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The accepted wisdom is that "we" are there for humanitarian purposes, assisting the rebuilding of a broken society, as part of a wider battle against terrorism and for democracy.
New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager has blown this warm and fuzzy picture into small pieces with his latest exposé.
Other People's Wars details and analyses the large gap between the public perception of New Zealand's involvement in other people's wars and the reality.
Hager's main point is how New Zealand involvement in the "war on terror" has been packaged up and sold to the public as something very different to what it is.
New Zealand has in fact played a small but very real role as an integrated part of the United States-led "coalition", in military operations, support and logistics, and as part of the intelligence-gathering machinery.
Our armed forces are shown to be riven with political infighting and division at the highest levels.
This is hardly surprising since the same thing goes on in just about every organisation. Why would the armed services be any different?
More disturbing is the evidence of a militaristic agenda among sections of the top levels of the defence, security and foreign affairs bureaucracy to pull New Zealand closer into the military power structure and goals of the United States.
Political oversight by elected government has been undermined, and the democratic process distorted along the way.
The key here is how Hager has verified and compiled his evidence from diverse sources, ranging from interviews with contacts through to documents obtained through WikiLeaks.
Some insiders who are concerned or opposed to what is happening have passed on vital information.
Ironically, Hager even used material gained from the internet social media postings of armed forces and security personnel to their friends and colleagues, as reference material.
Who needs surveillance when everything is public on Facebook?
Hager paints a damning picture of how New Zealand was drawn into the disastrous response of the Bush administration to 9/11.
The reasons for our involvement seem to have very little to do with our security or world peace.
Ten years after the "war on terror" began, it has now sucked up trillions of dollars and has left devastated societies and mass deaths in the Middle East.
This story of how New Zealand managed to get entangled in the mess is a fascinating look at things under the public relations blanket of the "official" line.
When asked about this book, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Governor-General all rubbished it.
This by itself makes it a must-read.
Regardless of whether you agree with the conclusions of the author, Other People's Wars is one of New Zealand's most important investigative works of political journalism.
But I expect Nicky Hager will be waiting a while for his knighthood.
• Victor Billot is editor of the Maritime Union magazine.