog on the subject of those soldiers and find ex-Army people like Murray and numerous other right-wingers pointing out that – as with every Western army – whatever your eventual role, you’re trained to use weapons to kill people. Even if your the bloody cook you’re expected to pick up a rifle when things get hairy.

    So who were all these dupes that Hager is now so desperate to convince or embarrass? Dedicated, one-eyed Labour-party voters or those in the thrall of the Helen personality cult?

    … but his failing is he sees (or portrays) everything as a conspiracy or deep dark secret.

    Perhaps. But I can’t help thinking that it’s also a cold-blooded exercise in cynicism, as Nicky continues to look for any wedge he can find (no matter how thin) to open another, and this time final, breach in the NZ-US relationship – something that left-wingers like him were convinced would be achieved with the Anti-Nuclear Act and the destruction of ANZUS.

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  9. metcalph (1,293 comments) says:

    Hagar’s main problem is that he multiplies essenses unnecessarily to fit his own narrative.

    I find it comic that his key shocking revelation which he uses to sell his books has failed to make a splash in the way his other books did. The CIA is at Bamiyan is hardly in the same league as Clark’s government allowed the importation of GE Corn or Don Brash is in league with the Hollow Men.

    I’m also sniggering at the fact that he’s chickened away from a fight with the Governer-General, one of the very men who he thinks would be most likely to indulge in the behaviour that he’s alleged.

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  10. Elaycee (4,063 comments) says:

    Also posted on GD but a better fit here:

    I see that Hager’s latest work of fiction has been rubbished again – this time by someone who would know about the SAS deployment in Afghanistan – none other than Sir Jerry Mateparae himself.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5551661/Governor-General-attacks-Hager-book-claims

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  11. mikenmild (8,742 comments) says:

    I’m looking forward to reasoned assessments of this book. Hager has a track record of producing relevant material from a wide variety of sources. Given his last book booted Don Brash from the leadership of the National Party, I don’t think anyone should rush to dismiss his latest effort.

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  12. Ryan Sproull (6,661 comments) says:

    I see that Hager’s latest work of fiction has been rubbished again – this time by someone who would know about the SAS deployment in Afghanistan – none other than Sir Jerry Mateparae himself.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5551661/Governor-General-attacks-Hager-book-claims

    I’m not sure if “nah, they wouldn’t do that” without addressing any of Hager’s sources, documents, etc., constitutes a proper “rubbishing”.

    I think it’s more that the former head of the GCSB and NZDF is never going to say anything else but “Hager’s wrong”.

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  13. Ryan Sproull (6,661 comments) says:

    I’m looking forward to reasoned assessments of this book. Hager has a track record of producing relevant material from a wide variety of sources. Given his last book booted Don Brash from the leadership of the National Party, I don’t think anyone should rush to dismiss his latest effort.

    I don’t think this is an election game-changer.

    For a start, as DPF manages to mention several times, it was the Labour government that got us involved over there. And there were those of us who protested against it at the time. For all the good that did.

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  14. Elaycee (4,063 comments) says:

    @Ryan Sproull says: “I’m not sure if “nah, they wouldn’t do that” without addressing any of Hager’s sources, documents, etc., constitutes a proper “rubbishing”. I think it’s more that the former head of the GCSB and NZDF is never going to say anything else but “Hager’s wrong”.”

    Being selective in your use of quotation marks, Ryan?

    For the record, Mateparae didn’t say ‘nah, they wouldn’t do that’… so you should not have intimated this was a quote. The story quotes him as saying: The notion that senior military officers quietly undermined the Government’s policies and decisions was ”abhorrent”.

    Besides, Sir Jerry has nothing to prove and has quite correctly refrained from escalating the debate.

    Hager’s book is his opinion and fiction alone and should be treated as such.

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  15. Ryan Sproull (6,661 comments) says:

    Being selective in your use of quotation marks, Ryan?

    Yes, I use them correctly.

    For the record, Mateparae didn’t say ‘nah, they wouldn’t do that’… so you should not have intimated this was a quote.

    You would have to be crazy on acid to think that was a direct quote.

    The story quotes him as saying: The notion that senior military officers quietly undermined the Government’s policies and decisions was ”abhorrent”.

    Yes, without addressing any of the evidence or arguments, he dismisses the possibility. That is the equivalent of saying, “Nah, they wouldn’t do that.”

