The recently–released report emanating from the Operation Burnham enquiry in which a review of our Defence Force is recommended, demonstrates an unbelievable degree of ineptitude and outright ignorance amongst the enquiry team. The enquiry panel included two military members (one retired) amongst its highly-politicised makeup, but dominated mostly by bureaucrats with no military experience at all.
Amongst the recommendations is a clear proposal that civilians must have a far greater involvement in on-the-ground future military operations than at present. Really? And just how might that translate in the following scenario:
An NZDF soldier is patrolling a village in a Middle-Eastern country in which ISIS terrorists are very active. Approaching her checkpoint is a person clothed head to foot in a traditional garment with only their eyes uncovered. The person is holding a small child by the hand and should not be out on the street - there is a “curfew” in place. The gender of the person cannot be determined. The soldier’s instructions are to require any curfew-breaker to halt, identify themselves and the reason they are breaking curfew. Should they desist or refuse to stop, the NZ soldier is then entitled to......?
Let us proceed - the NZ soldier hesitates, thinking, now what exactly are the “rules of engagement” which the Wellington bureaucrats recently introduced to “guide” us? Am I permitted to fire - exempting of course the child? Should I withhold fire and allow the adult and child to approach the checkpoint? Should I.......BOOM!
The adult, child and the NZ soldier are blown to pieces - the adult was, it turns out, an ISIS suicide bomber wired to detonate explosives under the traditional garment. ISIS of course, along with many other terrorist organisations, use women, children and older people as “human shields”. Oh dear! So sad!
But wait, Wellington has a solution - integrate far more bureaucrats into the decision-making, including operational decision-making in NZDF activities! The bureaucrats will have the answer! And God help the poor old “baggy-arse “ soldier who has to make an on-the-spot decision involving life and death.
Of course this scenario would never happen, would it, if the current Defence Force Review group would have its way? Well, I can assure readers that this scenario has happened, on many occasions, in past operations. Indeed, the author was involved in exactly this scenario - but which fortunately had a far less grisly outcome. Whew!
The Minister of Defence has announced his and his colleagues complete acceptance of the Review Group’s recommendations, following the Operation Burnham Enquiry in which, inter alia, an Afghani child was accidentally killed-by an American Apache helicopter assault, but originally claimed to be murder by our SAS according to Nicky Hagar and Jon Stephenson in their appalling and dishonest treatise - Hit and Run. These charlatans promoted the concept that our soldiers, especially our SAS troopers are out of control psychopaths who will blast anything in sight. Their now-debunked claims do little to appease the desperately difficult situations in which NZDF personnel find themselves when deployed on overseas operations.
The enemies of “democracy” - whatever that term means in New Zealand today - do not differentiate on the basis of political identity - gender, ethnicity, age, religious beliefs, sexual preferences and other “differences” - as this report might suggest. Nor do they recognise the fundamentally decent principles on which our “Western” democracies are, or were once, based. They totally reject most of the fundamental concepts upon which our society is based, preferring instead to behead or enslave anyone who might disagree with them, and especially women.
So, just what is this report recommending?
1.Strengthening the “integration” of policy between the NZDF and the Ministry of Defence. Translated, this means that the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence must have much more say and involvement in operational matters.
2.Strenthen the above integration throughout the deployment lifecycle. In other words, bureaucrats must have an ongoing, ie operational ,involvement during a deployment to ensure the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, plus the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet are involved in and able to influence on the ground deployment decisions.
3.Ensure future senior NZDF are politically “educated”, including the establishment of “Policy Advisers -POLAD” to ensure political considerations are taken into account at all stages of a deployment, regardless of what is happening at the ”sharp” end.
4.Review HQ NZDF by integrating a “policy” function into the lifecycle of a deployment; reducing the span of control of the Office of CDF; and require NZDF Public Affairs to increase it’s disclosure of what could be key military information. In other words, bureaucrats must be closely involved in operational deployments and the public much more aware of on the ground operations.
5.Downgrade the role of Special Forces such as NZSAS and ensure future NZSAS personnel are “politically educated” – it is described as “developing political acumen and a better understanding of the wider government authorising environment including policy advice processes...” This is a clear instruction to seriously restrict and undermine the war fighting ethos and capability of our Special Forces.
6.Improve the management of “stored information”. The panel is obviously ignorant of the fact that all military operations include the fastidious maintenance of “war diaries” by operational units, in which detailed information such as casualties and other intelligence information and the detailed results of operations, is recorded. It is a well-established military requirement and tradition that war diaries are accurate, truthful and reliable indicators for future operations. Obviously, information on “Operation Burnham” was politically questionable-resulting from the dishonest and unreliable claims by a couple of “journalists”. In other words, political issues were given preference.
7.”Rebalancing” the relationship between the Chief Information Officer and the Chief Data Officer.
This suggests that there are professional or political differences regarding information and/or knowledge within NZDF and the Ministry of Defence? Hold on, this used to be called “intelligence” or “the need to know”.
8.Assign responsibility for political and public interest knowledge of operations to the Vice Chief of Defence Force. But surely, this responsibility must ultimately lie with CDF, not their Vice?
9.Commander Joint Forces New Zealand to be involved in information systems management. It is unclear why nor what this recommendation is aimed at.
So, what was this review all about?
Firstly, Minister Henare, when commenting upon his adoption of all nine recommendations, stated that the public and the government must have confidence in our Defence Forces in the exercising of their “social licence”. This means that the present government does NOT have confidence in NZDF to carry out it’s military functions, and therefore must have more input from bureaucrats and political “policy advisers”. I seem to recall that the Communist Red Army employed political commissars in their field operations-indeed Nikita Khruschev was one.
Secondly, this socialist government was clearly embarrassed by the adverse publicity generated by the (now-debunked) false claims of Hagar and Stephenson regarding Operation Burnham, to the extent that NZDF is being used as a convenient scapegoat, even though the Operation Burnham Enquiry found that NZDF personnel had acted lawfully and correctly within the terms of engagement - somebody has to take the blame, but not the politicians, eh?
And finally, is this not another example of a group of inept, inexperienced socialist politicians opting to dump on those in our Defence Force who by convention are not able to voice their opposition to such stupid recommendations? Of course, NZDF personnel have no option but to acquiesce to political demands. So be it, but there could well be in future operations, an unnecessary loss of life because those on the ground must firstly consider the views of their bureaucratic and political “advisers”, before taking actions in their own and their allies’ defence.
It is an absolute travesty that instead of praising NZDF for it’s now-proven correct and lawful actions in Operation Burnham, this neo-Marxist government had to find someone (obviously our elite SAS) to blame and now seeks to demean those serving New Zealanders who have devoted their lives to our and others’ defence, but who have no voice nor option other than to acquiesce. Well, were I still serving, I would tell them exactly where to put their recommendations. Imagine their response!
Henry Armstrong is retired, follows politics, and writes.