Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Australian Special Forces raid which killed Afghan women and children
The death of bystander women and children is of course deplorable but the troops acted solely in self-defence in response to an attempted ambush and while being fired on. So as far as I can see the responsibility for the outcome rests entirely on the man who continued to provoke fire at himself while women and children were beside him in the same room. And his sustained aggression makes mockery of the claim that he was not a Talib. If he was not, he was of the same ruthless mind-set
A soldier at the centre of one of Australia's most controversial and secret military cases has spoken publicly for the first time about a horrific commando night raid in which five Afghan children were killed.
Identifying himself as Dave, the former lance corporal is one of two reservists from the Army's elite 1st Commando Regiment who was charged with manslaughter over the children's deaths in the 2009 raid of a family compound.
The manslaughter case sent shockwaves through the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and was the subject of a sustained public outcry, with accusations of "armchair" ignorance of combat conditions.
An ugly vilification campaign was mounted against the former director of military prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, who had laid the charges.
The case against the men was dismissed prior to a court martial, but Dave and other members of the regiment remain angry that the ADF still has not formally exonerated him or the other soldier, a sergeant, who was charged.
Debate about the case was reignited last week with the release of a ministerial memorandum obtained by Australian Story under Freedom of Information legislation.
The ADF has never given a full public account of the events of that night.
Now Dave — who at the request of his family has not divulged his surname — and other soldiers directly involved in the action, have given Australian Story a detailed description of the circumstances leading up to the raid, what happened on the night and its tragic aftermath.
Australian Story also raises many serious questions yet to be addressed by the ADF. It is still not clear whether the raid was properly authorised or if the intelligence the soldiers were acting on was incorrect and led them to the wrong compound.
The 1st Commando Regiment was sent to Afghanistan in November 2008 on a four-month tour of duty.
They were operating as a strike force, primarily targeting the Taliban leadership on "kill or capture" missions.
A member of the regiment, Corporal Geoff Evans, said all missions were intelligence-driven and had to be approved by senior army ranks, but the information provided was not always reliable.
"The intelligence we received was of varying quality. Sometimes it was very, very good, and other times it felt like they were throwing a dart at a map," he told Australian Story.
Another commando, identified as Corporal W, said: "Quite often we'd go into a compound and it would be what we'd call a dry hole. There'd be nothing there, we'd go in, do our search and then leave. Other times we would go in, capture a Taliban leader, for example, so it varied."
Raiding party redirected
On the night of February 12, 2009, a force of over 20 people, including a number of Afghan National Army personnel and Afghan interpreters, headed towards the tiny village of Sorkh Morghab in Uruzgan Province. They were targeting a Taliban leader.
As directed, they first entered a family compound, but found that the occupants had no Taliban influence or links. The information they had been given was false.
They then received further orders from a lieutenant colonel in Kandahar to proceed to a nearby compound. Details of why these orders were given and the intelligence on which they were based remain unknown.
As the team cleared the second compound, they found a family including an armed man and relocated them to a courtyard.
One of the commandos, Corporal W, told Australian Story that when he looked through the window of another room, he saw a man pointing an AK-47 rifle at a door that soldiers were about to enter.
"I shot him," Corporal W said. "I believe that if I didn't engage him at that time [the soldiers] would have made entry into that door and he would have shot and killed at least one, maybe two of them."
According to Corporal W, the man then fired at him "probably half a mag(azine) from one-and-a-half metres away". "It's a miracle I wasn't killed. Bullets whizzed past my ears and shoulders and glass and wall fragments struck me in the face," he said. Corporal W hit the ground and other soldiers thought he was dead.
Soldiers say they warned gunman to stop firing
According to the Australian soldiers, members of the Afghan National Army, interpreters and some of their own unit were calling out to the armed man to cease fire throughout the altercation.
He continued to fire and Sergeant J — who was also later charged with manslaughter — directed Dave to throw a grenade into the room.
After it detonated, Dave said there was a brief pause in the fire coming from the room and then it continued "at a rapid and sustained rate, hence us believing that there was more than one insurgent in that room".
"It was coming out through the windows and it was coming out through the walls, around eight or 10 centimetres from my head and chest," he said.
