Thug culture, not a warrior culture, to blame

Nov 27, 2020

“Losers” commit war crimes and are punished and pilloried in news articles, books, documentaries and movies while cover-ups by the victors of their atrocities ensure the winners evade justice. 

Cover-ups generally work. Australian war crimes against civilians are rarely exposed unless you happen to stumble across them such as the barely known 101-year-old ANZAC massacre of Palestinian male villagers of Sarafand.

The AFP’s cloddish raid on the ABC to secure and cover-up the Afghan Files on war crimes perpetrated by 25 members of the SAS inadvertently revealed the seriousness of the crimes.

The Afghan Files whistleblower David McBride’s arrest and prosecution on the faux grounds of being a ‘national security’ threat reveals the Coalition government’s undemocratic modus operandi of silencing exposés of official corruption. The same MO has also been wielded against Witness K and Bernard Collaery for exposing the illegal bugging under the Howard government of the impoverished Timor-Leste government key offices during the Timor Sea negotiations for oil and gas resources.

Attorney General Christian Porter has further cauterised democracy’s rule of law by pushing ahead with the secret trials of Witness K and Bernard Collaery, à la the fascist Stasi show trials. Such moves alert Australian citizens to the fact that the government will strip you of your democratic legal rights should you ever blow the whistle.

Whistleblowers aside for the moment, regarding the Afghan war crimes, Justice Brereton’ report lays the “significant responsibility on

 “Some domestic commanders … bear significant responsibility for contributing to the environment in which war crimes were committed, most notably those who embraced or fostered the ‘warrior culture’ and empowered, or did not restrain, the clique of non-commissioned officers who propagated it.”

Blaming a ‘warrior culture’ is a simplistic deflection away from where the real responsibility lies for the atrocities: the roots of racism and the impunity for cruelty and corruption that underpin Australian culture.

Denial of, and the refusal to address and uproot, this national shame ensures its perpetuity and it comes from the top down, from the men and women who govern without conscience or compassion. The colonial white-anglo-supremacism and racism in the bloody foundations of Australian settlement informed the White Australia Policy, which has never died. It’s there in the ongoing abuse and exploitation of our First Nations people; and in John Howard’s cruel immigration legacy against bona fide brown asylum seekers mainly from nations destroyed by his willing support of illegal US wars.

So it’s no surprise that soldiers inculcated with racism, hypocrisy and the sport of bullying, blithely and without fear of punishment allegedly execute innocent brown people in Afghanistan and Iraq (lest we forget Vietnam, Korea, PNG, Palestine),


  • Ex-PM Howard still hasn’t faced an inquiry into the Iraq war,
  • Australian governments send soldiers to serve and die for the interests of the British and the US Empires,
  • the Australian government tortures Afghani asylum seekers in detention or deports them back to inevitable danger and death,
  • the government could do so much more to protect women from domestic violence,
  • the government continually gets away with rorts and blatant lies,
  • the government enjoys impunity for the 2000 deaths linked to Robodebt, including some alleged suicides,
  • impunity for the deaths of elderly relatives in aged-care homes,
  • the National War Memorial is a place of political propaganda and not a place of truth in its refusal to commemorate the First Nations’ Fallen in the Frontier Wars,
  • and so on ad nauseam………….

I’d argue the 25 (to date) alleged SAS war criminals did not embrace a ‘warrior culture’ but rather the aforesaid ‘thug culture’.

The warrior ideal instills a code of conduct that encapsulates duty, honour, loyalty and bravery.

When I hear ‘warrior’ I think of the brave Indigenous warriors who fought to protect their land against the brutal British invasion; I think of the Samurai ethos of Bushido that is composed of eight virtues: justice, courage, mercy and compassion, respect, honesty, honour and personal dignity.

Whistleblowers are the true warriors who exemplify the Australian spirit of fairness and talking truth to power. The 10-year flaying of Julian Assange’s rights and repute to deter whistleblowers and freedom of speech doesn’t seem to have worked, given that moral truth-tellers continue to step forward … proving time and time again that integrity and courage are stronger than cover-ups and intimidation.

Julian Assange, David McBride, Witness K and Bernard Collaery are warriors whose freedom is our responsibility.

Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She is the author of  East Timor: Reveille for Courage, editor of a volume of Palestinian poetry, I remember my name and writes political commentary for a number of independent online magazines. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was convenor of Australia East Timor Association and coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.

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