Last week we heard that the Judge Advocate Brigadier Ian Westwood had decided to withdraw the charges of manslaughter against two army reservists in the Australian Defence Forces deployed in Afghanistan in 2009.
The soldiers were a part of an operation tageting 'insurgents' in Oruzgan province. The shooting incident took place in February 2009. Six people were killed, one male adult and five children. Last year Dateline did a report on the incident and found that according to eyewitnesses those killed were inncocent civilians and were unarmed.
When Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, decided to bring charges of manslaughter against the men the ADF was furious as were many Australians who heard about the charges through the media. The announcement to withdraw the charges has been welcomed by the ADF and former Defence chief General Peter Cosgrove.
However, I and every Afghan has a right to know why? Why are these men being allowed to get off scott free? What about the families and parents of the victims? Don't they have a right to justice? If these men are free to walk away without even a reprimand, the ADF will be sent a message that Australian soldiers in Afghanistan are above the law and that they can get away with murder. The Australian government must hold those soldiers accountable for the deaths of six civilians in Oruzgan Province.
This decision says that Afghan blood is cheap. An Afghan child's blood is cheap. Yet, many like Cosgrove say that important decisions have to be made in the heat of battle. So we are to assume that these soldiers could not tell the difference between children and armed men? If our soldiers are not trained well enough to identify a threat then they must be pulled out of action. This raises the question of how our troops view the “enemy” and whether they think that they can get away with any future incidents involving civilian casualties. The actions of these soliers was grossly negligent and the use of force was excessive (two grenades and machine gun fire).
However, facts speak for themselves:
Six people were killed. One adult and five children.
They were all unarmed.
One of the suspected insurgents was arrested and interrogated then later released.
Eyewtinesses all say that they were not members of Taliban.
The soldiers disobeyed their commands (another soldier has already been convicted of disobeying a directive).
AND that these soldiers were attacking the village not the other way around. It was not a defensive operation.
This is another case of a so-called Western Democratic country, such as Australia, who is really unjustifiably in Afghanistan, and who purports to have high standards of conduct and procedures of accountability, protecting two Australian soldiers who have killed innocent civilians, that is five innocent children.
How could this have happened and why aren’t those responsible being held to account?
Do we just tell the families and the Afghan people sorry but so-what. Shit happens.
The Australian government must show strong leadership and give justice to the families of the victims. No-one wants to admit that our own troops could have deliberately killed children, however, through their own negligence this has happened and they must be held accountable and they should be punished and the families compensated. The Australian government must not allow these men to get away with murder.
This is also a timely reminder that we must reassess why Australian troops are in Afghanistan in the first place and withdraw our troops. We should not be in Afghanistan in any case. If Osama Bin Laden is dead, the country has its own elected government and there is relative peace in the country, then Australia must withdraw its troops. Why are we there?
These deaths are a direct result of Australia's decision to be in Afghanistan and the government is complicit in the death of every civilian at the hands of Australian troops in Afghanistan as it is for the death of every Australian digger who falls in battle. It's a shame. A crying shame.