Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Department of Defense have condemned the actions of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan who were photographed flying a Nazi flag.
An August 2007 photo obtained by the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) shows a large flag emblazoned with a swastika — an emblem of the Third Reich — attached to the bonnet of an Australian army jeep in Afghanistan. A defense source confirmed to the ABC the photo was real and the flag was flown for a “prolonged” period of time. They also said the action should be seen as a “twisted joke” rather than a display of any real white supremacist sentiments.
Turnbull called the action “absolutely wrong” and said the commanders took necessary action at the time.
“The flag obviously was removed and the personnel involved were disciplined,” he told reporters in Hobart, without specifying the punishment.
The Defense Department also released a statement saying “Defense and the Australian Defense Forces reject as abhorrent everything this flag represents. Neither the flag nor its use are in line with Defense values. The commander took immediate action to have the offensive flag taken down.”
The Vice Chief of Defense, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, said the flag was destroyed when the soldiers returned to base.
Australia, one of United States’ chief allies, has troops fighting Taliban and other extremist militants in Afghanistan for the past 17 years.
The photo obtained by ABC comes in wake of an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Australian special ops in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016, according to the Business Insider.
Just recently, the Sydney Morning Herald published reports alleging Australian troops tortured and killed prisoners in 2009 and 2012. In one report, Australian soldiers killed a man, then took his prosthetic leg back to Perth and used it as a novelty beer drinking vessel.
On the same 2009 missions, a rookie was pushed into executing an old, unarmed detainee by senior soldiers as part of a “blooding” ritual, according to defense insiders.
Three years later, soldiers kicked a handcuffed detainee off a small cliff, badly wounding his face. They then shot him dead as he lay injured. Special Forces also killed at least two children in Kandahar and then, covered up their deaths.
Observers claimed as the war in Afghanistan went on, Australian special force operatives, who engaged in too many deployments, became desensitized. Over time, the secretive nature of the special ops resulted in a culture allowing fellowship to overpower accountability.
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