    Besides, Sir Jerry has nothing to prove and has quite correctly refrained from escalating the debate.

    He’s refrained from engaging with the claims at all. It’s hard to see how his comments are even newsworthy. Without addressing any of the claims or evidence, the former head of the organisations being accused says that the claims aren’t worth listening to.

    Hager’s book is his opinion and fiction alone and should be treated as such.

    Yeah, until you’ve read the book and addressed the claims, your statement here (which intimates that it’s an authoritative statement of fact) is merely your entirely uninformed opinion.

    Unless you have read the book, of course. Have you?

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  16. Mr Nobody NZ (396 comments) says:

    If (And thats a very big IF), Hagers claims are correct they lead to one of two very troubling conclusions:
    a) Our Then Prime Minster Helen Clarke was incapable of controlling the defence force; or
    b) Helen Clarke was fully aware of what was occurring and choose to mislead and manipulate the public of NZ.

    Either way I do believe that there should be some sort of inquiry if for not other reason to ensure that integrity of our political and defense leaders is beyond question.

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  17. 3-coil (1,184 comments) says:

    Ryan Sproull (10:29am) – since when has actually reading the book been a pre-requisite for rubbishing it? Didn’t seem to matter when everybody was criticising Ian Wishart’s book on Macksyna King.

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  18. Elaycee (4,063 comments) says:

    @Ryan Sproull says: “You would have to be crazy on acid to think that was a direct quote.”

    If it is not a direct quote, then don’t put it in quote marks “…” FFS!

    Then you add: “That is the equivalent of saying, “Nah, they wouldn’t do that.”” Oh bollocks – don’t surmise what was said because you simply don’t know.

    Your pearl” Unless you have read the book, of course. Have you?” Haha – if I want to read fiction I’ll read posts by Luc / Hans Christian Andersen or even one of yours. But Hager? No thanks. But I don’t need to read Hager’s fiction cover to cover to be able to form an opinion that he writes crap.

    And clearly he is not alone….

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  19. Kimble (4,092 comments) says:

    LAC, Ryan, your argument is going nowhere. I suggest you abandon it now and pursue a more entertaining (for all) line.

    Hager is a conspiracy theorist who suffers from severe cognitive dissonance. He will take common knowledge, along with widely held reasonable assumptions, slather it is conspiratorial language, claim it is all a big cover-up. He simply cannot see these things as a normal person would.

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  20. kiwi in america (2,326 comments) says:

    What do you expect from a card carrying war hating lefty writing about a war. Hagar views the world and thus the Afpak theatre of war through a Keith Locke type lens. Anything to do with America and its military is deemed evil from the get go and so any NZ involvement in America’s wars is to be condemned and vilified.

    All wars are horrible ugly affairs and this one more than most. The task of winning wars has never been pretty. Clark had to appease not only Labour’s vocal anti war left wing base but also the impractical and even more left leaning then coalition partners the Alliance hence all that crap trap about benign engineers doing nothing more than rebuilding schools. For Hagar to breathlessly inform us that NZ soldiers were being well … soldiers will barely raise an eyebrow in middle NZ’s voter heartland.

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  21. mikenmild (8,742 comments) says:

    KIA
    I don’t think that’s Hager’s argument: the allegation is that our military has been up to things without the government’s knowledge.

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  22. LabourDoesntWork (278 comments) says:

    That image is of our soldiers acting more like peacekeepers armed with nothing more dangerous than a shovel.

    Whence this absurd journalistic angle followed for years that ‘How terrible NZ troops might have had to fire their gun-thingys over there’? Everyone knows about Willie Apiata; why wasn’t this absurd narrative dropped then? Might as well be.

    Just sick of the swamp of dumb that is the NZ media and their audience; and the politicians who aim that low. I suppose it was nothing more or less than the banal political reality of Clark’s Labour government having to play both sides of the fence, given that she’s uncomfortable with this manly stuff of standing with our allies the US and UK (she’s just a harmless fluffy thing at heart, see!). I doubt the conspiracy-oriented book Hagar milked from this seeming political banality is as meaningful as it’s sold as.

    That Key continued this angle just shows how lazy everyone’s become. We withhold from the troops the full praise they deserve.

    In the end, it is great that NZ troops were over there pulling together with the coalition war effort. (Thanks to Hagar for bringing this to light. That’s the only real value here.) Alas, the military can only do so much. They’ve done that and it’s time they come back.