The soldiers told Australian Story that the design of the compound meant that the man shooting at them had full coverage of the only exit and that they had no option but to kill him in order to save their own lives.
Sergeant J directed Dave to throw a second grenade, at which point the firing from the automatic AK-47 rifle ceased.
It was not until the dust from this grenade settled and the room was entered that Dave and other soldiers say they realised there were women and children in the room.
Three children were dead and several badly injured. Two babies who were evacuated for medical treatment did not survive, taking the death toll to five children.
Family says gunman not a Taliban fighter
The man who had been shooting at them, Amrullah Kahn, also died after medical evacuation.
His surviving family said he was a peasant farmer and that neither he nor they were affiliated with the Taliban.
A family spokesman, Farid Popal, who lives in Perth, told Australian Story that the Kahn family wanted justice for their devastating loss. "The family want answers as to why their father and their children and other members of the family were attacked, and why did they die?" he said.
Mr Popal said that as far as he was aware, the family had never received an explanation nor an apology from the ADF.
The Left can’t stand it but all over Europe and America politicians are on the rise who put their own countries and culture first. But who will put Britain first?
When ‘Right-thinking’ commenters and the European elite awoke this morning to the prospect that Austria could be the first European country to be led by a populist right leader they were aghast.
In the event Nobert Hofer of the Freedom party narrowly lost his bid to become Austrian President. But it is still a momentous day and I couldn't be happier.
In Austria, European governments should see a narrowly-averted mirror of their own future. Look long and hard my friends, because this is coming your way.
A new populist politics is back in the ascendant, defending national identity and protecting the rights of true nationals from the drain of immigration. And this is just the start of things to come.
Make no mistake: the author of this Europe-wide phenomenon is Merkel. She has penned a new era in history, in which Europe rejects an open-door policy to immigration which would lead to our women being the target of archaic cultures and religions, and rape being a helpless man's only response to the provocative sight of an unveiled woman.
But this is more than a rejection of European immigration policy. This is individual nations asserting their right to self-govern. Peoples voting to protect their sense of self and reassert sovereignty.
These nations do not want to be part of some amorphous whole, a blancmange of nonsense led by a German. And they are fighting back in city squares chanting 'never again'.
Hofer says: 'To those in Austria who go to war for Islamic State or rape women, I say to those people: “This is not your home.”'
I have a strong sense many of you would vote for a British leader with precisely these views.
And Hofer is not alone. The Danish People's Party has 21 per cent of the vote and publicised its policy of removing valuables over the value of £1,045 from immigrants to pay for their welfare. It also placed adverts in Lebanese newspapers warning against migration to Denmark.
The UK, on the other hand, advertises its benefits and accommodates migrants in hotels.
In Finland the populist Right argues that true Finns take priority in social and healthcare spending.
The UK prioritises immigrants for school places and council homes and gives away healthcare for free.
Marine Le Pen's National Front (FN) is the biggest nationalist challenge to Europe's liberal democratic traditions. She has modernised the party and mobilised support in the face of terror attacks.
It suits the Left to throw out insults and put lazy labels on these political parties, seeking to marginalise or discredit them
In Germany, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Switzerland — parties which espouse the same views are also on the rise.
Questioning immigration, the EU and the establishment, while promoting a strong sense of nationalist sentiment, is now entirely ‘salonfaehig’, as German-speakers would say.
Their ugly word for ‘passable in your living room’ — or, as we would say, socially acceptable. Merkel, for the record, is not salonfaehig in my home.
The Swiss even use controversial black-sheep posters to make their point about immigration.
Liberals call them racist but, frankly, when do they ever stop using that term, so overused to have lost all meaning? If I'm not being called racist, I barely recognise myself.
But it suits the Left to throw out insults and put lazy labels on these political parties, seeking to marginalise or discredit them despite their obvious electoral success and democratic support.
It calls these parties the Far Right, hoping you will close your eyes, picture a skinhead with a beer belly and an England flag tattooed on his forehead, and snigger.
But remember, this breed of lazy socialists also mocked Donald Trump, and will continue to do so as he ascends the steps to the White House.
They smirk, cocooned in their London bubble as will no doubt still be listening to the BBC still calling Donald Trump a buffoon even as he descend the stairs from Air Force One.
