And Your Problem Is . . . What, Exactly?
Public bread and butter in New Zealand has been covered with a thick, oozing dollop of sanctimony these last few days. Nicky Hager has been going full tilt offering the benefit of his investigation into the killing of innocent non-combatants by NZ SAS soldiers in Afghanistan.
Over the years we have learned to treat everything Nicky says with a lashings of cynical scepticism. Nicky, for his part, is always sure he is right. Self-critical he ain't. But then again, one never gets headlines if one mumbles or appears in public as two handed: that is, "one the one hand . . . " and "on the other hand . . . " Nicky has always been blessed with truckloads of self-certitude. He is a thorough "one-handed" man, you may say.
Nicky is infallibly certain that the secretive SAS has been guilty of a massive cover-up where "in retaliation" against the death of one of its soldiers, shot innocent Afghan villagers in a "revenge" attack. Maybe. It's possible. But note right off the "framing" of the incident. "Retaliation". "Revenge". Note the high moral dudgeon, the self-righteous sanctimony on display.
The first thing that we find odd is Nicky's display of an infallible righteous code which seems to project from every part of his being. In our modern world, this does appear a bit strange. A bit antediluvian. It's one thing for a Christian to hold to standards and ethics which have stood since the Garden of Eden. It's one thing for a Christian to tremble before a holy God and the interdictions of His Word commanding the Church to be perfect, even as He is perfect. But a Modern? An Unbeliever? It seems so alien coming from the mouth of an Unbeliever--this righteous indignation against an alleged war-crime.
One can hardly resist puncturing the balloon: OK, Nicky, according to your version of events some New Zealand soldiers shot and killed unarmed, non-combatant civilians in Afghanistan. And your problem with that is what, precisely . . . ? By what standard was this wrong? Your standards? Civilisation's standards? What is getting you so lathered up? Has Gaia been insulted in some way? Has your mother-in-law been offended? And while we are at it, What is right or wrong with an official cover up? Doubtless you cover up every day--along with the rest of the human race. What's would be wrong, then, with our government's dissembling, if that's what they did? You are an Unbeliever, Nicky. How come you have come to believe so passionately in notions like Right and Wrong, Good and Evil.
There are also broader issues at play. One presumes that Old Nick knows that in the Second World War, Winston Churchill ordered the mass bombing of German cities by our forefathers, thereby killing thousands of innocent civilians. Was this a war crime? And, by what standard would it be declared such? And what about the dropping of two nuclear devices upon non-combatants in Japan? Since Western allies did not prosecute their own for war crimes, and since Nicky does not seem at all perturbed by that slight oversight on the part of his forbears, why make such a fuss now over a very minor skirmish in far off Afghanistan? Just asking.
For our part, as Christians, we believe in the doctrine of a Just War. That doctrine gives the same moral justification that the Bible itself gives to civil magistrates to bear the sword against evildoers (Romans 13: 1-6). Whether the conflict in Afghanistan represents a just war in which New Zealand ought to be engaged is debatable, to say the least. But Christians have holy standards and principles to bring to bear upon such questions. Unbelievers like Nicky, don't. Hence our scepticism towards Nicky's high dudgeon over this incident.
Laying aside the broader question of whether our nation ought to be engaged in war in Afghanistan, the reality is that, for good or ill, we are. As such, we Christians would assert that we are required to fight against those fighting our soldiers. Our soldiers, as servants and agents of the government, are duty bound to resist to their deaths those who seek to murder those we are bound to defend--that is, our fellow citizens, our neighbours, our countrymen. At the same time, we are duty bound to avoid as far as humanly possible all innocent suffering and death caused as a result of our actions. But, having taken all due care, when such things occur, it should be regarded as an inevitable consequence of war itself. No blame must ever fall upon our representatives (which is what ouir soldiers are) for unintended consequences when all reasonable steps and procedures have been taken to protect the lives of non-combatant innocents.
We Christians hold these things because we believe in an absolute, eternal Law which reflects the very character of God Himself. Why Nicky purports to hold his umbrage, we have no idea. By the light of the world he professes to believe in, it makes no sense.