Mark Sainsbury: It's a war, don't people die?

OPINION: Today was supposed to be the glorious farewell for John Key as he signs out on top after one of the most successful political careers of our time.

But there's something to spoil the party atmosphere today and that's whether Key as Prime Minister signed off an SAS-led operation that could have constituted a war crime.

There are lots of ifs and buts and maybes around Operation Burnham. It was the hunt for the insurgents in Afghanistan responsible for the death of Kiwi Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell.

Hit and Run, the new book by Nicky Hager of Dirty Politics fame, and war correspondent Jon Stephenson, a journalist who has already successfully taken on the Defence Force for accusing him of lying, has presented a possible case of war crimes involving our troops.

What did happen during that raid in Baghlan Province?

And don't people die in war?

Well in this case it's not disputed there were civilian casualties. But questions remain as to what, if anything, our troops did to contribute to those civilian deaths and whether they attempted to help the injured afterwards. The suggestion is they did contribute and they did not help the wounded.

Something happened back in 2010. The Government and the military are circling the wagons saying our troops were not responsible for civilian deaths.

Are those assurances good enough? Should we believe them?

The call is on now for an inquiry of some sort. One thing is for sure - given the seriousness of these allegations an inquiry must happen.

If false, they cannot be left dangling. If true, something must be done.

I've never served in a war, never been in the military. Do different rules apply? Are there things we "don't need to know"?

Mark Sainsbury hosts Morning Talk from 9am-midday on RadioLIVE.