Friday, 28 September 2012

Nicky Hagar came to town...

Nicky Hagar Investigative journalist.

The day Nicky Hagar came to town.

Last Friday evening at 7pm here in Palmerston North in our wonderful public library, a young investigative journalist stood and addressed a crowd of one hundred and sixty eager listeners. The audience was keen to hear what he had to say.

The subject wasn’t national standards in our schools, although there was a connection. The subject wasn’t which political party was best suited to run our country, but there was a connection and a powerful one.

The subject was ‘Other people’s Wars’ a book about New Zealand’s role in conflict events around the world. The connection to education was via our unique relationship with history. It was also connected to politics via the changing behaviour of inclusion of the public, to isolation of the public to both political and military matters.

Nicky Hagar wrote the book and he did so by over many years, and with a massive amount of gritty hard work, and using the tools of investigative journalism, he connected the dots that in the end revealed exactly what took place over a decade or so as we moved from a climate of openness and transparency, into the dark world of spin and manipulation of public awareness.

It is said, that who ever wins the war, writes the history of that war that may be true in total or in part. But today one could be forgiven for thinking that they write the history of a war before the war even takes place, such is the ability of the spin machine to corrupt and falsify reality.

During the Second World War the information lines between the political and the military were clear and concise. We knew what the war was about, the goals, the enemy, the desired outcome were for the most part understood and accepted. It was an event where it could be said, “It was our war”. The Government in most respects took the people with them, although we stii had the hangover of “Where Britain goes we go” a leftover from the First World War where we were simply a British colony that supplied gun fodder for others.

But really, as Nicky Hagar pointed out, we have throughout our history fought other people wars. The major difference now days is that we have replaced Britain with the USA…and are currently fighting their wars, supplying the gun fodder you could say.

Nicky Hagar suggests that’s not what the New Zealand people want, but it is what the government wants and herein lies the disconnect.

He suggested that there was no good reason for NZ to be involved in much of the conflict that is happening right now. For example when NZ offered reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan some ten years ago the public were told it was to help the local people, but that was a half truth, because the SAS were engaged in fighting a destructive war…and some of the NZ troops didn’t like what they were ordered to do. Killing farmers in their fields and civilians willy-nilly just seemed stupid to them and was most certainly not in line with the New Zealanders view of justice and fair play. It was more about assisting with the takeover of Afghanistan by the US.

What deeply concerned Nicky Hagar as both a journalist and a New Zealander was that the news coming out of the war zone of Afghanistan. While in Iraq, which we were assured by government that we didn’t have a combat role, but only to find that our Navy was deployed in that very role but kept secret from the general population.

His presentation was both stark and frightening as step by step he revealed just how little the public were told about the situation into which our troops had been ordered.

I thank the Friends of the Library for hosting Nicky Hagar to our city, for our city is situated in the centre of military activity with both Linton Camp and Ohakea on its edges. I thank the library staff and team for making available the sight and sound zone for this extremely valuable presentation.

PS: As an ex-soldier the presentation was of special meaning to me. I took part in operations in Malaya and in our full sized battalion which was just on a thousand troops our public relations team had about three members. I note now that the US forces number one public relation person for every 100 servicemen or women and that tells us all the value they now put on spin and misinformation…

America at war...2012 style...and we are part of that. 

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