Afghanistan: Charge politicians and generals responsible for war crimes

November 26, 2020
Graphic: Duncan Roden

In the wake of the horrific revelations of war crimes in the Brereton report, the Australian Federal Police are looking at laying charges against some members of Australia’s military special forces.

But why aren’t the senior officers and political leaders responsible for the conduct of this war being held accountable?

From what we can glean from the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force’s highly redacted report that has been made public and from the numerous media reports and complaints by human rights activists in Afghanistan, it is simply not credible to claim that the responsibility ends with a handful of soldiers with the rank of “sergeants and below”.

Even if commissioned officers were not present at the scene of the officially “discovered” war crimes, officers would have ordered those missions, accepted the reports and invariably denied that any war crimes were committed.

The military higher-ups have been so intent on covering up the admitted war crimes that even the report concedes that there are probably other war crimes that it could not obtain evidence for because they are too deeply buried and the perpetrators and witnesses are unwilling to speak.

This long, dirty war has very deliberately been conducted in secret.

Australia joined the United States-led war on Afghanistan in 2001 under Coalition Prime Minister John Howard who invoked the ANZUS treaty “to meet a common danger”. This was the first time it had been used since 1952, and it was done so on a blatant lie.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US did not justify the devastation that has been inflicted on Afghanistan and its people.

There is no official Afghan casualty figure — underlining the deeply racist character of this war — but it must be huge and still mounting up.

The United Nations recently reported that the war in Afghanistan has caused 3458 civilian casualties (1282 killed and 2176 hurt) just in the first half of 2020.

Millions of people have been displaced from their homes and many have become the victims of the racist refugee policies of Australia and other Western governments. Often, after years of misery in camps, these refugees have been forced to suffer years of detention in Australia’s onshore and offshore concentration camps.

We were told that the war was needed to “bring democracy” and liberate women from oppression. None of this has been delivered — only more death and destruction.

Now the US is negotiating to put the Taliban into the puppet government it installed, releasing thousands of terrorists as part of a deal.

Australia’s participation in this brutal imperial war was continued under Labor PM Kevin Rudd who described it as “the good war” in contrast to the “bad war” in Iraq that Howard took Australia into in 2003.

Every government that presided over Australia’s participation in this war is complicit in war crimes against the people of Afghanistan.

This complicity is underlined by the persistent attempts to hide these war crimes by intimidating, and even persecuting, whistleblowers and journalists who have tried to expose the truth.

The people who ordered and organised this cover-up should be charged with complicity in war crimes.

The war on Afghanistan is one big war crime by the US and its imperialist allies, including Australia, and it is still being perpetrated.

We should not for an instant think that justice has been served by the Brereton report.

We still need to continue to demand that all Australian and other imperialist troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan; for serious reparations to be made to the Afghan people; for all the war criminals to be brought to justice — including the generals and political leaders who were ultimately in charge.

We also need to end Australia’s serial involvement with every imperial war the US wages. Australia is currently joining the US in ramping up imperial military forces in the Asia-Pacific region, with China the ostensible “enemy”.

PM Scott Morrison’s Coalition government has committed $270 billion over the next decade to buy more potent strike weapons, cyber capabilities and a high-tech underwater surveillance system as part of this military escalation.

It is also encouraging the development of the Australian arms export industry to join the inglorious ranks of the world’s top 10 weapons exporters.

This will inevitably lead to more war crimes.

Already, the Australian military is accused of training Indonesian special operations forces that are brutally oppressing the people of West Papua.

Australia needs to break from its dirty entanglement with the US alliance and the associated military industrial complex.

[Pip Hinman is a member of the national executive of the Socialist Alliance and a founding member of Sydney Stop the War Coalition.]

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