Murderers and jackbooted capitalist thugs
Oskar B., December 2020
After years of consistent accusations and evidence of Australian military atrocities in the occupation of Afghanistan, a report into the matter has been released by the Australian Defence Force. The contents of this report provide some glimpse into the utter horror and barbarity that is Australian imperialism and its role as a partner to American imperialist hegemony and domination. The incidents it publicises, and the despicable war they took place in, are the product of a brutal system of capitalist imperialism. There can be no end to this heinous violence, no justice for its victims, within the institutions of the capitalist class. No fundamental break with the functioning of imperialism and global capitalism will come out of this report itself. Only when we overthrow and eradicate entirely this oppressive system can we put an end to imperial terror and violence.
Australian atrocities in Afghanistan
Documenting incidents by Australian Special Forces (SAS) between 2006 and 2013, the Brereton report concerns 23 incidents which cumulatively saw the extrajudicial murder of over 39 civilian Afghani men, women, and children. While many of the details of individual incidents are heavily redacted within the public report, the specifics we do know are truly horrifying. They demonstrate a sadistic culture involving frequent use of torture for amusement, the practice of “blooding” where new soldiers are expected to take their first life by executing a prisoner, and the consistent cover up of murders by planting evidence. In one incident SAS soldiers slit the throats of two fourteen year old boys after accusing them of being Taliban sympathisers, their bodies were then dumped in a nearby river. In another, a prisoner was executed when soldiers found out there would not be room for him on a helicopter. In another, a man with his hands up was used as “target practice” by Australian forces. Leaked video shows an incident where a soldier executed at point blank range an unarmed civilian cowering in a wheat field. These few examples barely scratch the surface of the incidents included in the report, let alone the likely many more that have not come to light. The brutality and extent of these actions is inhuman. The SAS are a gang of depraved, murderous, imperialist foot soldiers who have for decades committed heinous acts of violence against Afghani civilians with total impunity – all to maintain an imperialist occupation of a foreign country in service of American imperialism.
It’s important to stress that the Brereton report was not released out of the good nature or remorse of the Australian state. Information and evidence exposing the actions of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan has been consistently leaked and broadcast for many years now. And over this entire period, the government has waged a vicious campaign against those who dared attempt to bring to light the reality of what took place. Journalists who published stories as part of the Afghanistan Files in 2017 had their workplaces and homes raided by Federal Police and the intelligence departments. The Australian state has spent years trying and failing to stamp out this story, with the overwhelming volume of information being publicly leaked simply forcing it to directly respond in some way. To this day, the government continues its attacks on those who dared expose the ADF for their actions. David McBride faces 50 years in prison for his part as the major whistleblower for the Afghanistan Files. Even in the wake of the Brereton report, the government has stated it has no intention of ending his prosecution. As with other whistleblower prosecutions, this despicable legal attack on McBride is formulated to strike fear into any prospective future whistleblowers; and therefore leave space for Australian imperialism to commit further atrocities without a hitch.
While the report has shone some light onto the reality of Australia’s imperial violence overseas, and doubtlessly will cause some embarrassment for Australian imperialism, no real justice or reckoning will result from it. The capitalist state protects its own, so it’s entirely unsurprising that this report totally exonerates the entire senior command of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Placing all blame on a “small number of patrol commanders and their protegees”1, the report spins a tale which argues that what occurred was an aberration from the usual “high standards” of Australian involvement in military occupation. This neat narrative allows the report to discuss these atrocities in a way which at no point genuinely undermines the foundations of Australia’s role within the global imperialist order. So it’s no surprise that the entire bourgeois media has been more than obliging in uncritically engaging with this “rogue individuals” narrative.
But this concept of “a few bad eggs” and “rouge battalions” departing from “established standards” is a total farce. Historically the ADF has long been implicated in atrocities and massacres of this calibre throughout their vicious anti-communist crusades in Korea2 and Vietnam3. In Afghanistan, the scale and extent to which this culture of atrocities was exhibited in SAS forces makes it inconceivable that ADF commanders could have no idea about what was taking place. The upper echelons of military command transparently had a total lack of concern for the lives of Afghanis, and through their inaction implicitly sanctioned the evil that took place. The obvious distortion of the report’s conclusions on culpability should raise the question of how many more atrocities we do not know about. How many murders and massacres have been censored or covered up to compose a neat tale placing blame at the foot of a few individuals? This is a question that will not be answered so long as this violent capitalist order remains in power.
