So there is to be a government inquiry into the 2010 raid on an Afghan village, as described in the Nicky Hager/Jon Stephenson book Hit & Run. Good news, and the inquiry has been welcomed by Hager. Yet with the best will in the world, such an inquiry is bound to be a difficult exercise, given that (a) there were military forces other than the NZDF involved (b) some of the crucial video footage of the raid is owned by the Pentagon, which will be wary of setting any precedent whereby the actions of the US military and related video evidence are subjected to evaluation by a formal inquiry set up by a foreign power and (c) the NZDF itself is very, very likely to invoke national security concerns to limit what evidence the inquiry, let alone the public, ever get to see.
So this inquiry is bound to be tough sledding. Similar inquiries overseas – like the UK Gibson inquiry into Britain’s complicity in rendition and torture of terrorism suspects – have struggled to find a balance between security and transparency in the handling of evidence. Unfortunately, Attorney–General David Parker chose to undercut confidence in the inquiry’s independence, by the partiality of his introductory comments at yesterday’s press conference :
“In deciding whether to initiate an inquiry I have considered material including certain video footage of the operation. The footage I have reviewed does not seem to me to corroborate some key aspects of the book Hit & Run. The footage suggests that there was a group of armed individuals in the village. However, the material I have seen does not conclusively answer some of the questions raised by the authors. In light of that, and bearing in mind the need for the public to have confidence in the NZDF, I have decided in the public interest that an inquiry is warranted.”