Tuesday, October 19, 2010

ON THE SHITTYNESS OF WAR

The decision by the Australian Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, to bring a range of charges, including manslaughter, against three members of 1 Commando Regiment for their part in a night action in Afghanistan when the Taliban Leader they were hunting down surrounded himself with civilians who died when grenades were thrown into the building they were occupying, has engendered considerable controversy 'across the ditch'.

There will be those who say that we should respect legal process and yes we should but to my mind the greater question is whether the charges should have been bought in the first place by a uniformed civilian with no understanding of the realities of combat. Charlie Lynn, Member of the NSW Legislative Council, speaks for many in his article on the subject here

Look, war is shitty. Night action particularly so and in a war where the other mob don't wear uniforms there will always be an enhanced chance of civilian causalities.

I think the decision to prosecute was wrong. This was no My Lai massacre. Brigadier McDade would learn much from going to Afghanistan and going out on a night patrol that comes under enemy fire. Then perhaps, and only then, can she make the call she did.

Others may disagree. That's your privilege.

25 comments:

gravedodger said...

I have been fortunate to avoid any exposure to the shittyness you refer to above but concur with your sentiments,Vet.
We see the same with the armchair senior persons at police HQ here where they pontificate about some poor bugger having a scumbag come at him, employs a sanction that can in the light of hindsight be viewed as an over-reaction.

The Veteran said...

Thank you GD .... there has to be both balance and realism in any decision to prosecute for what might be considered 'War Crimes'.

My advice is that McDade consulted with a number of her senior colleagues who had combat experience and that their collective advice was that she should back off as this was part of the reality of what can justly be described as the 'Fog of War'.

McDade chose to disregard that advice and some (not me) might applaud her for doing so. I suspect this story has a long way to play.

Psycho Milt said...

I agree wholeheartedly with this post. Counter-insurgency warfare inevitably results in regular forces killing civilians. The only honest alternative to accepting this fact is to avoid involving your regular forces in counter-insurgency warfare.

The Australian govt has required of their regular forces that they engage in counter-insurgency warfare, so it's incumbent on them as the govt to keep up their fucking side of the deal - unless there's evidence these soldiers deliberately targeted civilians, the obligation on the Australian govt is to protect them from prosecution, not initiate it. If the govt is determined someone must be held accountable for these deaths, its membership can just look in the fucking mirror. It's them.

Paul G. Buchanan said...

I also agree with the Vet, but with a caveat. If the soldiers violated the ROE, disregarded lawful orders or followed illegal orders (which I believe is doubtful), then they deserve to be court martialed. I do not see war crimes being part of the picture unless, as PM says, there was deliberate targeting of civilians unrelated to the legitimate military targets in question (that is an important distinction, because just like combat medics and military preachers, civilians caught up in combat operations become part of the battle space that often cannot be avoided in the heat of kinetic engagements).

Contrast these soldiers with the renegades from the US 1st Stryker Brigade who have just been charged with murdering civilians for sport while also being constantly under the influence of hashish and alcohol on and off base. Should what is reported about their behaviour prove true, then this is a clear case of war crimes deserving the full penalties imposed by military justice under the USMCJ.

If the Australian troops are convicted of war crimes, it would set a very bad precedent because then the entire strategy of using drones and spec ops to strike at Taliban and AQ high value targets hiding amid civilian populations becomes one massive war crime itself. I do not believe that the case and have argued to that effect here: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1010/S00025/paul-g-buchanan-in-defence-of-cross-border-raids.htm

Old Gunner said...

When you're in a dodgy situation and the necks of you and your mates are dependent on immediate action, you don't stop to read Standing Orders before acting. Only the Base Wallahs have the time to digest and debate the Rules of Engagement. They're too far away from the strife to be in danger, so can indulge themselves.
Maybe some hard time in the field would change their perspectives

Paul G. Buchanan said...

Gunner:

In this day and age adherence to ROEs is drilled into troops because of the larger audiences now privy to the aftermath, and the ROEs are made purposefully loose in the case of irregular combat. That would give the Ozzies plenty of legal room to conduct ops i Afghanistan without fear of retribution later on.

Which is why something smells here...

Redbaiter said...

Rules of Engagement.. what crap. What ROE do the Taliban operate under?

Bomb the fuckers back into the stone age or until they understand the message that to allow Taliban cowards to hide among them is not a good idea.

Putting soldier's lives at risk merely for the sake of appeasing treacherous left wing politicians is a disgrace.

Old Gunner said...

