Sunday, November 22, 2020

Bombshell report into alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan finds 39 unlawful killings were 'NOT in the heat of battle'

Note that these claims come from a report with unknown procedures, not a court case with the usual safeguards destined to see that allegations are fully scrutinied. To treat these allegations as proven is therefore to rely on a kangaroo court. Full judicial scrutiny might well find that they are not supported and are nothing more than inter-unit jealousy

Some of the allegations could well be sound, however. In a guerilla war neither side is much influenced by legality. The only imperative is to survive and win. And taking out persons who are likely rather than proven enemy agents will often serve that strategy. It will often be simply difficult to tell who is enemy and who is not. Yet survival may depend on getting it right. So "take no chances" will often be the rule adopted

Australian soldiers stand accused of murdering 39 people in Afghanistan and treating prisoners with cruelty.

The damning findings were outlined in a major report into alleged Australian war crimes in Afghanistan made public on Thursday.

The inquiry uncovered scores of instances of unlawful killings and inhumane treatment of detainees.

Australian defence chief Angus Campbell revealed 'none of the alleged unlawful killings were described as being in the heat of battle'.

He went on outline how the 'self-centred warrior culture' had led to 'cutting corners, ignoring and bending rules'.

'Cutting corners, ignoring and bending rules was normalised. What also emerged was a toxic, competitiveness between the Special Air Service Regiment end of the second commando Regiment,' he said.

Since 2016, the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force has examined allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.

Over four years, Justice Paul Brereton interviewed more than 400 witnesses and examined tens of thousands of documents.

Justice Brereton found there was credible evidence of 23 incidents in which a total of 39 Afghan nationals were unlawfully killed.

He identified another two instances where prisoners were treated cruelly by elite Australian troops.

A few of the Afghan nationals killed were not participating in hostilities, while the majority were prisoners of war.

Justice Brereton identified 25 current or former ADF personnel accused of perpetrating one or more war crimes.

The report covered the period from 2005 to 2016, but almost all of the incidents uncovered occurred between 2009 and 2013.

'None of these are incidents of disputable decisions made under pressure in the heat of battle,' the report said.

'The cases in which it has been found that there is credible information of a war crime are ones in which it was or should have been plain that the person killed was a non-combatant.'

Dozens more allegations investigated could not be substantiated.

Justice Brereton also found there was credible evidence some soldiers carried 'throw downs' such as weapons and military equipment to make it appear the person killed was a legitimate target.

As well, there was evidence junior soldiers were required by their patrol commanders to shoot a prisoner in a practice known as "blooding" to achieve their first kill.

The inquiry has recommended the chief of defence refer 36 matters to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation.

The matters relate to 23 incidents and involve 19 individuals.

Justice Brereton placed the greatest blame on patrol commanders, believing they were most responsible for inciting or directing subordinates to commit war crimes.

'It was at the patrol commander level that the criminal behaviour was conceived, committed, continued, and concealed, and overwhelmingly at that level that responsibility resides.'

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously announced a special investigator will pursue possible criminal prosecutions. The position is yet to be filled.

The report recommended administrative action be taken against some serving ADF personnel where there is credible evidence of misconduct, but not enough for a criminal conviction.

It also recommended Australia compensate the families of Afghan people unlawfully killed, without waiting for criminal prosecutions.

'This will be an important step in rehabilitating Australia's international reputation, in particular with Afghanistan, and it is simply the right thing to do.'

As well, the inquiry recommended various service medals be stripped away from some individuals and groups.

'It has to be said that what this report discloses is disgraceful and a profound betrayal of the Australian Defence Force's professional standards and expectations,' the report said.

'We embarked on this inquiry with the hope that we would be able to report that the rumours of war crimes were without substance.

'None of us desired the outcome to which we have come. We are all diminished by it.'

Sorry, ABC, we can see your bias

It is revealing that in attempting to demonstrate that the ABC is not biased against the views of mainstream Australians, ABC board member Joseph Gersh, writing in The Australian on Tuesday, used as proof the composition of the panel on the ABC’s premier discussion and current affairs program, Q&A.

He described Paul Kelly and Malcolm Turnbull as conservative, which is false. They would not describe themselves as such. They would be more accurately termed small-l liberal.

What Gersh did not mention was that the other three panel members were former NSW Labor premier Bob Carr, left-wing activist Jan Fran and left-wing academic Jenny Hocking, not to mention left-wing host Hamish Macdonald. Not a single conservative among them. (At most maybe one of those six might be an occasional Coalition voter.) The point of mentioning this is that last week’s display is representative of the bias the ABC presents daily.

This, after seven years of Coalition government, reveals the truth of Gersh’s comment that many on the right side of politics are realising the ABC cannot be reformed.

Throughout its history the Institute of Public Affairs has always supported more freedom of speech and more diversity in the media. A media organisation owned and operated by the government that every taxpayer is forced to fund is incompatible with a free society. The IPA supports the continued existence of the ABC, but not one that is controlled by government and funded by taxpayers.

If the ABC is as necessary, popular and trusted as Gersh makes it out to be, then ABC staff have nothing to fear in operating a successful media business in the private media market. A subscription service, as is being proposed for the BBC in Britain, is a sensible policy the government should adopt.

