Good intentions but


Who or what does this remind you of?:

Intention these days is nine-tenths of virtue, and intention is measured mainly by what people say that their intentions are. 

The words are Theodore Dalrymple’s and he was writing about urban environmentalists and their belief in the green credentials of electric cars but it immediately made me think of our government.

Many of its intentions are good.

Who could argue against solving the housing crisis, reducing poverty or keeping us all safe from Covid-19?

But intentions are not achievements and time and time again the government’s good intentions have got very little, if any, further than their announcements.

Housing prices have escalated so that even outside the big cities they’re selling for far too many times the average wage. That has made anyone who doesn’t own their own home poorer and worsened conditions for people already struggling to pay the rent and power and feed their families.

The government won a few skirmishes against Covid-19 last year but the war continues and we’re all having to fight the latest battle because the intention to keep the disease out hasn’t been matched by learning from past mistakes and ensuring they’re not repeated.

Then there’s Afghanistan.

No doubt the government intended to rescue all New Zealand citizens and the locals who had helped our army but again it’s fallen well short in delivering, leaving behind an estimated 375 New Zealand citizens, visa holders, and Afghan allies.

New Zealand isn’t alone in the botched withdrawal but that doesn’t make our government any less culpable for letting those people down and making the chances of getting them out successfully much, much poorer.

The proverb tells us the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

It is too big a stretch to say the government is taking us to hell, but its repeated failure to deliver on its good intentions certainly aren’t helping New Zealand feel like paradise.

Helping those who help us


If the lives of the interpreters working with Kiwi troops in Afghanistan are at risk, we have a moral obligation to allow them, and their families, to settle in New Zealand.

Prime minister John Key says he’s sympathetic to 26 interpreters working with Kiwi troops in Afghanistan who claim their lives are in danger if they can’t resettle in New Zealand.

The interpreters with the New Zealand provincial reconstruction team in the Bamiyan province are seeking asylum in New Zealand, saying they and their families will be captured, tortured and killed by insurgent forces for helping the foreigners.

The New Zealand troops are due to withdrawal from the province in April.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman is preparing recommendations on their plight and will take a paper to Cabinet for approval.

Key today said the interpreters had a legitimate position to put to the government.

“They have worked for New Zealand with New Zealand’s best interests at heart and it is at least feasible that there is some risk to them if they remain in Afghanistan.’’

However, the government would need to test their claims, he said. . .

Life in Afghanistan is risky for anyone and it is a very real possibility that these interpreters and their families might be at greater risk because of their work with our troops.

If there is any doubt about the safety of the people who’ve helped our people they should be granted asylum and assisted to settle here.

Who care’s what a soldier thinks?


In a cave in the mountains of Afghanistan three men sit looking at a computer screen.

“Heh, look at that,” the first one says, pointing at a news website. “We’re winning”

“Oh yes,” says the second, “The Opposition is calling for New Zealand troops to come home early and look at all those comments from people saying they should cut and run.”

“But look at this says the third, the Prime Minister is saying it’s not that easy.

He reads from the screen:

“It would take months, not days, for New Zealand to withdraw from the war-torn nation, Mr Key told TVNZ this morning.

“To leave early wouldn’t be sensible, it wouldn’t be practical and it wouldn’t be right.

“We made a commitment. I don’t think we are the type of country that cuts and runs.”

Mr Key said ministers had recently been considering options for an ”orderly withdrawal”.

The timing has not been affected by the loss of five soldiers in past few weeks, he said.

“But who’s listenign to him. They’ve got freedom of speech there,” the first man says. “People can say what they like and they’re are saying ‘bring ’em home’.”

“Yeah, makes you glad we don’t have that sort of freedom nonsense here,” the second man says.

“But what about this, look at what a soldier’s saying,” the third man says and reads out again:

As a former NZ infantry soldier and having deployed to Afghanistan I believe I can comment on this thread. This year alone I have lost 4 friends in Afghanistan, having served closely with 3 of them, most recently Corporal Tamatea. As sad as the situation is the consensus among all my mates still serving is that the last thing they want is to be withdrawn from theatre. As far as they’re concerned they have a job to do and a duty to uphold which they haven’t fulfilled. To them, 2013 is to soon to come out. All this talk about John Key having no respect? He went to the homes of my friends(Durrer and Malone) and offered his personal condolences then, remember he also has a family and an obligation to them. Ask anybody serving now and they’ll tell you that’s how they feel. On backing Labour because they would prefer that our troops were withdrawn sooner rather than later. We were sent in by labour in the first place, I served in Afghanistan under a Labour government. In summary, as soldiers they know the risks of deploying to such environments as Afghanistan, they know there is a chance they could pay the ultimate price. As a former infantryman I know that Luke would be happy that he died doing what he loved to do- soldiering. He was an excellent operator, with exceptional “soldier skills”. Today there are a lot of heavy hearts in the NZDF because of this tragedy. Mourn for them and their families, and pray that nothing else happens to the rest of our brave men and women serving there but know that they would all rather be there making a difference than here. All my currently serving friends want to deploy to do there part(some again).

“Who cares what a soldier thinks? the first man says.

“”Yeah, who cares about soldiers,” the second one grins. “We’ve got the people back home stirred up and worried. They’re frightened, we’re winning.”

Equality dirty and dangerous too – Updated


Equal opportunity allows women to take on roles which were formerly the preserve of men.

When it reaches the headlines, it’s usually in regard to high paying and – at least from the outside – glamorous positions.

The announcement that one of the three soldier killed in Afghanistan was a woman is a reminder that equality also provides the opportunity to do the dirty and dangerous.

The three who died were:

Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker (26), Private Richard Harris (21) and Corporal Luke Tamatea  (31). . .

. . . CPL Luke Douglas Tamatea joined the NZ Army in February 2000 and was posted to 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (1 RNZIR) in Linton. He deployed to Timor-Leste in 2001, to Solomon Islands in 2003 and to Sumatra to help with the Tsunami in 2005. CPL Tamatea had also previously deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. He was posted to 2/1 RNZIR in 2007.  CPL Tamatea was promoted to LCPL in September 2005 and to CPL in June 2008.

LCPL Jacinda Francis Elyse Baker joined the NZ Army as a medic and was posted to Burnham Regional Support Company in April 2007. LCPL Baker was posted to 2/1 RNZIR in December 2007, and deployed to Solomon Islands in 2010. LCPL Baker received a Chief of Army Commendation in 2011 for her professionalism and courage during Exercise Southern Warrior in June 2008. LCPL Baker was promoted to LCPL in July 2008. 

PTE Richard Lee Harris joined the NZ Army in February 2009 and was posted to 2/1 RNZIR. PTE Harris had previously deployed to Timor-Leste in 2009/2010.

Their gender makes no difference to the loss. They have all died  far too young.

While those of us who didn’t know them can acknowledge the tragedy,  the loss and grief are personal for their family, friends and those with whom they served.


It is still so new & all we see is the empty space, but that is not how it is in the landscape of the heart. There, there is no empty space & she still laughs & grapples with ideas & plans & nods wisely with each of us in turn. We are proud to have known her. We are proud to have called her friend. Brian Andreas  Landscape of the Heart @ Story People
They left me
with your shadow,
saying things likeLife is not fair

& I believed them

for a long time.

But today,

I remembered
the way you laughed

& the heat

of your hand

in mine

& I knew that

life is more fair

than we can

ever imagine


we are there to live it

Brian Andreas More Fair @ Story people

Lest we forget


The words are on most war memorials and we say them every Anzac Day – lest we forget.

But most of us don’t often remember the men and women who fought and died and those who are still on active service.

Today we are reminded again by the death of three soldiers who were serving with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan that even though New Zealand isn’t at war we still have service people in war-torn countries.

That they are living in constant danger.

That they will see friends severely injured or die and have to carry on.

That people here farewell family members and friends not knowing if they will ever see them again.

That families have to adjust to long absences of a spouse or parent, and readjust to the homecoming, if they are lucky.

That some won’t be lucky.

That we shouldn’t take peace, security and freedom for granted.

Two deaths on eve of World Peace Day


On the eve of World Peace Day we’ve had a  reminder of  the tragedy of war:

It is with great sadness that Prime Minister John Key has learned of the death of two New Zealand soldiers serving with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan, Afghanistan.

The soldiers were killed during an encounter with insurgents, which began at about 7:00pm last night (NZ time) after they went to the aid of local security forces under attack.

Two local security personnel were also killed during the attack.

Another six New Zealand Defence Force personnel, 10 local security personnel, and one civilian were also injured.

“This brings the total number of New Zealand soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan to seven,” Mr Key says.

