Shame and vindication as Australia digests report of Afghan military killings

SYDNEY: Australian military personnel who spoke out against alleged war crimes in Afghanistan said on Friday they felt vindicated by an inquiry which called for possible prosecution of troops, as the country reacted with shame and anger at the findings’ severity.

A report published on Thursday found Australian special forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan, with senior commandos forcing junior soldiers to kill defenceless captives in order to “blood” them for combat.

The report recommended referring 19 current and former soldiers for potential prosecution, in a development that prompted anguish in Australia which usually honours its military history with fervour.

David McBride, a former military lawyer facing charges of leaking information about special forces actions in Afghanistan, felt “buoyed” by the report after years of being treated like a traitor, his lawyer Mark Davis told Reuters, using the Australian slang for soldiers.

“If the accusations that he’s previously made are proven right, he will feel vindicated whatever the penalty,” Davis said by telephone. “His reputation will be intact and his sense of honour will be intact.”

McBride has confirmed giving classified documents to the Australian Broadcasting Corp, triggering charges against him and an investigation into the public broadcaster which sensationally led to a raid on its Sydney headquarters last year. - Reuters