Meanwhile Americans want him to speak up on their behalf. To be the voice of the people, to Make America Great Again, to halt immigration, protect their cultural identity and reassert their right to look after their own culture first.
It’s no coincidence Hofer and Trump both use the same slogan: America/Austria First!
And these words are being echoed all around Europe. Restrict immigration, self-govern, reassert the right to put your own people first.
And as I look west towards Trump in the White House, east to Hofer in Austria and Le Penn resurgent in France, north towards the Danish People's Party with the toughest immigration rules in Europe, and south to the stronghold of the Swiss People's Party — I see a political compass whose true direction is set on national identity and sovereignty.
This movement is supported by people living in their cultural homeland, working hard, paying taxes, looking for someone, anyone, to speak up for their rights, their country, their future.
And if Merkel continues the madness of trying to fast-track Turkey into the EU, millions more will join them.
Just as if Britain has the guts to vote to leave the EU, I have no doubt citizens all over Europe will start demanding that they too get a vote.
All over the Western world, multiculturalism is being rejected in favour of national identity. The surge of populist politics of the Right reflects a deeper will of the people to take back power from those who believe we are all equal. We all have rights.
All over the Western world, multiculturalism is being rejected in favour of national identity.
If you come to our country and fight for Islamic State, rape our women, and then ask Europe to defend your human rights, this is not your home. Our NHS, our schools, our local doctors’ surgeries — they are not yours to monopolise either. Our children should come first.
The balance of power is shifting. Raising the spectre of fascism is just lazy labelling
This is not the silencing of humanity, nor the deafening roar of bald men in black boots and bomber jackets waving the Union, fighting their own shadows.
This is the rise of common sense. This is your voice being heard.
Police officer in Freddie Gray case is acquitted on all charges
A police officer was acquitted of all charges Monday in the arrest of Freddie Gray, a black man who suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody. The verdict is likely to renew debate over whether anyone will be held responsible for Gray’s death.
The officer, Edward M. Nero, sat with a straight back and stared forward as Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams, who ruled on the case after the officer opted to forgo a jury trial, read his verdict on the charges of second-degree assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment.
“The verdict on each count,” said Williams, concluding his reading after about 30 minutes, “is not guilty.”
“The state’s theory has been one of recklessness and negligence,” Williams said. “There has been no evidence that the defendant intended for a crime to occur.”
Nero, who was implicated not in the death of Gray but in the opening moments of his arrest, then stood and hugged his lawyers as supporters pressed forward to congratulate him. He wiped away tears and, at one point, embraced Officer Garrett E. Miller, who is also charged in connection with the arrest of Gray
About a dozen protesters gathered outside the courthouse in the moments after the verdict was rendered, and some chanted the familiar protest cry, “No justice, no peace.”
“To see that officer walk away, and still no accountability, that hurts me the most,” said the Rev. Westley West, a frequent presence at demonstrations related to Gray’s death. “That could be me.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake pleaded for calm, noting that Nero still faces a departmental review and could face disciplinary action. ‘‘We once again ask the citizens to be patient and to allow the entire process to come to a conclusion,’’ she said.
The verdict, the first in any of the six officers implicated, comes a little more than a year after Gray died in April 2015.
The first trial, against Officer William G. Porter, ended with a mistrial in December. Gray’s death embroiled parts of Baltimore, which has a history of tension between the police and its residents, in violent protest and became an inexorable piece of the nation’s wrenching discussion of the use of force by officers, particularly against minorities.
Many demonstrators had felt vindicated last year when the city’s top prosecutor, Marilyn J. Mosby, announced charges against the officers, but legal specialists have questioned whether they were too ambitious.
Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said that Mosby had “overplayed her hand.”
Charges were filed too quickly, he said, adding that prosecutors should have spent more time bolstering cases against one or two officers who may have been most culpable. “Someone dying doesn’t always make it a crime,” Moskos said. “The prosecutors are trying to find social justice, but these are trials of individual cops.”
A lawyer for Nero, Marc Zayon, called for the charges against the remaining officers to be dropped.
‘I’m thankful we’re even in court, that charges were brought. But now we’ve got to come out with something.’
“Like Officer Nero,” Zayon added, “these officers have done nothing wrong.”
