Only a truly public inquiry can answer Australian atrocities in Afghanistan

Photo from the ABC: SAS soldiers are again being accused of unlawful killings of unarmed civilians in Afghanistan

Contributed from Victoria

No wonder so much effort is being put to covering up Australian war crimes in Afghanistan. The Witness K and Bernard Collaery case in East Timor, has brought attention to the sensitivity of the Australian government. There’s a pattern here.

New evidence shows that this is not the only case of misbehaviour. It’s happened in Afghanistan too. In East Timor it was about about spying on what was supposed to be a friendly government. In Afghanistan it has been more deadly.

The ABC has revealed that in a raid, an obviously unarmed civilian group standing near a tractor was deliberately targeted. They were villagers from nearby Shina, packing and transporting onions from the field. Several died from gunshot wounds. The attack was carries out by the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS). The toll was up to 15 dead. All were branded as Taliban.

The killings took place in December 2012.

Photo from the ABC: The burial site of one of the men killed during the 2012 raid of Sara-Aw by Australian SAS soldiers

In another raid during May 2012, at another village called Shina, three were left dead. According to the ABC, villagers confirmed that innocents had been targeted and killed.

Informants within the Australian armed forces at the time, confirmed that weapons were placed beside the dead, who were then photographed to make them look like fighters. They said this had been common practice in Afghanistan, known as a ‘throwdown’.

They made the mistake of using the same gun twice, and it gave the game away in this instance.

Photo from the ABC: Sakhi Daad said he saw his brother-in-law shot in the head during an Australian special forces raid on his village of Shina

The number of alleged war crimes is not known. But there is enough to have ensured an internal inquiry within the armed forces.

The problem with this is, that it is taking place within an internal culture of covering up and a government anxious to put a lid on it. This is an inquiry likely to cover up more than it reveals, and unlikely to lead to justice for the families of the victims.

Only a truly public inquiry will have any chance of revealing the whole truth. And it doesn’t only concern the armed forces. Australia as a nation must come to terms with our military role in the world.

Intervention into Afghanistan was said to be about removing the Taliban. The fact that this had been the elected government was swept under the carpet. It meant that the intervention was an occupation directed against a population. Atrocities are far more likely in these circumstances, where soldiers may see little distinction between combatants and civilians.

The Taliban had been financed, trained, and provided with weapons by the United States, as a block political forces not favoured by Washington. The excuse for ending the alliance, was that the Taliban had trained al Qaeda.

It was true. But the other piece conveniently left out of the story, is that al Qaeda was also trained and supplied with United Sates support, and by extension, with the knowledge the government of Australia.

The intervention, more accurately called an invasion, should never have taken place, and those who made the decisions that led to it, are the ones ultimately culpable for the atrocities committed there.

The Pen apologises to readers about a serious error in this article. Some of it was missing, when sent to us, and there was a significant inaccuracy at the start, caused by related inaccurate editing. Both errors have been corrected.

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