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Balancing the probabilities, Christopher Pugsley

Hit and Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the Meaning of Honour
Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson
Potton and Burton, $35.00,
ISBN 9780947503390

“What is it that we don’t understand? We’re going to lose this fucking war if we don’t stop killing civilians”: General Stanley McChrystal’s outburst at his morning staff briefing in the summer of 2009 reflected his concern about the steady trickle of Afghan civilian deaths from operations conducted by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). He wrote that the “instinctive way we reacted to alleged incidents made it worse”.  Investigations and apologies meant little if the incidents continued as they did. As a group of Afghan elders told one of his fact-finding teams: “Afghans hear with their eyes, not just with their ears.” In essence, it is not what you say, but what you do – which is the story of Nicky Hager’s and Jon Stephenson’s Hit and Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the Meaning of Honour.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review, War

Fiasco, Jon Johansson

Hit and Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the Meaning of Honour
Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson
Potton & Burton, $35.00,
ISBN 9780947503390

As someone who has been around the political traps a fair while, my heuristic for judging political actors in and outside party politics is not the colour of their political stripe. Rather, there are people one would want to share a trench with; others, one would not – and, although rare, the odd person best sent to the enemy trench for the chaos they would cause. My trench is very multi-partisan as a result, and Nicky Hager, a friend, is emphatically in it. He’s exhibited, over a long time, courage and commitment when challenging the unequal power of the state over matters mostly concerning their coercive powers, as well as showing strength of character to withstand the blowback for doing so.

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Posted in Media, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Lifting the lid, Colin Peacock

Dirty Politics: How Attack Politics is Poisoning New Zealand’s Political Environment
Nicky Hager
Craig Potton Publishing, $35.00,
ISBN 9781927213360

The Catch: How Fishing Companies Reinvented Slavery and Plunder the Oceans
Michael Field
Awa Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781927249024

“Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.” That zinger, attributed to Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck, is still a go-to piece of wisdom today for those pointing out that plenty of nastiness goes on behind the scenes, which most people either ignore, or remain blissfully ignorant of. Some journalists today say the same applies to the unsavoury side of getting a good story. For instance, when Mediawatch asked an Australian reporter about the families of Pike River victims being pressed for exclusive and personal interviews, she fell back on that same saw. Some reporters even call their own workplaces “sausage factories”, pumping out cheap, filling content for public consumption day after day, rather than prime cuts.

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Posted in Economics, Media, Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review

Bending over backwards, Nicky Hager

Friendly Fire: Nuclear Politics and the Collapse of ANZUS, 1984-1987 Gerald Hensley Auckland University Press, $45.00, ISBN 9781869407414 Gerald Hensley is an intelligent man, a good researcher and a pleasing and witty writer. Friendly Fire is his third book, and

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review

Gentleman’s agreement, Tony Simpson

Other People’s Wars: New Zealand in Afghanistan, Iraq and the War on Terror Nicky Hager  Craig Potton Publishing, $45.00, ISBN 9781877517693 About a year ago, shortly after this book was published, I heard Nicky Hager in an interview deploring the

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Posted in Non-fiction, War

Nuclear free-ish, Nicky Hager

Standing Upright Here: New Zealand in the Nuclear Age 1945-1990 Malcolm Templeton Victoria University Press, $49.95, ISBN 0864735405 First impressions suggest this is the kind of worthy and dense book few people will get around to reading. That would be

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review, Science

Cautionary tale, Linda Clark; Party-going, Raymond Miller

The Hollow Men: A Study in the Politics of Deception Nicky Hager Craig Potton Publishing, $34.99, ISBN 187733362X According to the rhetoric, the author of The Hollow Men is one of two things. Either he is an outstanding investigative journalist

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Value for money, John Henderson

Secret Power: New Zealand’s Role in the International Spy Network Nicky Hager Craig Potton Publishing, $34.95, ISBN 0 908802 35 8 In his sympathetic foreword to this provocative book, former Labour Prime Minister David Lange predicts that it will produce

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Posted in Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review
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