The Police Department said Monday that the internal review of Nero, 30, who remains on administrative leave, will not be resolved until after the trials of the other officers involved.
The Jewish story is under assault
by Yossi Klein Halevi
Who are the Jews? A religion? A people? The question has taken on a special urgency in our time. At the heart of the anti-Zionist assault is the notion that the Jews aren't a people but only a faith. That premise is normative throughout the Arab world, and especially in the Palestinian statehood movement, all of whose factions deny the existence of a distinct Jewish people with a right to national sovereignty.
The Jewish calendar tells a different story. On Passover, we celebrate the birth of the Jewish people through our escape from Egypt; it's the beginning of a coherent historical narrative. On Shavuot, two months later, we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Sinai, imprinting the Jewish people with a distinct path to God. The Jews, then, are a people with a specific faith. In that order.
The Passover Seder implicitly reinforces that hierarchy of identities. The essential Seder ritual is the retelling of the exodus — “as though you yourself left Egypt” — and the message is: There is no Judaism without the Jewish people and its story.
My late teacher, Rabbi David Hartman, noted that the definition of Jewish heresy provided by the Haggadah, the text read at the Seder, simultaneously offers a definition of Jewish identity. The “evil child” of the Haggadah refers to the Jewish people as “you” rather than “us.” Unlike Christianity and Islam, where heresy is the rejection of belief, for Judaism heresy is self-exclusion from the community.
As a religious Jew, I believe that our relationship to God is the purpose of Jewish existence. I believe that contemporary Jewish life has been impoverished by the diminishment of the Divine, the abandonment of the quest for the living God in our collective and personal lives.
Yet I also believe that peoplehood is more crucial to Judaism than faith. How else can we make sense of the Jewish atheist? Christians or Muslims who reject religious doctrine are no longer a part of their faith community, while Jews who reject Judaic beliefs but still identify with the Jewish people, its values and its fate are universally regarded among Jews as one of us.
Peoplehood is given primacy over faith for the sake of the faith itself: The Jewish people is the carrier of Judaism.
All three monotheistic faiths share the same goal: the revelation of God's presence in this world. But Judaism, once again, works a little differently. While one can of course convert and become a Jew, Judaism was never intended to be a universal faith, only the faith of a specific people — whose purpose is to be a spiritual avant guard within humanity for its eventual redemption. Judaism is a particularist strategy for a universalist goal.
In its early stages in 19th century Germany, Reform Judaism tried to turn Jewish identity into a faith without a people and a land, insisting that its Zion was Berlin, not Jerusalem. Ultimately, though, the Reform movement returned to a more classical understanding of Jewish identity. Even ultra-Orthodox Jews, who routinely place the most strict interpretation of Jewish law over the well-being of the Jewish people, accept peoplehood as a core religious principle.
The Seder culminates with the affirmation, “Next year in Jerusalem,” a reminder that the Jewish story that begins in Egypt ends in the land of Israel. We're a specific people bound to a specific place.
Last week, as Jews around the world prepared for Passover, the war against the Jewish people and its story — against the meaning of Passover itself — took a particularly ugly turn. A UNESCO resolution, sponsored by seven Arab countries, denounced Israel for supposed violations of Muslim rights to prayer on the site that Muslims call the Haram el Sharif and Jews call the Temple Mount. The resolution ignores the fact that the Israeli government enforces a ban on Jewish prayer at the holy site, granting Muslims exclusive right to pray there. Worse, the resolution implicitly denies the Jewish connection to the area by never actually using the term Temple Mount (only Haram el Sharif). It does refer to the Western Wall, but places that label in quotation marks while leaving the Muslim equivalent, Al Buraq, intact, as though that were the only authentic name.
Reading the resolution, one could conclude that there was no ancient Jewish temple on the Temple Mount, that the Mount isn't the holiest site in Judaism, that the Western Wall isn't the heart of Jewish prayer. One could conclude, therefore, that the Jews living in Israel today have no historic claim to the land, passed down through generations. Of all the attempts to destroy us throughout our history, the campaign against history itself is the most devious.
Passover suggests this definition of the Jews: We are a story we tell ourselves about who we think we are. The current assault on the Jewish story is so dangerous precisely because it strikes at that core idea.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.