Big Boys’ Rules in Afghanistan

If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.

― Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa , The Leopard

On Paradigm Shift we discuss the Brereton report (released 19 Nov 2020) into war crimes committed by Australian SAS troops in Afghanistan. Andy interviews ANU academic, Professor John Blaxland, about the report and Mark Davis, lawyer for prosecuted SAS whistleblower David McBride. Much of the Brereton report was redacted. A number of court cases turn on the contents of the report.

Thirty-nine (39) murders of Afghan civilians were identified by the Brereton Inquiry and were perpetrated by twenty-five (25) Australian soldiers mainly from the Special Air Services regiment (SASR). The Brereton Inquiry was instigated in response to the video evidence of murders after the ADF and successive governments tried to cover up the massacre of prisoners, farmers, civilians and unarmed people by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

In 1968 there was a massacre at Mỹ Lai village in Vietnam where the Nixon government pardoned a guilty officer, Lieutenant William Calley. Colin Powell, then an major, helped the US army cover up the massacre. Powell later became US secretary of state and lied to the UN claiming that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He did so to justify the 2003 Iraq war. Millions died as a result of his government’s lies.

Will an Australian government or courts end up doing the same? Will they let off the highly decorated Ben Roberts-Smith or the others accused of the murders of thirty-nine (39) Afghan civilians? These war crimes were identified by the Brereton Inquiry perpetrated by twenty-five (25) Australian soldiers mainly from the Special Air Services regiment (SASR).

The cover-up in Afghanistan was done (in part) by the Attorney General taking criminal proceedings against whistleblower David McBride in 2017 that could lead to his life imprisonment. McBride is due to go to trial in May 2021. Successive Australian governments stood behind a wall of secrecy erected by the SAS inside the defence forces.

Belatedly a contrite Scott Morrison government has claimed clean hands yet the courts continue to prosecute David McBride, Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery for trying to let the truth get out about government complicity in its dealings in East Timor and Afghanistan.

This government like those before it refuse to stand up to US attempts to extradite Julian Assange to face life imprisonment for releasing evidence of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet allegations of further cover-ups just keep coming up. Nick Xenophon (one of McBride’s lawyers) stated on the ABC’s Q & A:

It (McBride’s complaints about war crimes) went up the chain of command, including to the Major General [David] Hurley now — the Governor-General. He then went to the Australian Federal Police and made a formal complaint, that was ignored.” – on ABC’s Q & A Jun 22, 2020

The various court cases affected by the release of the much redacted Brereton Inquiry are summarised below:

(1) Potential criminal charges in the Federal Court against the SASR soldiers that carried out the murders of unarmed civilians in Afghanistan as shown on national TV programs such as the ABC’s Four Corners;

(2) A defamation case taken out by a soldier accused of war crimes.
Mr Roberts-Smith, a former Special Air Service soldier and Victoria Cross recipient, is suing The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald over reports he allegedly committed murder on deployments to Afghanistan and that he punched a woman in the face in Canberra.” – Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Ben Roberts-Smith is suing various media outlets and certain journalists for defamation for claiming that he is a war criminal. The media concerned have lodged a truth defence.

(3) The criminal trial of the SAS soldier and whistleblower, David McBride, who released the information that led to the ABC revelations known as The Afghan Files exposing the murders.

Mr McBride is charged with theft and three counts of breaching the Defence Act, for being a person who is a member of the defence force and communicating a plan, document or information.

He is also charged under the Crimes Act, which make it an offence for a Commonwealth official to disclose information without authorisation.

Next week we hope to follow-up with an interview with defence spokesperson for the Greens, Senator Jordon Steele-John, from WA.

The human loss of a pointless war of revenge by the US government responding to 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre is amplified this engagement in Mirabad, a town in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

They lost their lives at Mirabad last night
Jamie died, despite first aid, 
unable to be saved
Gunshot wounds killed Sapper Larcombe
Air Vice Marshall Houston sighed
'Only 21 years old and his interpreter 
Buried according to local custom'.
               - Ian Curr, Last Train to Mirabad 2011
Sapper Jamie Larcombe and his partner

Would it be a land of peace
Near the orange light of dusk,
Where no war was ever waged for corporate gain?
Would we find the purest cause
To point our lives towards,
If I were to stay.
– Franz Dowling

Notes by Ian Curr, 22 Nov 2020.

Killing Joke – Seeing red
Bad Day Down – Haditha: Democracy assassinated the family here
Buffy Saint-Marie – The universal soldier
Combat Wombat – Star wars
Franz Dowling – Drone lament (demons of hell)

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