Nazi flag on Aus­tralian army ve­hi­cle 'ut­terly un­ac­cept­able', Turn­bull says

The Guardian Australia - - News - Naa­man Zhou

Mal­colm Turn­bull and the Depart­ment of De­fence have con­demned Aus­tralian sol­diers who flew a Nazi flag above an Aus­tralian army ve­hi­cle in Afghanistan.

Leaked pho­tos taken in Au­gust 2007, ob­tained by the ABC, show the ve­hi­cle fly­ing a flag em­bla­zoned with a swastika dur­ing oper­a­tions.

De­fence con­firmed that the pho­tos were gen­uine, and said they “re­jected ev­ery­thing the flag rep­re­sents”.

“De­fence and the Aus­tralian de­fence force re­ject as ab­hor­rent ev­ery­thing this flag rep­re­sents,” a spokesper­son said.

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“Nei­ther the flag nor its use are in line with De­fence val­ues. It is to­tally in­ap­pro­pri­ate for any ADF ve­hi­cle or com­pany to have a flag of this nature.”

Ac­cord­ing to De­fence, the com­mand­ing of­fi­cer “took im­me­di­ate ac­tion” to re­move the flag, and the sol­diers re­spon­si­ble were “im­me­di­ately cau­tioned at the time”.

How­ever, a De­fence source told the ABC the flag was flown “for a pro­longed pe­riod”, and that im­ages of the flag were cir­cu­lated among Aus­tralian sol­diers. The source added that it was a “twisted joke”, and was not a gen­uine en­dorse­ment of Nazism or white supremacy.

Turn­bull said the flag was “com­pletely and ut­terly un­ac­cept­able”. “It was ab­so­lutely wrong and their com­man­ders took ac­tion at the time,” the prime min­is­ter said on Thursday.

The leaked pho­tos come af­ter an in­ter­nal De­fence in­quiry was launched into the cul­ture of the de­fence force’s elite spe­cial forces, and po­ten­tial war crimes com­mit­ted by Aus­tralian troops in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, Fair­fax Me­dia re­ported that a rookie SAS of­fi­cer had been pres­sured by su­pe­ri­ors to kill an el­derly, un­armed de­tainee in Afghanistan in 2009 as part of a “blood­ing” rit­ual. De­fence per­son­nel who were wit­nesses to the ex­e­cu­tion la­belled it ab­hor­rent.

In an­other in­ci­dent, an Afghan man who was killed by Aus­tralian troops had his pros­thetic leg taken from his body and used as a nov­elty drink­ing ves­sel in Perth.

Ac­cord­ing to sol­diers present, the man was bound as a pris­oner and then pushed off a cliff. Sol­diers then de­cided to ma­chine gun him to “get him out of his mis­ery”.

In a state­ment to Fair­fax, the de­fence force said the al­le­ga­tions of war crimes would be in­ves­ti­gated by an in­quiry con­ducted by the in­spec­tor gen­eral of the ADF.

“The IGADF Afghanistan In­quiry has, for some time, been aware of al­le­ga­tions of sig­nif­i­cant is­sues in­volv­ing the Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Task Group in Afghanistan, which are within the scope of the In­quiry,” the state­ment said.

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