“It is bad leadership,” he said. “In fact, it is poor moral leadership.”
General Findlay’s direct comments are the first direct admission by senior military officials that Brereton’s investigation should lead to unfavorable conclusions. They will increase pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defense Minister Linda Reynolds to support the publication of parts of his report to the federal parliament and to the Australian public. General Findlay has served in Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and Iraq and holds a doctorate in military history from the University of NSW.
General Findlay said that one of the positive aspects of Brereton’s investigation was that it showed that some SAS soldiers were brave enough to speak out against war crimes. He described their “moral courage” while warning those who had lied to judge Brereton by “erroneous loyalty” had been identified as “perjury” and would be removed from the SAS “at a minimum”.
“There is strength here. There is a moral code. The reason we have [Brereton inquiry] it’s because people have come forward [to expose war crimes],” he said.
“[Winston] Churchill had a big saying, “When you go through hell, you better keep walking. This is what we are going to do. It’s going to be a tough 10 year period. And we have to rehabilitate reputation and capabilities and all of that order … we can’t wallow in it. “
Age, the Herald and 60 minutes published and broadcast reports over the weekend on the former SAS doctor Dusty Miller’s attempts to ask for forgiveness of the family of an Afghan killed in suspicious circumstances. Mr. Miller, a former decorated warrant officer who served in Afghanistan, personally apologized to the Afghan children of a farmer who was allegedly killed by a senior SAS soldier on March 14, 2012.
For more than two years, Herald and Age have published several detailed reports on alleged war crimes committed by a small number of special forces in Afghanistan, and many of the reported incidents are also under investigation by Mr. Brereton or the federal police. Federal MP and former SAS captain Andrew Hastie strongly supported the investigations into the conduct in Afghanistan, calling for full transparency with the Australian public.
In March, the ABC Four corners program broadcast images showing Australian Special Forces soldier killing unarmed Afghan in May 2012. Defense investigation found the soldier was acting in self-defense, but the murder was condemned by retired admiral Chris Barrie, who was head of the Defense Force from 1998 to 2002 and Human Rights Watch.
General Findlay said in his March statement that a small number of non-commissioned officers had authorized a crop where heinous conduct was allowed. He said that a handful of experienced soldiers, including patrol commanders and deputy patrol commanders, who typically led five-man SAS teams on mission, had also allowed the culture to exist.
“If you led a climate of command that allowed people to think [it was OK to do] patently wrong acts, you must be wiped out. One, as an individual and two, as a group, “he said.” You will need to sleep after you leave services. If your honor is compromised, it will affect you for the rest of your life. “
The Morrison government will be faced with a difficult choice as to what information to communicate to the public about the SAS misconduct after Justice Brereton delivers his long-awaited report to the Chief of the Armed Forces, General Angus Campbell, in the coming weeks. General Campbell will then deliver the report to Senator Reynolds, who has already expressed concern about some of the allegations. Judge Brereton, a major general in the Army Reserve, has since 2016 assisted the Inspector General of the Australian Defense Forces by investigating allegations that elite troops have killed unarmed or injured Afghans, including prisoners handcuffed.
General Findlay said in his remarks that it was unfair that the misconduct of a few soldiers who served in Afghanistan damaged the reputation of the majority of SAS who had done nothing wrong. “I imagine it taints the regiment you love,” he said.
He explained that the genesis of the investigation was that SAS soldiers wrote letters to senior officials on the misconduct, forcing General Campbell to request investigations to “examine our souls because it was not not good”.
General Findlay said that Justice Brereton was compiling “a series of conclusions” and that his investigation had taken four years because “a number” of new whistleblowers had recently appeared to speak. But General Findlay warned that those still covering war crimes were in the “red zone” and once the Brereton report was completed, he added, there would be “no retraction”.
“[Justice Brereton] will list these people, because if you lied under oath and there is evidence to prove it, that it has, you are perjury. “
The special forces commander also called a very small number of those who had served in the elite SAS who were acting as[s]”Who believed that the rules of the regular army did not apply to them. He said that arrogance in this small group had fueled a mediocre internal culture and” caused all the problems “that the SAS are now facing.
General Findlay said the “blunt truth” was that the war crimes scandal had caused “a problem of confidence” between the special forces, which include the SAS and the Commandos, and with the Australian people and the military in wider. He said that people in SAS who “had nothing to do with it” should now “serve to improve this place and pay for the sins” of others.
“We must pursue cultural change and governance. For many reasons, but because it’s fair. “
Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter for The Age. He has won eight Walkley awards and covers politics, business, foreign and defense, human rights, the criminal justice system and social affairs.
Gold Walkley award-winning journalist and author. He was the first Australian journalist to join the special forces in Afghanistan,