Rosemary McLeod on Hager and Stephenson

Rosemary Mcleod, it appears, doesn’t really like Nicky Hager or Jon Stephenson:

Reluctant heroes of their generation, they fought fascism and returned with memories they’d rather bury than share. I don’t think anyone imagined they had never seen war crimes, or doubted they occurred on both sides of the war, but it would have been churlish to ask. You can’t give people lethal weapons and tell them not to use them, or have a war without a body count, much of it innocent civilians, who we call collateral damage. Killing people is what war is.

Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book, Hit & Run, accuses our Defence Force of a cover-up after civilian deaths in Afghanistan seven years ago.

Stephenson previously produced a documentary about it, and has been involved in extended libel action with Defence which was settled out of court. Hager has several books to his credit, all of them, I gather, springing from the idea of cover-ups and the public’s right to know everything it has a mind to.

Some books are released to media in advance of publication, giving the opportunity to follow up allegations. This book was not, a guarantee that it would receive saturation coverage, while anyone who doubted its claims would look as if they were trying to hide something. Hager knows how to play the media, which laps up his every utterance.

The default media position seems to be if Nicky Hager writes a book it is gospel…and ignore when he makes significant errors. They should be ashamed, but then since Dirty Politics, he’s held them to emotional and professional blackmail so that they mend their ways…to his way of thinking.

The accusation at the heart of the book is that a war crime was committed at a particular village in Afghanistan. For an event to be judged a war crime, civilians would need to have been deliberately targeted. We are invited to believe this of our SAS, though I balk at accepting any of our elite soldiers would deliberately murder a three-year-old girl, who was taken up as the centrepiece of the accusation.

So many years later I wonder how the truth can be arrived at either way, yet accusations can swiftly become established truth in an internet age. The fact that the authors got the village wrong, as the Defence chief tells us, doesn’t matter, according to Hager. Really? What else might be wrong?

The identities of his informants are concealed. The authors say some are connected to the SAS, but why are they hiding if they are confident of the facts?

Meanwhile they tarnish the reputations of those they accuse.

There are times when journalists are obliged to shield informants with anonymity, but it is problematic. They may be prepared to go to jail to protect their sources, but unnamed informants may have their own, unexamined agendas, or be sincere but mistaken.

If the public has the right to know an untold truth about this incident, and if another inquiry is needed, this time into the right village, the public equally has a right to know who the hidden accusers are here. If what they say is incontestable, the least they can do is put their own reputations on the line.

Just like knowing who Rawshark was…the common thief who stole my information. If it was in the?public interest to trawl through my emails then it should be public interest to know who the criminal was.

Louis Heren, a former foreign correspondent for The Times, advised journalists talking to politicians off the record to ask themselves, “Why is this lying bastard lying to me?” That test should apply to any informant who wishes to remain anonymous, no matter how much you believe them, or how much you want to.

In the real world there is no such thing as alternative facts.

In Nicky Hager’s world, everything he says is “impossible” to be wrong. Even when he is.

The Media party have shown yet again just how biased they are.


– Fairfax