'Nowhere to hide' for drug dealers as police given new powers

NSW Police will be granted greater powers that allow them to search drug dealers, their homes and cars without a search warrant for two years in a pilot program to be implemented in four jurisdictions.

A bill, which was first flagged in mid-2019, passed Parliament on Wednesday night and is expected to come into effect before the end of the year.

Under the program, a court may issue a drug supply prohibition order (DSPO) for any person convicted of a serious drug offence, such as supplying or manufacturing an indictable quantity, in the past 10 years.

The order will give police the power to search the homes, vehicles and person of convicted drug dealers at any time over two years if authorities have reasonable grounds to suspect that there is evidence of drug-related crime.

An individual may appeal against the DSPO six months after it is issued.

Four jurisdictions across the state will be involved in the trial: Bankstown, Coffs Harbour, Hunter Valley police district, and Dubbo and surrounding towns that fall under the Orana police area.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott said the four areas had been selected for the trial because of police intelligence and in consultation with the local MPs.

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research will conduct an evaluation at the end of the trial.

While the program is earmarked for a two-year trial, Mr Elliott said if police indicated the orders were successful, he would be open to rolling it out further across the state.

He added the orders would help thwart organised criminal gangs from profiteering through the large-scale manufacture and supply of illegal drugs in the state.

"I want convicted drug dealers and organised criminal groups who target the most vulnerable in our state to know they have nowhere to hide if they are dealing drugs," he said.

"The message today is that every mom and dad across the state can sleep more soundly tonight knowing full well that it's going to be harder for their kids to buy drugs.

"Why? Because the supplier and manufacturer of those drugs is now going to have their life turned upside down with these potential prohibitions orders."

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said last year that 40,000 people were arrested for possession of drugs and 8200 for drug supply.

Drug on-the-spot fines save justice system thousands of dollars
"This power allows us to zero in on that supply chain and those people who were active in supplying drugs and manufacturing," he said.

But advocacy and education groups remain sceptical whether the orders are the best approach, warning they may target those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Executive director of drug education organisation Unharm, Will Tregoning, said often those convicted of drug offences were from disadvantaged backgrounds or experiencing mental health issues and slapping a two-year order on them would not help.

He suggested the money should rather be redirected to rehabilitation services.

"They have substantial problems in their lives and this type of law enforcement ramp-up makes it more difficult to get help when they need it," he said.

Similarly, the Ted Noffs Foundation's acting chief executive officer Mark Ferry said a better way to disrupt drug supply might be to address underlying reasons and causes.

By doing so, there would be no need for the orders, he said.

Biden’s plan to combat climate change leaves coal-loving Australia an outlier

Joe Biden's victory in the presidential election was largely welcomed by America's friends as a step toward more predictable and conventional U.S. foreign policy. One close American ally, though, faces a thorny predicament as a result of Biden's plan to build a global coalition to combat global warming: Australia.

Australia is the world’s second-largest coal exporter and top liquefied natural gas exporter, according to industry bodies, and one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases per person. This status, combined with years of hand-wringing on both sides of Australian politics over climate policies, has earned the country a reputation as a climate-change laggard.

Under pressure from coal and gas interests, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to adopt the prevailing international target of reaching net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050, putting Australia at odds with the incoming U.S. administration, the European Union, Britain and Japan. Even China, a big buyer of Australian coal, has pledged to be net neutral by 2060.

Morrison, by contrast, famously brought a lump of coal into Parliament in 2017, telling those seeking bolder steps on emissions reduction: “Don’t be afraid.”

Record fires and dead coral reefs aren’t dulling Australia’s lust for coal

Biden’s election has emboldened Australians who say their country has a moral obligation to be at the forefront of global efforts to combat climate change. That’s placing intense political pressure on Morrison’s conservative government as the country heads into another summer, less than a year after wildfires scorched vast tracts of the country and spurred calls for urgent steps to alleviate the threat from longer fire seasons and increasingly calamitous conditions.

“Australia has nowhere to hide,” former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd said in an interview. “It’s time for Morrison to swallow his pride, admit he was wrong and embrace a carbon target.”

The Liberal-National coalition government, which signed Australia up for the 2016 Paris climate agreement before Morrison became leader in 2018, has said it expects to achieve net-zero emissions at an indeterminate point in the future.

In the meantime, the government, which abolished a tax on emissions in 2014, has decided to base its energy policy on the use of natural gas, angering scientists who are pushing for greater use of wind and solar power.

“Our policies won’t be set in the United Kingdom; they won’t be set in Brussels; they won’t be set in any part of the world other than here,” Morrison said last week.

U.S. trade threat

When it comes to the environment, Australia is a paradox. Proud of setting aside some 23 percent of its landmass for parks and reserves, and the guardian of the Great Barrier Reef, the nation is nonetheless a significant contributor to global warming through its large mining and energy industries.

Australia is the only member of the 37-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that has not set minimum fuel-efficiency standards for cars, according to Christian Downie, an academic at the Australian National University in Canberra who studies climate politics.

Once a Biden administration takes office, one of the main economic threats to Australia is whether the United States goes ahead with a plan to impose tariffs on big emitters of carbon dioxide.




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