Now only thing I did was wrong
Stayin’ in the wilderness too long
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on
The only thing we did was right
Was the day we started to fight
— Pete Seeger ‘Keep your eyes on the prize’
The Brereton report establishes prior knowledge of Australian war crimes committed in Afghanistan by SAS troops under Australian government appointed commanders in-the-field.
In the early hours of 29 Nov 2020 Christians against all terrorism went onto the SAS training base on Swan Island in Victoria for a second time. An earlier incursion was in 2014 where they were stripped naked, threatened with anal rape and dragged across a gravely surface.
In September 2014, four peace activists trespassed on the secretive Swan Island military base claimed they were stripped, threatened and assaulted by SAS personnel.
An internal defence inquiry was done into the incident, which after a year has now been released to the public. The report in the end concludes that the soldiers had acted above board, though it acknowledges they were heavy handed and goes on to recommend changes to procedure and in fact changes to Australian law to give ADF more clearly defined powers against Australian citizens. One of the SAS claimed that the Christians against all terrorism were in fact terrorists. An inquiry said that the SAS were concerned about how they would be perceived in the media. Senator Scott Ludlam asked about the episode but received a brick wall response from senior defence force commanders.
The report though was criticised as contradictory, and concerns raised about any law changes.
Meanwhile the parliament is considering a bill that provides civil and criminal immunity to soldiers and increases their powers during naturual disasters. Does that include a pandemic? The Defence Legislation Amendment (Enhancement of Defence Force Response to Emergencies) Bill 2020 which has had little media coverage despite is designed to toughen laws against protestors, erode human rights and vastly expand government powers to use the military domestically. It also seeks to grant civil and criminal immunities to soldiers (i.e. SAS personnel) so long as they believe they were ‘acting in good faith’. Does this mean slitting the throats of children is ok so long as you think they are working for the Taliban? Only the Greens put in a dissenting report, but they have only one member in the House of Reps.
In 2020, four peace activists were removed from the base and summonses are supposed to come in the mail. Either the Minister or the ADF may decide this is counter-productive given government focus on having good media while it tries to deflect the war crimes by attacking Chinese officials.
One of the activists, Jim Dowling, emailed me saying:
We were treated very well.
I think he may have been expecting the worse from their experience in 2014. As another activist pointed out:
“There has been a lot of commentary about the Brereton report into SAS war crimes over the last couple of weeks, but something not often mentioned is that throughout the time period the report focuses on, everyday Australians were protesting against the secrecy and brutality of the SAS – including yearly “peace convergences” on the SAS base at Swan Island in Victoria.
Maybe if the Australian army were a bit more accountable to Australian people these terrible incidents would be less likely to happen. This morning four long time peace activists have restarted the tradition of trespass actions on Swan Island, reminding us there are more political possibilities than military investigations of military abuses.”
The difference between 2014 and 2020 is there is
‘real universal shame about the Brereton report’s unveiling of a culture of violence, threat and Australian government’s involvement in war crimes in Afghanistan.’
Quotes from Andy Paine and Jim Dowling
“First time in Australian military history we have known shame?” said Jim Dowling.
In 2014 Senator Scott Ludlam asked about the existence of a secret SAS 4 Squadron and the alleged capture of peace activists at Swan Island using brutal force such as having their clothes ripped off, their heads covered in hessian bags, their hands and feet bound with cable ties and threats of rape and drowning. ADF Commanders acknowledged that there was an investigation underway but claimed secrecy was needed because of operational reasons.
The Defence Department inquiry found that appropriate force was used and recommended greater powers for the apprehension of peace activists in the future.
See Wagepeace Media Release: Secret SAS training centre occupied by four Christians from “Christians Against All Terrorism”
30 Nov 2020
For further comments:
Greg Rolles 0475286023; (potentially onsite) Peter Murnane 0478761231; Shane Anderson 0404738003