Australian war crimes in Afghanistan call for justice

Contributed by Jim Hayes

It’s unravelling. Hiding the atrocious record of Australia’s Special Air Services Regiment (SAS) in Afghanistan is no longer possible. Witnesses, mostly former SAS personnel, are leaking information. At least one, Brandon Chapman, has been prepared to brave it and go public.

He witnessed the unlawful killing of two Afghans and the aftermath of another incident, in which a wounded old man was allegedly dragged away and beaten to death. Chapman fronted the Four Corners program, Killing Field.

Video from Four Corners

Chapman’s story and the others that have been coming into the open, indicate an across the SAS persistent commitment of what should be considered crimes.

Persisting allegation and the trickling down of evidence led to the Inspector-General ADF Afghanistan Inquiry. It was seriously limited in scope, generally seen as an inside job, and expected to lead to little. But it did inadvertently help to put the matter in the public eye.

The issue could not be buried, and last year, the Federal Police invaded the ABC over it. It was a political disaster for the government.

The just released Brereton report has found evidence of 39 unlawful killings of civilians and prisoners by 25 SAS members. It was found that weapons had later been planted on the bodies of some of the victims to make it look like they were combatants. The evidence consists of 20,000 documents and 25,000 images.

Photo from ABC News: An unarmed civilian moments before his execution by an SAS soldier

It is inconceivable that the military brass wasn’t aware of it, condones or at least turned a blind eye to it.

War is tough and can dehumanise those who wage it. Wrongful killings will take place. But when this starts to become routine, it is something else. Justice demands that the most culpable be made to pay the price. This includes those in top command who helped to create the situation, encouraged the carnage, and then tried to cover it up.

This is a stain on Australia, and coming to terms with it, means understanding the real nature of this war. Australia got involved in a war for ‘regime change’. The United States did not like the government there and organised an invasion of the nation.

Afghanistan is a nation that has resisted outside control for centuries. Just ask the British. They claimed the place as a colony but could never subdue it. This is where the term “up the Khyber Pass” came from. It means something like “in deep trouble”.

The Russians tried made the mistake of sending it military there. This was to support an embattled government. All it succeeded in doing was to unite most Afghanis against them. The Taliban government was the result.

The United Sates and therefore Australia were quick to recognise the Taliban.

After the bombing of the Twin Towers in New York and Iraq Afghanistan took on a new importance as strategic ground for regional dominance connecting East and West.  On the pretext of the accusation that the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden’s al Qaeda were connected, the new invasion begun.

The reality is that the Taliban and al Qaeda didn’t get along. The Taliban Sunni and al Qeada Salafist religious traditions are at odds with each other. Both had been trained in Afghanistan by the United States to fight against the Russians. This was their only association.

Photo from the ADF/Reuters: Patrolling in Afghanistan where the soldiers are seen as invaders

Right from the beginning, the invasion was directed against the Afghani population. They were the enemy. The soldiers there understood this, and for them, there was no clear distinction between combatants and civilians.

When on patrol, no-one treated the invading soldiers as liberators. Afghanis saw them as conquerors. The myth that they had been sent there as liberators quickly exploded. All that was left is being there for no moral purpose. This is the perfect condition to breed atrocities.

Those ultimately responsible, are the ones who gave the order to invade.

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