Paul
I think we are all agreed that modern warfare is unlike anything we have experienced in the past. The enemy wears no uniform and is indistinguishable from the civilians among whom he chooses to mingle. Our front line servicemen and women only know the difference when they come under fire, and so, they are virtually in action without pause.
While the ROEs may be loosely written to provide for those circumstances, surely JAGs must also have regard to those circumstances and allow the line troops the ability to perform their duty. Otherwise, God help them, because their own people won't.

The Veteran said...

There has been some pretty incisive comment here (Redbaiter excepted) and I note with interest Paul Buchanans contribution.

ROEs are not new (You may not shoot unarmed civilians etc). We had them in Vietnam and they are part and parcel of a disciplined army and distinguish us from those who have no regard for human life.

PB and Old Gunner are right on the money to argue that the decision of McDade to prosecute is devoid of common sense and shows no appreciation of the reality of the situation in Vietnam.

And it is noteworthy the breaking of ranks now occuring in Australia.
It is VERY unusual for senior retired officers and more so for serving personnel to openly criticise McDade. In the past that would have happened in private. This may prove to be a seminal point in Australian military history.

Ackers said...

I doubt it will prove the seminal point you think. Yes, a lot of noise is being created by the likes of Alan Jones and his trusty sidekick Tony Abbott but I suspect harder heads will prevail. Noteworthy that Neil James and the Australian Defence Association are backing the process to the hilt (a process set up by the Howard Government of which Abbott was a cabinet member but hey why expect consistency from Tones). The ADA is hardly a left wing organisation and clearly there is an alternative point of view here.

This Crikey article worth reading.

http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/10/13/rethinking-afghanistan-no-place-for-politics-in-military-prosecution/

Redbaiter said...

"I note with interest Paul Buchanans contribution."

You pathetic small minded misguided suckhole. Buchanan is the enemy within. Our soldiers cannot win in Afghanistan while he and so many other left wing activists are white anting them here.

That you don't know this makes you as big an impediment to any victory in Afghanistan as he is.

We lost Vietnam because of the Paul G. Buchanans, we nearly lost Iraq because of the Paul G. Buchanans, and we will lose in Afghanistan if we listen to the Paul G. Buchanans.

You're a soft headed idiot Veteran, such a shame that you are so blind to what is really happening here. The left have undermined our armed forces for decades and you have sat on your hands and you and the National Party not done one damn thing to change that. And here you are today sucking up to the very people who are most responsible for that undermining.

You just don't get it and you never will. Hopeless. Utterly hopeless. The sooner the hard left National Party and all its hard left supporters are gone from the political scene and replaced by patriots and Conservatives, the sooner this country will return to sanity, and the sooner voters will have a real choice about government, and the sooner our armed forces will return to a respectable level of operational readiness.

Psycho Milt said...

Yes Paul, when will you give up writing blog posts... er, in favour of the war...

Ackers: this from Crikey:

While the facts of the case are largely unknown, and it would be unwise to speculate, the incident resulted in the deaths of six people, some of them children. It goes against every basic principle of justice not to investigate exactly what occurred.

It does indeed. As would prosecuting them without that investigation having clearly shown deliberate intent to kill civilians or serious disregard for the RoE. If that does happen, ADF personnel should immediately refuse to participate in irregular warfare in Afghanistan or anywhere else. Australia has responsibilities to its service personnel as well as to Afghan citizens.

The Veteran said...

Ackers ... I said all along that others may see it differently from me and clearly you do. The ADA is arguing in favour of due process but in doing so they say and I quote "It may be valid to criticise the threshhold of proof that the DMP has used to decide charges ....." and I certainly agree with that.


Thank you Redbaiter for the benefit of your 'wisdom'.

I note your earlier comment that the way to win is to "bomb the fuckers back into the stone age".

Yep, really intelligent that.

Can I be forgiven for asking who then are "the fuckers"? Anyone wearing a turban?

Is your solution is to bomb Afghanistan to bits; kill everyone and we've won.

You really are a knuckle dragging Neandertal completely devoid of any comprehension of asymmetric warfare.

There is no place for you in my Party; never has and never will be .... Clearly your home is the National Front on the basis that if it walks like a duck and quacks then it probably is.

Redbaiter said...

"Clearly your home is the National Front"

You insufferably stupid man. Does anyone typify the irrelevancy of the National Party as much as you?

The National Front is a fan of big powerful government. Just like you, you fucking idiot, and the antithesis of what Redbaiter advocates for.

Your claim is just another cowardly smear without even a modicum of truth to support it. Do you have any self respect at all?

Anonymous said...

Veteran, delete this idiot. You would be deleted on Crusader Rabbit without a second thought.

He is putting others off commenting here at No Minister. Not everyone likes to be abused for having the temerity to have an opposing opinion.

Paul G. Buchanan said...