Perhaps most importantly; the kind of brutality we saw committed by SAS soldiers needs to be understood as a fundamental feature of the Afghan war in general; and of the entire “war on terror” for that matter. Australian soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are part of an imperialist occupying military force. Soon entering its 20th year, the Afghan war has, by conservative estimates, led to the deaths of over 157,000 people, over 40,000 of whom were civilians4. This doesn’t even take into account the many hundreds of thousands more killed by the American “War on Terror” throughout the Middle East, all fully backed militarily by the Australian state and its military. The entire war and occupation of Afghanistan has been an all-encompassing atrocity, an exercise of naked barbarity and brutality.
Afghanistan – a playground for imperialist plunder
Make no mistake, the war in Afghanistan is a purely imperial affair, embarked on to secure profits for America and its allies. The ruling class of the United States and its allies has never cared about bringing “democracy and freedom” to Afghanistan. It was the US state that funded and supplied the reactionary Mujahedeen throughout the 1980s, installing the Taliban government and actively promoting Islamic fundamentalism. This was done primarily as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, the tactic succeeded in this but totally backfired in achieving the long term goals of American domination in the region. Leading members of the Mujahedeen went on to form Al Qaeda, as well as a Taliban government which was “non-compliant” with American imperialism. In the aftermath of Al Qaeda’s 9/11 terrorist attack, the US government used war fervour as justification to invade Afghanistan to ‘“liberate” it from the people they had backed and installed. In this they were fully backed by their allies, including Australia.
The real motivation for the imperialists in their meddling and slaughter in Afghanistan is drawn exclusively from economic concerns and prospects for geopolitical domination. Situated where it is, Afghanistan neighbours multiple “official enemies” of the American state: China, Russia, and Iran. This makes the nation a coveted location for projecting American hegemony over not just the Greater Middle East but several of its major rivals. The American oil industry has a well documented and decades long desire to build pipelines through the nation and turn it into an important transit point for oil and natural gas. With largely unexploited mineral reserves worth upwards of 3 trillion dollars, the country is literally an untapped goldmine for international capitalists. But even as these sources of revenue remain untapped, the benefits of continued war are, to the capitalists, more than appealing enough to justify their military adventure of constant bloodshed. The war industry reaps the benefits of a perpetual state of war and occupation in Afghanistan, profiting hundreds of billions of dollars off murder and death each year. For a powerful segment of the capitalist class, the perpetuation of this endless state of war in Afghanistan is an immensely profitable affair. Through this war, the capitalists of the imperialist nations have much to gain, while the poor and subjugated continue to be slaughtered.
In both the US and Australia bipartisan commitment to this imperial project is a constant reminder of the complete farce that is bourgeois politics. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats, neither the Liberals nor Labor, have ever faltered on their support for this terrible imperialist war. The Australian government alone has spent over 10 billion dollars on the conflict, hundreds of thousands have died, while sadistic thugs on the frontline of our military occupation commit terrible atrocities with impunity. Do not fall for the smokescreen the Brereton report attempts to construct, the inhuman violence it details, built on the total dehumanisation of Afghani people, is an immutable product of the imperialist terror inherent to this barbaric capitalist system.
Bourgeois Responses to their Imperial Terror
“International law” is the law of imperialist plunder set up by the capitalist powers themselves. But even under this framework Australia and the other participants of the occupation of Afghanistan fail to keep up with the rules they have set up for their own interests. The spate of violent atrocities and imperial terror by the SAS flagrantly violates international law around conduct in war. And this should serve as a demonstration of the utter hypocrisy of the Australian state. In their actions overseas against Afghanis; or at home against Aboriginal people and refugees; it’s clear that our government has no commitment to “international law”. However, despite displaying absolute contempt for this “law” in their own practice, it feels more than qualified to selectively utilise the term to justify further aggression against China (see actions in the South China Sea). This should be no surprise however, international law has always been used as a cudgel against the enemies of the imperialist powers, while never taking aim at those true harbingers of evil who wield it. We should remember that the UN charter was widely used by the imperialists as a legal justification for the initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
The prime minister, who last year provided a funding boost of three billion dollars to the SAS, states he is “disturbed” by atrocities which they committed. But in typical fashion, Morrison never misses a chance to extol praise upon the ADF; “It’s important that we provide all our men and women in our services, and our veterans, with absolute support. They have earned the respect…” he states in his first press conference since the release of the report. This framing of response to the murders was the norm among LNP (and most other bourgeois) politicians. While hardly surprising this framing is still disturbing; as it’s formulated explicitly to affirm continued support for imperialist plunder and the mass death which it entails.