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  23. Ryan Sproull (6,661 comments) says:

    If it is not a direct quote, then don’t put it in quote marks “…” FFS!

    Paraphrasing in quotation marks to make a point is well established. Take a pill.

    Then you add: “That is the equivalent of saying, “Nah, they wouldn’t do that.”” Oh bollocks – don’t surmise what was said because you simply don’t know.

    I know what was in the article, and I know that he didn’t address the claims, but dismissed them out of hand. Do you disagree?

    Your pearl” Unless you have read the book, of course. Have you?” Haha – if I want to read fiction I’ll read posts by Luc / Hans Christian Andersen or even one of yours. But Hager? No thanks. But I don’t need to read Hager’s fiction cover to cover to be able to form an opinion that he writes crap.

    Have you formed this view after reading other books by Hager?

    I just really don’t see how you can have an opinion on the claims when you haven’t read the arguments or evidence provided. Not having read them myself, for all I know, the book will be full of spurious reasoning and fallacies. But until I’ve read it, I’m not in a position to make that judgement.

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  24. Ryan Sproull (6,661 comments) says:

    Ryan Sproull (10:29am) – since when has actually reading the book been a pre-requisite for rubbishing it? Didn’t seem to matter when everybody was criticising Ian Wishart’s book on Macksyna King.

    I held the same view then, too. Criticising Wishart’s book without reading it, simply because he is Ian Wishart, is a textbook example of an ad hominem fallacy. Those people who rubbished it without reading it – in the sense of asserting that whatever conclusions he drew were wrong – were being very silly.

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  25. mikenmild (8,742 comments) says:

    I’d actually draw a considerable distinction between Wishart and Hager. In any event the issue with Wishart’s book for me was his cynical boosterism and outlandish claims together with the exploitative nature of that project.

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  26. Elaycee (4,063 comments) says:

    Ryan adds: “But until I’ve read it, I’m not in a position to make that judgement.”

    Exactly.

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  27. Ryan Sproull (6,661 comments) says:

    And neither are you, is my point.

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  28. Viking2 (10,701 comments) says:

    Govt. does a lot of things and has a large information base and flow.
    There are lots of things that should be way more transparent, are way more important for us to know.
    Knowing what the Defense forces do is in my opinion not amongst the information that I have any need to know.

    If nothing was said, and they went about the business that the Govt. asks of them then that will dome.
    Other than the Defense forces and the pPolice everything else is fair game for being public knowledge.

    If you don’t want to hear from the likes of Hager, simple, don’t buy his books, don’t read his rubbish, don’t feed the troll.
    No sales equals going broke.

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  29. Viking2 (10,701 comments) says:

    bloody edit.
    socialist in charge again.

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  30. Paulus (2,292 comments) says:

    I might even read it when it is in Warehouse next week at $5.95

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  31. Rich Prick (1,319 comments) says:

    OK, which of you switched Hager’s probes off again?

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  32. Elaycee (4,063 comments) says:

    Apart from the usual fruit loop conspiracy theorists / fringe loonies / political journalists / activists / tree huggers etc, has anyone credible come out in support of Hager’s claims?

    No?

    And who has discredited / dismissed Hager’s claims? The Governer General, the Prime Minister, the Chief of the NZ Defence Force, The NZ High Commissioner in Canberra (after trips to Afghanistan), other military personnel based in Afghanistan and so on….

    So Hager exaggerates and creates his own version of the truth. Some things don’t change.

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  33. Murray (8,835 comments) says:

    Anyone who beleives that the NZ deployment was not combat – with 10 Bronze Stars and three other valor decoration including the VC – is simply too ignorant to offer an opinion on the situation.

    Looking at you NZ media who played your part as Clarks PR machine.

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  34. KevinH (1,128 comments) says:

    Hagar is good at spinning, he is a cut and paste conspiracy theorist, and makes a number of allegations which simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. In this mornings Herald Sir Jerry Mateparae refutes Hagar’s allegations concerning New Zealand’s role in Afghanistan.
    New Zealand is a partner in a coalition of nations, therefore interacts with a number of other nations in Afghanistan and Iraq, sharing resources etc, in the fight against terrorism. Nicky Hagar has extrapolated those facts into a book of fiction because he knows there is a ready market for this type of book amongest his own peacenik colleagues.
    In the military, especially in a foreign theatre, there is no black and white, and much of what goes on is best left on the battlefield.
    New Zealanders are not naive, as a nation, we have been there and done that and know of the difficulties and horror of war, but don’t rave on about it. We have a very small military team, and find it unnecessary to disclose any information as to their activities because it could jeopardise their mission, it’s a case of the less said the better.

