Australian SAS war crimes in Afghanistan and their subsequent cover up playing out like a Joseph Conrad novella.
If you are of a particular age you have likely seen the movie Apocalypse Now, or have at least heard of it. Francis Ford Coppola’s screen epic was his modern day take on the Joseph Conrad novella Heart Of Darkness, which was first published in 1899. First released in 1979, it was re-released in 2001 as Apocalypse Now Redux with an additional 48 minutes of footage not in the original. If you haven’t seen it yet and think you might want to in the future I recommend watching this version.
A brief synopsis.
Whereas Apocalypse Now is set in the jungles of South East Asia during the Vietnam War, Heart Of Darkness plays out in the heart of what was referred to back then as deepest, darkest Africa at the dawn of the ivory trade in the late 19th century.
Characters (protagonist(s)& antagonist(s))
Heart Of Darkness is a story told by the protagonist, Charles Marlowe, who has lived his life at sea. He recounts of a job he once took for a company that exported ivory which would take him up the Congo river to pilot one of their boats out of a remote station deep in the jungle. Along the way he hears about an agent named Kurtz whose praises are sung by all. He’s their top producing agent and sells more ivory than all of the other agents combined and is highly prasied by all.
In Apocalypse Now the Marlowe character is replaced with Martin Sheen’s Capt. Benjamin Willard, who has been called back to Saigon for a special assignment. It is Willard who serves as the narrator of the story. Kurtz is now Col. Walter E. Kurtz, special forces commander and young rising star, played hauntingly by Marlon Brando.
Key Plot Moments
Heart Of Darkness
The company that hired Marlowe is curious to know how Kurtz is able to acquire the fantastic amount of ivory that he does, and so sends some men out to investigate. They ultimately come to find out that when Kurtz first arrived he had encountered a primitive tribe living in the forest. Ever the good Christian Englishman, Kurtz made an attempt to civilize this group he saw as savages and was encountering a bit of difficulty in doing so. In an effort to try to get through to the tribesmen better Kurtz decides to try to approach them on their own level, and ultimately begins dressing and acting like a savage himself. He begins to employ their methods, and in doing so is not only accepted by them but revered as a god, while his employers are aghast at his methods. Finding these methods to be “unsound” they set out to have Kurtz killed, though it is moot since Kurtz is already gravely ill and ultimately dies before anyone could murder him.
Captain Benjamin Willard has been sent to Saigon on a top secret assignment. He’s summoned to a meeting with a general and a member of the CIA where he is told about Colonel Walter Kurtz’s past and his present situation. Col. Kurtz has gone rogue, having become revered as a god in the same way as the othe Kurtz, and the men who created him now want his command to be “terminated with extreme prejudice”. As a matter of reference this is, as far as I know, the first mention on film of the phrase “terminate with extreme prejudice”, which became popular in the 80’s and thereafter. I won’t go any further so as to not spoil things for those who might want to watch it later.
Examination of morals
Both stories take a deep look inside the psychology behind the behaviour of the characters and in each case, the creators of the “monsters”, for lack of a better word, acknowledge that they have created a monster albiet inadvertantly. The company, or government as in Apocalypse Now, then takes action to eliminate Kurtz out of a sense of fear but also does so perhaps with a sense of morality behind it. Aside from the fear of being found out, they needed to put a stop to the creature they helped to create and set loose into the world lest it do any more damage.
A contemporary interpretation based on real events.
Over the last several months I have improved my skills as a writer and have received positive reviews and feedback from those who have read my stuff. Saying this, I by no means think of myself as being in the same company as Joseph Conrad or Francis Coppola, but I can’t resist taking a crack at my own attempt at an interpretation of this story, with a rather important twist to it however, as you will see. This stuff really does write itself sometimes.
This is a story in real time, the end has not been written yet. The characters and events are real. As always bear in mind that real life can often be much stranger than fiction.
