The vultures circling above our Special Operations Task Group veterans of Afghanistan must be salivating now that the Inspector General Australian Defence Force’s already compromised inquiry into Rumours of Possible Breaches of the Laws of Armed Conflict in Afghanistan has been handed to our heavily decorated but close combat experience deficient ADF Chief General Angus Campbell.
Campbell's response, "I intend to speak about the key findings once I have read and reflected on the report."
That is Canberra VIP lounge lingo for time to dodge and swerve.
Campbell is not alone. From the Prime Minister down, everyone in power is running for cover, desperate to not be associated with this bizarre self harm instituted in a moment of woke madness years ago.
Unfortunately not everyone is as revolted at the way this entire affair has come to pass. The keyboard warriors of the Canberra based military, cultural and media elite have been sharpening their knives, slobbering at the prospect of the ritualistic sacrifice of up to 50 Australian Special Operations veterans in this big budget but poorly cast and dismally acted 21st Century remake of the Breaker Morant.
Let's be honest. We already know the outcome, as all of the untested ‘evidence’ unearthed during the IGADF’s extraordinarily painful four-year interrogation process has been conveniently, and allegedly illegally, delivered to the media and since then selectively published globally on every medium.
Entire documentaries have been cut and spliced together from the supposedly ‘classified’ footage, supposedly ‘securely’ collected by IGADF, and then broadcast to the entire world. Even serving senior officers are telling their troops that the as yet uncharged veterans are guilty and are war criminals.
All of which has effectively completely compromised the evidence in its entirety, totally unhinged any sense of legal due process and has absolutely destroyed any notion of a future fair trial of those accused by the IGADF’s secret (and sometimes paid hostile foreign) informers.
Sadly, I believe there is zero chance that the targeted SOTG warriors will avoid unjust charges and follow on trials. And, even more tragic, zero chance of unbiased hearings during those trials where those standing in judgement have some concept of the septicaemic reality of fighting on the ground in Uruzgan's valleys.
As unhappy as I am that my country has turned on its warfighters for the sins of the battlefield, the legal machinery is already turning. Any opportunity for sober evaluation of this insane situation passed long ago.
The lynch mob is assembling, every third rate mob member eager to shred a hero for the crime of being a far more magnificent Australian than the rest of us.
The Australian Federal Police are formally involved and prosecutors named. The gallows have been raised and the scapegoats of the Commonwealth assembled for brutal punishment.
Soldier and western democracy haters are ebullient at the prospect that their long prayed for public execution of the Anzac legend, that singular glue that bound Australia through its worst of times, is at hand.
All this while our gutless military and political leadership ducks and swerves, every one of them only too happy to lop off any number of real battlefield heroes’ heads to cover their ultimate responsibility for a war they initiated and micro managed from their airconditioned offices. No Generals, Prime Ministers or even Minister's for Defence have been targeted in the war they made happen.
While Australia's military brass may be content to lynch what they want us all to view as a 'few bad apples' to cover their own responsibility for the way the war in Afghanistan was fought so they can return to their port and caviar at their Canberra VIP lounges; in reality they have started a fight scene with no final punch scripted.
Beyond the hundreds of millions that will make their way into lawyer's pockets, none of what happens next will play out to the Top Brass plan. It does not pass the pub test. It will not be confined to the lower ranks of veterans. That is not the way that our corrupted judiciary works, especially with a whiff of endless taxpayer dollars in the wind.
My gut tells me that no one in authority bothered to think this through and consider the consequences beyond their own avoidance of any responsibility. Consequences that threaten the very foundations of our National Security and military alliances.
Everyone has been assiduously careful to avoid mentioning the obvious international political repercussions that will arise from the Australian Defence Force’s energetic efforts to declare itself a criminal organisation with a publicly documented history of crimes against humanity.
Let me repeat that - a documented and likely soon to be court validated status as institutional war criminals and agents of crimes against humanity.
Any delusion that the outcomes of IGADF's will be confined to the scapegoating of a few Special Air Service Regiment operators for the sins of our war in Afghanistan while the nation hides under its coward blanket will evaporate as soon as this madness escapes the quiet halls of the Defence Department.
Unfortunately for the Australian Defence Force, the Anzac legend and Australia as a whole, this miserable and unjust scapegoating of our SOTG trigger pullers will likely go global and go viral.
Throwing a few SOF to the Woke wolves for 'warcrimes' will not erase or restore Australia's reputation in international eyes after self declaring ourselves major human rights violators.