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  35. Ryan Sproull (6,661 comments) says:

    Apart from the usual fruit loop conspiracy theorists / fringe loonies / political journalists / activists / tree huggers etc, has anyone credible come out in support of Hager’s claims?

    No?

    And who has discredited / dismissed Hager’s claims? The Governer General, the Prime Minister, the Chief of the NZ Defence Force, The NZ High Commissioner in Canberra (after trips to Afghanistan), other military personnel based in Afghanistan and so on….

    So Hager exaggerates and creates his own version of the truth. Some things don’t change.

    This is mostly ad hominem – i.e., because Hager is Hager and because the only people who support him are the kind of people who support him, therefore whatever he says is wrong.

    The GG, PM, Chief of the NZDF, the NZ High Commissioner in Canberra and other military personnel based in Afghanistan may be in a position to authoritatively deny his claims, but they are also the people most likely to deny those claims if they were true. Additionally, the GG has dismissed them out of hand without addressing whatever evidence or arguments Hager presents, and the PM has basically said “we all know the kind of person Hager is, so without reading the book, I already reckon he’s wrong”. <—– paraphrasing to make a point.

    Of course, we enter the problematic realm of the conspiracy theory to some extent: that evidence to the contrary (in this case, the claims of government and military officials) happens to be exactly what would happen if the conspiracy was true. It's the old "only the true messiah would deny that he's the messiah" thing.

    Without reading the book, the facts on the face of it support two contradictory possibilities.

    1. Hager is a nut and the officials are providing the facts just as they would if he was a nut.
    2. Hager is right and the officials are spinning and covering just as they would if he was right.

    I don't know if the arguments/evidence in the book can be confirmed or repudiated enough to prove either correct, and in the meantime, people will see the facts as supporting their own preconceived notion of what is the truth in this case.

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  36. backster (2,000 comments) says:

    Something’s wrong. I haven’t heard patriotic N.Z. Companies like The Warehouse, Borders, Whitcoulls, etc making public statements that they will refuse to stock the book.

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  37. mikenmild (8,742 comments) says:

    Ryan
    I think that there is a range of possibilities between your (1) and (2) above.
    Hager will have a lot of information that is correct; the interpretation to be placed on that information may be the point at issue. It won’t necessarily be Hager right/officials wrong or vice versa.

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  38. remo (7 comments) says:

    I am left to look at what I can see. History has all kinds of real politik action going on under our noses never knowing a thing about it [GLADIO/Tonkin/USSLiberty/Ryazan etc]. Compartmentalization and ‘need to know’ allow bigger picture of global US/NATO [in this case the predominant] interests, military expansion, and acceptability of SECRETIVE and aggressive ‘war of terror’ practices generally undercutting rights of man hidden in the past 10 years of PNACs ‘New Pearl Harbor”. Practices maybe also to flourish among allied states. Wikileaks confirms deep state secret conduits alive and kicking, parallel but unknown and generally ignored by MSM, even AFTER having been identified.
    That secrets are kept should come as no surprise to anyone anymore.

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  39. Scott Chris (5,675 comments) says:

    “This is mostly ad hominem – i.e., because Hager is Hager and because the only people who support him are the kind of people who support him, therefore whatever he says is wrong.”

    Reductio ad Hitlerum:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_Hitlerum

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  40. jaba (2,068 comments) says:

    1/ you don’t take a hammer to a gun fight
    2/ if you have a gun, don’t use it as a hammer
    3/ Rachael Smalley asked him why he actually didn’t go to the war zone to see for himself .. cluck cluck cluck

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  41. Elaycee (4,063 comments) says:

    I have a bridge for sale…. and clearly there are some potential buyers here…

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  42. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    and just prior to an election too who would have thought it. This seems like a ‘soperism’ oh my gosh did he really say that!!?! But for me the thought of John Hamstrung breathlessly sitting down at his keyboard to script his Hagiography (gedditt?) is what most tickled me.

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