I’ll be proud to be on the same list as Chris Trotter as I too have been in touch with both Jon and Nicky over the years!
THE BAGRAM DETENTION FACILITY was a dark lake of evil, its opaque depths constantly replenished by a thousand tributaries of officially-sanctioned moral depravity. Behind the razor-wire and watch-towers; beyond the foot patrols and guard-dogs; far away from the searchlight-beams and the constantly turning CCTV cameras; deeds were done in the name of our “very, very, very good friends” that only the sickest kind of sadist could observe with equanimity.
To the people of Afghanistan, the innocent as well as the guilty, Bagram became a byword for terror, torture, and the exercise of all the other brutal forms of utterly unaccountable American power.
In March of this year the Bagram Detention Facility, located within the sprawling American airbase of the same name, was handed over to the Afghan Government. It is now known as the Afghan National Detention Facility – proof – according to the American commander of the International Security Assistance Force, General Joseph Dunford, of ISAF’s success in building “an increasingly confident, capable and sovereign Afghanistan.”
Shortly before the formal handover, however, an undisclosed number of prisoners were allegedly moved to a new US-controlled facility – still located within the perimeter wire of the airbase – and known simply as the “Black Prison”. Former detainees also report that US personnel continue to have “access” to the prisoners (or what’s left of them) being held under Afghanistan’s putative authority.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) still has military intelligence personnel stationed at Bagram Airbase. A former NZDF resident describes it in terms of a small American town uplifted in its entirety and relocated within sight of the snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush. She did not reveal the purpose of her posting.
But now, thanks to the extraordinary investigative journalism of Nicky Hager, we all know what at least one of New Zealand’s military and intelligence personnel was doing at Bagram Airbase. He or she was spying on another of this country’s extraordinary investigative journalists (and our only war correspondent worthy of the name) Jon Stephenson.
Jon’s stories from Afghanistan, stripped of all their incidental detail, have been about only one thing: the contagion of evil.
Over and over again he has revealed how sending good-hearted New Zealand soldiers to Afghanistan, a war that was, most probably, initiated illegally, and which has, most certainly, been conducted immorally, was bound to result in their slow but certain corruption.