Killing and ill-treating an occupied, captive people of a different ethnicity as a form of “sport”.
No! That couldn’t happen.
We've been raised supposedly to ‘never forget: never again’!
Killings of Afghans 'happened all the time'
By Nick McKenzie, Joel Tozer and Chris Masters | November 15, 2020
“One of the most disturbing things for me was people saying the phrase ‘it happened all the time’,” says Dr Samantha Crompvoets of the information special forces insiders and whistleblowers disclosed to her about summary executions of unarmed Afghans, including prisoners and civilians.
Dr Crompvoets is the author of a secret 2016 report commissioned by military chief Angus Campbell. It was her report that sparked the nation's biggest war crimes probe, the Brereton inquiry, a summary of which is due to be publicly released this week.
Dr Crompvoets' April 2016 report to generals Campbell and Sengelman described conduct that the military insiders she spoke to likened to the Abu Ghraib affair, the Iraq prisoner torture scandal that enveloped the US military in 2004. The crimes disclosed in her interviews with Australian special forces included alleged "competition killing and blood lust" and "the inhumane and unnecessary treatment of prisoners".
In her interview with The Age, the Herald and 60 Minutes, she says some allegedly unlawful behaviour, such as summary executions, were “celebrated and normalised, and almost a rite of passage for some people”.
Some of the men she spoke to, such as a soldier who described two unarmed teens having their throats allegedly slit and their bodies disposed of in a river, were in mental anguish. Others were emotionless as they explained how the mistreatment of prisoners became routine as small groups of special forces began writing their own rules of war.
Dr Crompvoets did not spare the chain of command, which sent special forces on multiple deployments and in some cases incentivised high body counts while failing to act on suspicious “killed in action” post-operational reports and briefings.
She wrote how insiders felt it “shameful” that the officers leading the special forces in Afghanistan “muted” concerns about misconduct that were raised at the time. They deployed special forces again and again on capture and kill missions in what by 2012 had become a hopeless war.
She remains in touch with soldiers shattered by what they witnessed and, sometimes, their own failure to challenge more powerful colleagues or officers who would be later rewarded with medals and promotions.
“I don’t think we should forget that it's not just those soldiers in the Special Forces units. It's those people around them that potentially facilitated those behaviours as well,” she says. “I also spoke to people who did call out bad behaviour and who were basically belittled and left broken.”
In 2018, two years after Dr Crompvoets delivered her confidential findings that war crimes had likely occurred, parts of her report were leaked to The Age and the Herald by military sources. Dr Crompvoets was savaged on social media and in some mainstream outlets, accused of being a left-leaning feminist cultural warrior. The irony was that she was in fact a conduit for the concerns of battle-hardened soldiers.
Former defence minister Brendan Nelson falsely claimed that the war crimes under scrutiny were "fog of war" incidents, rather than summary executions. The execution of prisoners and non-combatants is a crime under international and Australian law.
On Thursday, Lieutenant General Campbell will tell the nation of the scale of alleged war crimes committed by Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016. He is releasing the summary of the final report of the Brereton inquiry, the inspector general's exhaustive and forensic probe triggered by Dr Crompvoets’ earlier work.
The Brereton inquiry has interviewed more than 350 witnesses on oath and has reviewed thousands of classified files. Witnesses have given detailed statements and some suspects have confessed.
The report is expected to detail “bloodings”, in which junior soldiers were encouraged to execute prisoners and civilians. The twelve cases reported previously by The Age and the Herald involve Afghans murdered while defenceless and unarmed. Some had their hands bound.
https://www.theage.com.au/national/kill ... m=referral