The title – Soul Of Darkness
The way I see it, this tale can be viewed from a couple of different lenses. It can seen as an interpretation of the original story or, as another part to it like a sequel. In calling it Soul Of Darkness I’m leaving the door open to a lot of things and allowing the reader to view it in what ever way they wish.
The story primarily takes place in wartorn Afghanistan in the years 2011 and 2012, although Australia is also the backdrop for a portion of it. Events that took place in the villages of Sarkhoum and Darwan will make these places of great significance to this story.
The protagonist of this story, the Charles Marlowe/Capt. Willard if you like, is Australian Defense Force whistleblower David McBride, whose story I have been following for over a year. He is currently on trial in an Australian court after he released an unknown number of classified government documents to the newsmedia, and faces decades in prison for his actions. Some of these documents revealed that members of the elite Australian SAS had committed war crimes while in Afghanistan.
The Aussie Files: Scandal Of Criminal Proportions
There is no single Kurtz character playing the antagonist here however, as individual SAS members and teams play a part in this but so do their commanders on the ground as well as high level officers and ministers within the Australian government. Men like Generals Angus Campbell, David Morrison, and the current Governor General of Australia David Hurley. Perhaps the one who would personify it best however would be an individual known only as “Soldier B”, who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 2016 under dubious circumstances.
McBride tells us the story of soldiers who have gone rogue and committed horrific acts that are with absolutely no question war crimes. Remember that Major McBride is a highly talented attorney, expert in international law and the laws of conflict. When he tells you that something is a war crime you can take it to the bank that it is one. He was a legal officer in Special Operations Command and he’s talkimg about the war crimes that he’s aware of and that weren’t acted upon at the highest of levels. In fact the officials in the Ministry of Defense and other senior officials had knowledge that these acts were occurring and did absolutely nothing about it, other than act to cover them up and keep them out of the public eye.
David McBride’s YouTube Channel – David McBride Trial
McBride has been telling his story on his YouTube channel he created a little less than a year ago. David McBride’s Trial begins with him discussing his case and making an appeal for donations to a legal defense fund, then trails off until about a month ago, early July, when he began making videos again. This time he is beginning to tell us what he knows about the war crimes that were committed by certain elements within the SAS. It’s important to note that this behaviour is not reflective of a majority of the men there and that these were indeed rogue elements within the storied elite special forces regiment.
Names places and incidents.
In an incredible series of videos made between July 5th, 2020 and August 6th, 2020, McBride tells a gripping story that is at times difficult to hear but must be heard. He begins by telling of the status of his case, which is currently on hold as prosecutors consult with the Americans about the case. Yes, the Americans. Our Five Eyes ally knows about this case and now has influence over a criminal trial in Australia, another Five Eyes ally, yet this influence isn’t reciprocal. This surprises me not.
As he proceeds further though things begin to on a somewhat darker tone. Now is where we begin to hear about the incidents that he is privy to, the ones in the documents he leaked to the press, the ones where criminal acts, atrocities, have been committed. The names of two villages emerge, Sarkhoum and Darwan. Things happened there, terrible things, and lies were told in after action reports to cover them up. An alleged Taliban killed in an exchange of fire is in actuality an innocent civilian, taken prisoner and then kicked to death after being seen by a medic. The perpetrator, a member of the SAS who would recieve the Victoria Cross for actions while in Afghanistan. A hero who won perhaps the most prestigious award for gallantry and bravery in the world, is a cold-blooded murderer. In another incident that took place on September 11, 2012, a prisoner was thrown off a cliff by this man who would then order an Afghani soldier to shoot the prisoner as he lay on the ground in a crumpled heap.
It again must be said that these incidents were the exception and that the vast majority of operators in Afghanistan acted professionally and with honor in accordance with ancient laws and traditions of warfare. But none of them were awarded for their actions as much as “Soldier B”. McBride’s message to those in the SAS who may be upset that he’s talking is this, “Get over yourself”. He went to the wall for the SAS as a legal officer but these are war crimes and he simply will not abide that.