Gunner and Vet:

I should note that modern counterinsurgency doctrine gives considerable autonomy to field commanders, down to the squad level. It also allows spec op troops to dress irregularly when confronting an unconventional opponent that does not adhere to jus in bellum standards. So the ROEs would reflect the nature of the conflict ( I say this with more informed knowledge about how the US operates, but would guess that the Ozzie and NZ SAS and other commando units would have similar approaches). My point being that the type of tactical flexibility required to successfully prosecute counter-insurgency operations is authorised from the top and drilled into field units to the point that soldiers reflexively adhere to the ROE protocols as given. In return they expect, as PM noted, that the chain of command offer them the presumption of innocence, or at least benefit of the doubt, when things go awry.

That is why there is something strange about this case. It is as if a conventional officer somewhere up the chain of command decided he was going to make a point of some sort, and then convinced McDade that a prosecution was warranted.

That is what is odd. An investigation into the incident is certainly justified given the deaths of innocents. But that should occur in-house, and only after uncovering of evidence of crime or coverup should a prosecution be launched. It seems like a step has been skipped in order for someone to score political points--and that could be as much the result of inter-service rivalries as it is of misguided prosecutorial zeal.

I think that the soldiers in question can and should use this as an opportunity to lay out the difficulties and hazards of the Afghan combat environment, thereby shaming those who would second-guess them from the safety of distance and circumstance.

RB: Much obliged for attributing to me such powers. Were it that I had a modicum of the same over my partner.

The Veteran said...

RB ... the irrelevancy of the National Party .... errrrrr 54% and just what does your mob poll?

Party conventions in a phone booth!

You RB have proved that Pavlov had it about right. Mention the name Paul B and you immediately went into overdrive.

Read his FUCKIN post you stupid man. He agreed with my thesis.

You, by arguing against him, are advocating for McDade.

You are one sick puppy. Tell me, is your anger based upon the fact that you were demoted from Lcpl in the School Cadets because those that those that knew better realised your limitations.

I wouldn't want you; wouldn't have you, under my command. Those guys at least were decent Kiwis.

Fuck off back to your cave.

Redbaiter said...

"Read his FUCKIN post you stupid man. He agreed with my thesis."

Well, we'll see about that as time goes by won't we. Words are cheap.

I read all of Mr. Buchanans posts. I could be wrong, but I don't believe he is ever going to be sincerely on the side of the West's armed forces.

Caleb said...

Psycho, dont differentiate between any kind of soldiers operating in this environment. Aus reg force soldiers are perfectly suited for this kind of role.

This should never have made the media.

Dex said...

Ah Red the ultimate coward.

Just ignore him Vet, he's the type who would be the first to send others to war, but would invent every reason under the sun never to serve himself.

Your typical internet warrior.

Murray said...

Yuo don't need combat experience to know the prosecution is inccorect and without legal merit.

The conventions and rules of warfare are very clear, it is a war crime to use civilians and civilian property for protection and those that do are criminally liable for any deaths, injury or property damage that results.

This is a PC decision to apply inapropriate civil laws on a combat situation that has its own specific laws that govern it. Regardless of how much the media would like to claim otherwise.

The result will be dead Australian servicemen who are too afraid to defend themselves ina firefight and soldiers who will refuse to take part in any legally high risk activities on the grounds that they will be unreasonably exposing themselves to liability.

Redbaiter said...

"I wouldn't want you; wouldn't have you, under my command."

What makes you think I'd ever want to serve under the command of a Politically Correct cringer who puts political niceties over and above the security of his own forces?

The Armed forces command should refuse to put soldiers in harms way under the restrictions imposed by current ROE's covering the Afghan war. They are a disgrace and that military command agreed to them shows that they as a group are unfit for duty and need to be fired and replaced by commanders who have more respect for the lives of their troops.

Here is what I would do if I was one of them. I would tell the PM that there is no way I am ever sending soldiers to fight under those rules of engagement.

And that is what the useless bastards should be saying.

Instead they gutlessly pander to the ideas of politicians who want to see us lose, and then our troops die needlessly because of that pandering.

An utter fucking disgrace and ex armed forces and current armed forces personal at all levels should be screaming their heads off about what is happening. Not speaking out in support like lame whipped yellow dogs.

Anonymous said...

RB were you a general - you'd have the good sense to follow the Fijian example, not the Aussie / Kiwi lefty model - and hopefully do a proper job (why they left Quarese alive I'll never understand).

we can but dream!

WAKE UP said...

The problem is that women are interested in process, while men are interested in outcomes.

Which is why women should NOT be in the military.

Mark said...

Its the Taliban that are guilty of a war crime here by using civilians as human shields.

I bet the diggers who through the grenades were gutted when they found out the Taliban had forced civilians to be human shields.