Atrocious decision to prosecute Australian soldiers
There is no way that soldiers in the heat of battle can always make wise decisions. And I don't see that they made unwise decisions, anyway. They were under fire from close range and had to shoot back. It's the ignorant bitch who laid the charges who should be disciplined. What would she know about fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan?
The step-father of a Melbourne digger killed in Afghanistan has warned charges laid against elite soldiers over the deaths of five children will cost more Aussie lives.
"My biggest worry is that it will make (soldiers) hesitant about going into combat situations where they have to make a quick judgement but have the added pressure of waiting...which will cost them lives," he said.
He also questioned the decision of Australia's top military prosecutor Brigadier Lyn McDade. "This should have been handled with an inquest first by the army before the decision to lay charges."
The three elite soldiers were involved in a night raid near a village in Oruzgan Province on February 12, 2009 that left five children dead, another two injured and two adults wounded. One suspected insurgent was killed.
One soldier yesterday was charged with manslaughter, and another faces lesser charges including a failure to follow orders and dangerous conduct. The third will be charged when he returns to Australia.
Australia's top military prosecutor, Brigadier Lyn McDade, yesterday confirmed the charges against three former members of No. 1 Commando Regiment.
The unprecedented legal action has sent shockwaves through the military, with sources on army bases saying the decision had left a "bitter feeling through the military". The possible jailing of the trio had caused "enormous angst and upset", with defence personnel discussing Brig McDade's statement as they went about their work.
The commandos - one of whom is understood to be a former Victorian policeman - have received strong support from families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. It's understood two of the soldiers are reservists and one is a regular.
The Director of Military Prosecutions said the accused men would be charged with various offences including manslaughter and failing to obey orders.
But Victoria Cross recipient Keith Payne said the charges against the soldiers should be dropped on the grounds they were fighting for survival. "It's a sad incident, but the enemy has always used the cover of children and the civilian population," the Vietnam veteran said. "These blokes would have drawn fire and not known there were children and gone in protecting themselves."
The father of commando Pte Greg Sher, who was killed in a Taliban rocket attack in January last year, also condemned the charges as "totally unfair". "I would urge Lyn McDade to proceed with caution lest she send out the wrong message," Felix Sher said.
Mr Sher said the Taliban had no regard for human life, placing civilians at risk to protect themselves. "It makes life difficult (for Australian soldiers). It's all very well going by the Geneva Convention, but these insurgents don't operate under the Geneva Convention," he said.
Two of the soldiers yesterday vowed to defend the charges through court. "We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the Director of Military Prosecutions to charge us with offences arising from the incident in Afghanistan on the night of 12 February, 2009," the soldiers, identified only as A and B, said in a statement through legal firm Kennedys.
"We will strenuously defend the charges and we look forward to the opportunity of publicly clearing our reputations, as well as the reputation of the ADF."
They said their actions had saved the lives of Australian and Afghani soldiers involved in the raid.
"It should not be forgotten that the casualties were ultimately caused by the callous and reckless act of an insurgent who chose to repeatedly fire upon us at extreme close range from within a room he knew contained women and children," they said.
The decision to lay charges comes days after the Herald Sun revealed frontline soldiers were complaining they were not getting sufficient support.