Any highly paid soldier hating prosecutor would immediately conclude that with 50 plus examples of what the Australian Army itself has already publicly identified as likely egregious 'breaches of the laws of war' (ie war crimes) any talk of aberrant individual criminal responsibility (the old 'few bad apples') is null and void. They will quickly turn this entire farce into a trial of the Australian Army itself.
To anyone who has never experienced the ugly reality of life on the ground during war, especially the vile Islamist insurgency found in Afghanistan where all of the enemy are legally 'civilians' and all of the combat occurs in 'civilian' inhabited zones, this could easily (and in all honesty is likely to be in reality) be stereotyped as systematic and institutionalised (read the Australian Defence Force in its entirety) war criminality.
Did anyone in power ever seriously ponder how our Five Eyes partners, (you know the liberal English speaking democracies of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand - the Grand Coalition that won both World Wars and was instrumental in our national survival) will respond to an Australian security establishment that has deliberately convicted itself as a human rights violator and INTERNATIONAL WAR CRIMINAL?
There was always going to be ramifications for Australia in the ADF's little game of advanced morality.
Ramifications ten times more serious now that the United States of America will be led by Joe Biden with the radical soldier and police hating Vice President Elect Kamala Harris wielding serious influence.
Do Australians really believe that we can convict ourselves of the worst of all international crimes and expect no repercussions beyond having a few dozen 21st Century Breaker Morants metaphorically shot at dawn with collective long and unjust sentences?
Has the Government, or the senior military command ever considered whether other countries will be keen on continuing partnerships with self confessed war criminals like the Australian Defence Force will shortly become if it manages to criminalise our veterans in the pending prosecutions we are planning?
I’m not a specialist in international relations, but even I know that both the United States and the United Kingdom governments would be very unlikely to view the Australian Army favourably after scores of its members had been convicted of institutionally embedded war crimes.
In fact there is a long list of US and UK laws that specifically prohibit US and UK Departments of Defence and companies from interactions with known institutional as well as individual human rights violators. A list Australia would join after even a small number of war crimes convictions. A list that would bugger any ADF capability upgrade program I have ever heard of. A list that has the potential to completely shatter Australia's national security underpinnings.
Would 'decent' countries even sell ammunition and spare parts to self declared 'war criminals' like Australia is pushing hard to make itself?
Imagine the ultimate virtue signallers of our Five Eyes siblings in Canada and New Zealand (both currently led by politicians who can barely conceal their deeply held antipathy towards all things Australian) enjoying their moment of triumph dancing on Australia’s war crimes dug diplomatic grave.
Whatever ‘soft power’ Australia ever leveraged will evaporate within minutes of a successful war crimes conviction. No billions in international aid will buy it back.
After declaring ourselves war criminals and human rights violators, does anybody really imagine for a second that Australia could ever be the keystone in a regional coalition strong enough to defend this nation against the encroaching dominance of the Chinese Communist Party and its repressive rule (the very centrepiece of our national security policy) which is already too close for comfort.
I imagine the ADF’s deliberate fabrication of a (false) reputation as war criminal murderers of Muslims with an out of control army full of low rank killers not supervised by their superiors will thrill Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Bangladesh, the Seychelles and even India; let alone our international ‘partners’ in the Middle East.
I suspect even Japan and South Korea will wince after we have achieved our aim and become self designated war criminals.
I shudder to think of the EU and UN responses.
All of this fallout because a foolish general got cold feet about 'rumours' of war stories from men who fought too long and too hard to keep this country safe in a war that had no rules, no certainties and no Hollywood ending.
No grown-ups are in Australia’s control room. No one wise enough to recognise that war is an extraordinarily ugly business that puts barbaric demands on the men who fight it and never bears close inspection is holding the reins.
Instead our pathetic leadership adopts the Sergeant Schultz defence yelping, “I know nothing!” while gutlessly scrambling for cover and pushing another man forward to take their bullet.
I hope I am wrong, but I fear the law of unintended consequences. I fear finding the corpse of the whole Australian Defence Force lying next to the wreckage of our Special Operations veterans lives that will be left by the courts.
I fear an enormous self inflicted global media/social viral scandal driven by our enemies, that not only destroys the ADF and its reputation, but permanently delegitimises not just our serving members and the war in Afghanistan but our sacred Anzac heritage as well.
The consequences of our stupidity in this arena are potentially catastrophic at every level. Emperor Xi, the al Dawla Islamiya survivors and Fatty Kim 2 must be laughing at their luck. An opponent as deliberately moronic as Australia doesn’t come along every day.
Poor fella my country.
John Hunter Farrell
9 November 2020