04

Jun

9:08pm
Jerry Grey China
Why is the US military so disappointed with Australia’s Military?

Why is the US military so disappointed with Australia’s Military?

Jerry Grey China//9:08pm, Jun 4th '23

Two devastating blows to Australia’s military credibility were reported in this week’s news in swift succession.

The Victoria Cross (VC) is not just a British medal for gallantry, it’s the highest honour bestowed upon its recipient. Australia has such an honour too and, since becoming a country of its own in 1901, only 101 Australians have received this award. Many people who have been awarded the VC were awarded posthumously, such was their bravery, they never lived to receive the medal. Those who do live to see it are respected for the rest of their lives and even generals will salute them, no matter what their rank. At least that was true until the 1st of June. In a very strange twist of fate considering what’s going on in the world right now, the first ever VC was awarded for bravery during the Crimean War about 170 years ago.

The most recent Australian to receive it was Ben Roberts-Smith who was awarded this for his gallantry in Afghanistan in 2010. He joined this honour role of only 101 people and one of only four to be so honoured since the second World War.

A few years later, there were rumours, these circulated around Australia and were published by media as stories that Ben Roberts-Smith was not all we believed him to be. It was reported that he was a bully; he was overly aggressive and may even have committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

This week, it transpired that he had. Or at least the judge, in a defamation case that Roberts-Smith instigated himself against the media which had published these rumours as stories, has stated, after a very long trail and deliberation period that the newspaper reports can be assessed as truth.

This means much more than just a simple case of a war hero being reclassified as a war criminal, it brings into disrepute the entire military system. Questions must be asked as to why was this not known before the VC was awarded; any investigation on the merits of such an award would have been extensive, the same people who gave evidence in the case would have been questioned, or should have been, and the same conclusions the judge in defamation case reached, should at least have been considered.

We can look from the outside of the military machine and perhaps assume that the investigators were misled, that there was no evidence of war crimes going on or there was some conspiracy to cover up war crimes. We can even think that the senior officers, contemplating offering the most prestigious award in the Commonwealth Military, were misled or mistaken but that’s until we look at what else happened this week.

The Brereton Report, released in 2020, is very important to this story because it looked into war crimes in Afghanistan and found there were indeed cases to answer. There was credible evidence that the Australian Special Forces had committed war-crimes and recommended that 19 members of the Special Air Service, of which Ben Roberts-Smith was a member, be referred for prosecution over the deaths of 39 prisoners and civilians. It’s very important to note that the reason there was such an investigation was purely because there were leaks – leaks from around the same time, the same places and the same circumstances under which Robert-Smith was awarded what is perhaps the world’s most important and best-known medal for gallantry.

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The most damning part of this entire debacle is that it was all known about some years before when a whistleblowing former Major, David McBride, reported, first to his superiors in the army and then, in exasperation at being told it was not his business, nor was it within his pay grade, released the information to journalists. It was those stories and allegations which created the basis of this defamation case that Roberts-Smith took to the courts.

But even that isn’t the worst of this story – the worst part is, Major McBride, for exposing these crimes, for telling the world what really happened in Afghanistan, where he was employed specifically for that purpose, now faces a trial later this year and potentially 100 years in prison.

If it was made into a movie, no one would believe the plot. This isn’t a movie, this is real. An army officer, who has a job to ensure compliance with the law, saw the law was being broken. On reporting it, was told it wasn’t his affair and to let it drop. He didn’t, he pursued this through the ranks, being told over and over again, to let it go. At the same time, other divisions in the same army were investigating the circumstances around an act of bravery so courageous it merited the highest possible award that can be offered. Rather than investigate the crime, they rewarded the criminal.

And, in a Hollywood-esque twist to the plot, we reach the second devastating blow to the Australian military. IT was revealed, just this week that the US military has contacted the Australian Defence Chief with a warning: under the Leahy Law, the US forces may no longer be able to operate with the Australian Special Forces because of this credible evidence that Australia has violated human rights.

Let’s try to write this into a Hollywood plot, the same government that captured people in Afghanistan, illegally carried them to places such as Cuba under a special procedure known as extraordinary rendition where they tortured them and, in some cases even killed them, are now telling the Australians that they don’t like what Australian soldier are alleged to have done and won’t deal with their special forces anymore.

They say the first casualty of war is truth. Unfortunately, for the perpetrators anyway, the truth usually does eventually come out and right now, in Australia, it’s unravelling faster than a Hollywood scriptwriter can rewrite the script.

Cover Image Credit: By The National Guard is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Editor's Note:

The views and informations expressed in the article are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect the views of The International. We believe in providing a platform for a range of viewpoints from the left.

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