“It reinforces the danger faced daily by our forces as they work tirelessly to restore stability to the Province.

“It is with enormous sadness that I acknowledge that these soldiers have paid the highest price. My thoughts are with the family and friends of the two brave soldiers killed and also with the families and friends of those injured.”

Governor General  Sir Jerry Mateparae, a former soldier and current Commander in Chief, said:

It was with great sadness that I learned of the tragic death of our two soldiers in the Bamiyan Province.
Serving in New Zealand’s Defence Force and being deployed in war-torn countries, such as Afghanistan, carries significant risk. The soldiers, whose names are yet to be released, bring to seven the number of New Zealand Defence Force soldiers to be killed while on operations in Afghanistan.
Serving with the Provincial Reconstruction Team, those two soldiers, who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and the six injured, have been part of a team that has worked tirelessly and consistently to bring peace and stability to the Province.
Their presence in Afghanistan exemplified their dedication to New Zealand and the New Zealand Defence Force’s mission in that country.
On behalf of all New Zealanders, Janine and I extend our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and mates-in-arms of the two deceased soldiers, as they come to terms with this tragic loss. Our thoughts are also with the families and friends of those who have been injured.

Tragedy not an excuse


The death of a New Zealand SAS soldier in Afghanistan is a tragedy but it should not be used as an excuse for withdrawing our troops from that troubled country.

Mr Key said he was “deeply saddened” by the death. But he stood firm on his
decision to have a New Zealand presence in Afghanistan.

“I believe passionately in the work that they are doing. They are ensuring
that the innocent lives of thousands in Afghanistan are preserved, and giving
Afghanistan hope for their country.

“They are working to make the world a safer place from global terrorism. It
is not my view that due to the death of our soldier, we should reconsider our
position in Afghanistan. We stay absolutely committed to continuing our work in

“It would be the completely wrong thing for us to consider cutting and
running. I don’t think it would honour the death of this soldier and I don’t
think it would actually be what New Zealanders would expect us to do in this

There are strong arguments for and against New Zealand’s service in Afghanistan, but this soldier’s death should not be used to justify either position.

The death of this young man is against the natural order of things and it would be dishonouring him, the reasons he served and what he fought for if it was exploited for political ends.

His family, friends and colleagues should be left to grieve without his service, and ultimate sacrifice, being belittled by debate on New Zealand’s role in the on-going war.

Lest we forget


A friend’s son is serving in Afghanistan.

My first reaction on hearing the news that one of our soldiers serving there had been killed and two others wounded, was to pray it wasn’t him.

Somewhere in New Zealand this morning the family and friends of the soldier will be coming to terms with the news that the young man they farewelled a few months ago isn’t coming back.

It is the first death of one of our service people in Afghanistan. It reinforces the real and ever present danger they face in trying to help people on the other side of the world so that they might one day enjoy the peace we take for granted.

Separation just got harder


It’s not easy being in the SAS for the soldier or his family.

His wife and young children are at home while he’s in Afghanistan.

They prepared for his absence as best they could, including making videos of him reading stories which the children can play while he’s away.

But it’s not easy for his wife being a semi-solo mother. It’s not easy for the children who miss their father. It’s not easy for his parents, siblings, wider family and friends who miss him and worry.

It’s not easy for him either, being away for so long in a place where danger is ever present.

Thanks to Wikileaks it’s just got harder.

As Andrei says:

. . . Now Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks is basking in his moment of glory, feted by the media and casting himself as a truth teller.

But he is a traitor, whose actions will undermine the war in Afghanistan and reveal to our enemies our strategies for defeating them.

Hands up anyone thinks the world will be a better place if Afghanistan is lost?

Now if Mr Assange had revealed to the world the Taliban’s strategies and cruelties or Iranian ones that would be something.

Mind you anyone who did that would be gutted (literally not metaphorically) . . .

Leaking what is very sensitive information wasn’t striking a blow for freedom of expression; nor will it help bring peace.

It was playing politics with potentially serious consequences for the people who are trying to make a very troubled corner of the world a safer place.

Assange may have had a higher goal in mind but that will be no comfort at all to the soldier and his family for whom the war isn’t an abstract concept but a day to day reality.

H is for ?


A New Zealand soldier is being hailed as a hero:

Wellington-born rifleman James McKie (29), scooped up a live grenade and hurled it away just seconds before it exploded during a firefight in Afghanistan’s Helmand province six days ago.

