Thursday, November 19, 2020

Obvious questions for the NZDF

Today the Brereton report on war crimes by the Australian SAS was released, finding that Australian SAS troops had murdered 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners of war, with various actions taken to cover up the crimes. A special prosecutor will be appointed, and 25 soldiers have been referred for prosecution. Additionally, an entire squadron of the SAS will be disbanded and struck off the army list so there will be a permanent reminder - "2 squadron: struck off for war crimes".

Obviously, there are a hell of a lot of ways this can go wrong yet, and a hell of a lot of ways for the ADF to sabotage the process, but for the moment it looks like Australia is taking this seriously and that a real attempt will be made at justice. And hopefully Australians will be disgusted enough to force them to stick to it. Meanwhile, it ought to be causing disquiet on this side of the Tasman, because of the close links between the New Zealand and Australian militaries. Did the NZ and Australian SAS ever work together in Afghanistan? Were NZ troops implicated in or witnesses to any of this? Were they contaminated by the toxic murder culture which was allowed to grow unchecked in Australian units? NZDF ought to be reviewing every incident of cooperation and every death to make sure they weren't. Unfortunately, given their attitude to the Operation Burnham inquiry, I expect their fingers will be firmly stuck in their ears. They won't want to look, because what you don't know can't hurt your career (or anyone else's). The question is whether the Minister will make them check - and whether the public will make them. Because the big lesson from the Burnham inquiry is that we can't trust the public statements of the NZDF, and that only forced scrutiny has any chance of getting the truth.