Hehir says there should be an inquiry

Liam Hehir writes:

Hit and Run, a new book by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, was the dominant news story last week. The book accuses the SAS of participating in illegal killings in Afghanistan. It also suggests that officials have covered up these possible war crimes.

Needless to say, few civilised people would consider this acceptable. If there is anything in them, the claims are troubling. …

The accusations in Hit and Run will blight the reputation of the SAS for too many New Zealanders. We cannot shrug that off.

There is a national interest in giving the public the reassurance of a fresh look at the matter.

The investigations of the time,  no matter how robust or sound, are not enough. Citizens at home are not equipped to evaluate competing narratives about faraway battlefields. We do not have the time, skills or resources to determine what version of events is closer to the truth.

Only a fresh look at the events in light of the accusations will suffice. The person in charge must be of unimpeachable character and the process transparent. It will take  nothing less to persuade Hager’s admirers that crimes were not concealed.

Like Liam I think there is merit into an inquiry – not into war crimes (as that is up to the Police) but into which version of events is correct.

However I have one reservation to this. Stuff reported:

In a statement sent to media on Sunday night, the authors say it’s “actually impossible that the story is wrong”.

Now with such a stance from the authors that it is “actually impossible” that their story is wrong, what use is an inquiry. Unless the inquiry agrees 100% with the authors, they will decry the inquiry as a cover up, biased, wrong etc etc. They have stated it is impossible they are wrong, so implicitly they can not accept any other outcome from an inquiry.

It would be like the 9/11 Commission – no matter what the official inquiry found, there are those convinced it was a conspiracy organised by George W Bush, not Osama bin Laden.

If Hager and Stephenson were open to the possibility that they could be wrong on significant details, then the merits of an inquiry are much stronger.

But their stance suggest an inquiry into their allegations will be no more useful than the inquiry the Greens demanded into Genetic Modification – they rejected the outcome because it didn’t deliver what they wanted.

So there are only two possible outcomes from an inquiry at present:

  1. The inquiry backs the Hager/Stephenson book, and they are vindicated
  2. The inquiry doesn’t back the Hager/Stephenson book and they remain adamant it is impossible they are wrong and the attack the inquiry as a cover up

Can you see why an inquiry isn’t looking so appealing.

Now if Hager and Stephenson made an unequivocal statement that they would accept the findings of an independent inquiry, well then you might be making progress.

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