His actions saved the lives of two British Army soldiers from the unit he has been stationed with in Afghanistan for the past five months.

That  is indeed worthy of praise.

It’s not long since the news from Afghanistan was shock-horror our soldiers are armed and shooting.

I wonder if the people who were so alarmed by that will also be excited by this?

H is for hero. It’s also for hypocrite.

Relatively better isn’t the same as good


New Zealand tops Transparency International’s 2009 corruption perception index.

The others in the top 10 are: Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands and Australia, Canada and Iceland which are 8th equal.

The countries at the bottom are: Chad, Iraq, Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Corruption is a form of oppression and this map shows how widespread it is:

While it’s good to be relatively good, what really matters is not how good we are perceived to be relative to anyone else but how good we are fullstop.

A score of 9.4 does mean we’re perceived to be pretty good.

That makes it more likely that other countries and other people will trust us and our institutions.

But we need to be vigilant to ensure that reality matches the perception.

Hat tip: Poneke.

In praise of democracy


Last week was the the first time, New Zealand’s Prime Minister and the next four in Cabinet were out of the country at the same time. That left the fifth ranked minister, Tony Ryall in charge.

Life, and government, continued as normal.

Democracy worked.

Let’s not take that for granted when at the same time, at least 26 people in Afghanistan were killed in election-related violence.

August 19 in history


On August 19:

1745 the second Jacobite rising began when Charles Edward Stuart returned from France and began marching on London.

1853 Edwin Gibbon Wakefield was elected to parliament.

1883 Coco Chanel was born.

1902 Ogden Nash was born.


1919 Afghanistan gained full independence from Britain.

1930 Irish writer Frank McCourt was born.

1944: Pilot Officer Pilot Officer James Stellin avoided crashing into Saint-Maclou-la-Brière, a village of 370 people in the Seine-Maritime region at the cost of his own life. The villagers gave him a hero’s funeral and have honoured his memory ever since.

1946 Former US President Bill Clinton was born.

Sourced from Wikipeida and NZ History Online.

NZ tops Global Peace Index


 New Zealand has topped the  Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index .

dairy 1

The Institute is an Australian think tank dedicated to developing the inter-relationships between business, peace and economic development.
The results of the 2009 survey  suggest:
that the world has become slightly less peaceful in the past year, which appears to reflect the intensification of violent conflict in some countries and the effects of both the rapidly rising food and fuel prices early in 2008 and the dramatic global economic downturn in the final quarter of the year. Rapidly rising unemployment, pay freezes and falls in the value of house prices, savings and pensions is causing popular resentment in many countries, with political repercussions that have been registered by the GPI through various indicators measuring safety and security in society.
The GPI uses 23 indicators  of the existence or absence of peace, divided into three broad categories:  measures of ongoing domestic and international conflict, measures of safety and security in society and measures of militarization.
The Top 10 countries were: New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Austria, Sweden, Japan, Canada, Finland and Slovenia.
At the bottom were: Georgia, Zimbabwe, Russia, Pakistan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Israel, Somalia, Afghaanistan and Iraq.
The full list is here.

This little pig went . . .


 . . . into isolation.

Goodness, me isn’t it amazing what you learn from the internet?

I’ve just discovered that pork products are illegal in Afghanistan. As a consequence of that there’s just one pig in the country and he’s been put into isolation because of fears over swine flu.

He may be alone but, as Garrick Tremain shows, he’s in good company with over-reaction to flu-fears:

dairy 10003

Let the facts speak


Sometime near the start of my year at journalism school I was foolish enough to insert an emotive comment into a news story.

The course tutor pulled me up for it and pointed out if a news story is researched and written well the facts will speak for themselves.

The person who wrote this story  can’t have learned that lesson:

The five children of an Afghan taxi driver who was murdered in Christchurch have now been deprived of their mother as well.

She was taken to hospital last night, overcome with grief and stress. Her children, aged from six to 14, are now in the care of extended family and the Afghan community.

There is a tragic irony that Abdul Ikhtiari escaped from Afghanistan to be murdered in Christchurch, this is an horrific crime and the hospitalisation of Mrs Ikhtiari is newsworthy.

But the children haven’t been deprived of their mother and all the story needed to say was that she had been taken to hospital and her children were being cared for by extended family and the Afghan community.

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