It was all captured on video
There were drones in the sky keeping watch over every mission that special operators conducted, including the SAS. All of the incidents that occurred would have been seen by those on the ground and the information passed along up the chain of command. The men in charge knew exactly what was going on. Men like Angus Campbell who was promoted to Major General and given command over all Australian forces in Afghanistan in 2011. He would later go on to become Chief of the Army and is the current Chief of the Defense Staff.
David Hurley was the CDS in 2011 and as such is also implicated in this. Not a very good look for a man who is currently the Queen’s representative in Australia, the Governor General. You would expect that the vice-regent would be of somewhat higher quality, however this is not exactly a position known to be filled by the best of people and this applies anywhere in the commonwealth. Canada would be a perfect example.
There is no way they couldn’t have known what was going on, they were the men in charge. The footage from the drones and from the bodycams of the operators would be there for all to see. What they did was morally and etically reprehensible and also legally wrong. If the Yamashita Standard is applied, they should be facing trial in International Criminal Court.
The Yamashita Standard
General Tomoyuki Yamashita commanded Japanese forces in Singapore during World War Two and was charged with war crimes. By all accounts General Yamashita was an good and honourable army officer, and was not a fanatical follower of the emperor. Troops under his command committed war crimes and atrocities which he claimed at trial to have absolutely no knowledge of. The prosecution asserted that as their commander Yamashita was responsible for the actions and conduct of his troops whether he was aware if it or not. He was subsequently found guilty and hanged in 1947.
Australia has jurisdiction
It is worth noting however that the ICC would not become involved unless and until Australia failed to act on the matter on its own first. So now it will be up to the Generals’ masters to decide their fate, and this does not give one much comfort that much will be done about it. Those politicians and nabobs in Canberra will dither and drag things out, trying to keep this out of the light as much and for as long as possible in the hope this eventually dies of natural causes. But it won’t, too many people know too much now. Information is starting to see the light of day and public scrutiny, and there is much, much more to come.
Examination of morals
The fear and morality that motivated the termination of Kurtz in the first two stories is absent here. Now the government, aware of the monster, does nothing to stop it. It will in fact attempt to benefit from the monster and it’s actions. It is completely bereft of morality and humanity and if the heart of darkness beat in the previous two charcters then what we see now is in fact the very soul of darkness. Pure evil and malevolence personified in the form of a nations politicians and military leaders. It is a nightmare come to life in an all to real manner.
So much more to tell, you need to see the videos
For the sake of brevity I have left out a great deal from the videos so there is plenty more to tell than what I have written here. Take the time to watch the videos that David McBride has posted, and listen to the things he says for yourself, carefully. Follow along as this story unravels before your eyes, in real time.
A cautionary tale about democracy
Even though this story is playing out in Australia it will have an affect that extends far beyond its borders. Once thought of as being the safest democracy in the world, Australia finds itself today on the verge of becoming a totalitarian police state. The level and outright blatant amount of corruption is astonishing even by Canadian standards. In fact Canadian politicians could learn a thing or two about corruption from their Australian counterparts, and this is the problem. Left unchecked, this corruption could easily spread to other democracies. Other governments will learn from the Australian example and begin stripping their citizenry of their rights and freedoms.
Justin Trudeau has shown a propensity for engaging in corruption just like other Liberal PM’s have, and unless Canadians do something to rectify the current situation they face the very real prospect of experiencing the nightmare now facing Australians.
The story remains unfinished
There is still a great deal more to be told. This is only the beginning of Soul of Darkness and it will continue to unfold in the days, weeks, and months to come. It is a story of bravery and courage, and also one of cowardice and greed, and the outcome is yet to be determined. We all have a part to play in how this story will end. Will we simply sit back and watch as those in control attempt to exert more and more control over us? Or, will we stand up for ourselves and for our freedoms? Will we fight for and with the whistleblowers like the David McBrides of the world, or will we be content to do nothing and let evil reign? I have chosen my side.
Australian Media Continues To Miss Mark In Whistleblower Case
When Is A Secret Not A Secret?
Whistleblower: The Trial of Major David McBride
David McBride Trial – YouTube Channel