Labor party leader Anthony Albanese was quick to mention how “distressed” he was by the actions of Australian soldiers in this war that his party has consistently supported. The ALP fully backed the initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, which in just its first weeks led to deaths of thousands of civilians. Successive Labor governments under Rudd and Gillard consistently reaffirmed their support for the occupation and promised continued Australian presence in the country for years. Yet in response to these atrocities, Albanese declares: “This is not who we are”5. Bullshit. This is exactly what the Australian state is. These sadistic murderers, thugs of an imperialist order, are a far truer demonstration of the face of Australian capitalism than the cold, calculated statements and obfuscations by the capitalist lackeys in the ALP. They are a reflection of the war that Labor supported, the imperialism that Albanese justifies, and the capitalist system that the ALP machinery exists to maintain.
The Greens have also come out with declarations of disgust at SAS atrocities and demands for justice. Yet those looking for principled opposition to militarism and imperialism will find little to support in the Greens. The party did not oppose the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in 20016. While for several years they have publicly opposed continued Australian troop presence in the nation, current party leader Adam Bandt has made clear in parliament that “The Greens do not oppose the deployment in Afghanistan based on any absolute opposition to the use of military force or from any lack of commitment to our troops”7. Rather, Bandt’s opposition is based not on any principle but on an assessment that the Afghan war was conducted ineptly, that it was a “mistake”, and that the hopes for a clear cut victory by the US and its allies is unlikely. In that same speech, Bandt goes on to flex the imperialist credentials of his party by mentioning their leading role in calling for military intervention in Timor Leste, which imposed Australian economic domination and neo-colonial status on the impoverished nation. All this should demonstrate that despite a progressive facade, the Greens are ultimately a fundamentally bourgeois party. They are thus unwilling and unable to act in a manner that genuinely challenges the underpinnings of capitalist imperialism and the global order, unwilling and unable to challenge the conditions that create the atrocities they now speak against, and as a result useless in the fight against this barbarity.
In the last week, almost all media attention on the crimes in Afghanistan has been subsumed by a tantrum about an online post from a Chinese official. The tweet criticises the atrocities committed by Australian soldiers and includes a graphic which represents the murders. Prime Minister Morrison, far less outraged at the murder of dozens of people than by the audacity of condemning those murders, has raised this totally insignificant online post to an international diplomatic conflict. Never one to miss an opportunity to attack China, Morrison set up a press conference in which he demanded the deletion of the tweet and an official apology from the Chinese government. In a show of bourgeois unity, all the major parties have gone along with Morrison’s tantrum, with both Labor and the Greens condemning the “repugnant” post. This ought to serve as a clear demonstration of the political priorities of these parties. All of these people are on the same side, the side of imperialism.
Whether they call for some change or reaffirm respect for the army, for all their “disgust” the bourgeois parties essentially agree on and accept the global role of Australian imperialism. These atrocities, however, are not aberrations from the norm of the ADF. The inhuman brutality enacted by SAS soldiers shows simply the true naked face of Australian imperialism. There can be no “tame imperialism” free from the “excesses” of military atrocities; as the supposed “progressives” in the Australian bourgeois order advocate. The ADF are the jackbooted thugs of capital and imperialism, in Afghanistan they assisted in a slaughter which has killed over 157,000 people to shore up the profits of the capitalists they serve. It’s time to put an end to the heinous atrocity that is imperialist militarism once and for all; and to seek genuine justice for those subjugated, suffocated and massacred by it. The only way to do this is to overthrow capitalism entirely, to demolish the institutions of capital’s domination within Australia and across the world, and build a future free from this violence.
For Workers Revolution to smash Australian capitalism and it’s ADF!
Australian Imperialists out of Afghanistan and the Middle East!