Top Australian Soldier Accused of War Crimes

You may have noticed a post the other day about a decorated SEAL charged with war crimes.

Some have decried this investigation as political maneuvering by those serving with the accused, while others have said they simply do not believe in challenging the accuracy of decorated war veteran records.

Meanwhile I noticed a similar story brewing in Australia about special forces with some interesting commentary on both political maneuvering and motives among those involved.

In a statement to Fairfax Media sent on Wednesday evening, an AFP spokesperson said: “The Australian Federal Police (AFP) received a referral to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by Australian soldiers during the Afghanistan conflict.”


Fairfax Media has confirmed through multiple military sources that both the AFP inquiry and the Brereton inquiry have gathered extensive information from decorated serving and former special forces veterans who served alongside Mr Roberts-Smith in Afghanistan. The Brereton inquiry has interviewed more than 200 witnesses on oath since 2016.


Dr Nelson, a former defence minister, has repeatedly attacked the media reporting and Inspector-General’s inquiry into Mr Roberts-Smith on the basis that it is taking too long and because, “We want to believe in our heroes”.

But Fairfax Media has confirmed from special forces insiders that over a dozen SAS soldiers are assisting the Brereton inquiry. Many believe that scrutiny of allegedly unlawful acts is needed to preserve the integrity of the regiment and are scathing of Dr Nelson’s advocacy, believing it amounts to an attack on soldiers willing to raise concerns about alleged battlefield combat.

Another high-profile supporter of the Brereton inquiry is former SAS officer and Afghanistan veteran Andrew Hastie, who is now a Coalition MP.

200 witnesses, a dozen soldiers assisting and a former officer/veteran who entered politics supporting the inquiry. It seems to me those most dedicated to the professionalism of their craft will welcome inquiry into their actions, as it validates what they already know or uncovers things they would want to hear.

And on that note, I have concerns with the response to an inquiry in this case

…Mr Roberts-Smith, he has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in Afghanistan, insisted he has a “spotless record” and insisted those making claims about him are disgruntled or jealous liars

Any auditor will tell you that angry claims of a “spotless record” can be a tell. Continuous improvement is what people aim for, not spotless records (indicates methods of intimidation and coverup). Also accusing messengers of jealousy can be a tell, which doubles-down on the risk that the accused believes spotless records are a function of destroying critics.

We definitely saw this behavior in the unraveling of Theranos, for example.

Q: The Theranos story has many remarkable aspects. What was the most striking thing you found during your reporting?

A: Two things. One, the egregiousness of the lies, the serial lies, of Elizabeth’s serial lies. Sunny’s, too.

The second thing is the unbelievable campaign of intimidation against me and my sources. I’ve been a journalist for more than 20 years and I’ve never encountered anything close to that. Still, I’m a big boy and the Wall Street Journal has been around for a long time. But Theranos went after my confidential sources. They threatened doctors in Arizona who had spoken to me on the record. It was beyond the pale.

And also with Lance “Live Wrong” Armstrong, as extensively documented

The original whistleblower who helped bring down Lance Armstrong has revealed how she was tormented and intimidated for more than a decade by the cyclist and his allies as they stopped at nothing in their bid to silence her.

Mr Roberts-Smith does himself a disservice by insisting he has a spotless record, and perhaps you can see why that’s not even an objective goal. Even if it doesn’t alarm you on its own, though, attacking critics makes the spotless record seem even less believable.

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