Allegations of 'psycho' Diggers on a rampage
WARNING: Graphic content
The story that whistleblowers told a secret report into SAS culture four years ago included such shocking allegations of war crimes, drugs, "psycho" special forces and sanctioned massacres that soldiers refused to speak face-to-face to protect their identities.
In one instance, investigator Dr Samantha Crompvoets returned to her office at the Defence Department to find an anonymous letter left on her desk.
For the first time, the contents of that secret report can now be revealed, featuring a shameful litany of unlawful killings, drugs, domestic violence and torture.
What the soldiers confessed shocked her, but it horrified military chiefs who ordered further investigations and asked for whistleblowers to come forward.
The report includes allegations of body count competitions, a "large number of illegal killings", claims Special Forces would open fire, killing many men (and sometimes women and children) as they ran away and planting weapons on civilians to justify unlawful killings.
These were, she was told the military, "sanctioned massacres".
BODY COUNT COMPETITIONS
Dr Crompvoets said that she was given the impression that there had been a 'large number of illegal killings that had been "reverse engineered".
Killing was regarded as some sort of initiation rites by some soldiers.
She describes Special Forces landing in "a helicopter or two" in Afghanistan and using the excuse of direct participation in hostilities to justify "just about any atrocity that takes your fancy."
The men told her that they referred to local 'squirters' meaning when they ran from the helicopters, the special forces would open fire.
"The special forces open fire killing many of these men and boys (and sometimes women and children) shooting them in the back, while running away," she wrote.
"Patrol commanders were the worst,'' another soldier told Dr Crompvoets.
"Especially if the patrol commander had been awarded medals for gallantry for example. They are hero worshipped and unstoppable. Executing bad guys is OK, no matter what."
Clearance operations in Afghanistan were described as routinely providing a cover for "legal murder".
"Squirters would then be murdered in the above mentioned fashion. Then, women and children are locked in houses.
"Australian Special Forces would take the men and boys to these guesthouses and 'interrogate' them, meaning tie them up and torture them.
"They would be there for days and the whole village would be deprived of food, water and medicines.
"I was given the impression that under these circumstances they could do anything at all they wanted to and very often did."
POWs BLINDFOLDED, THROATS SLIT, SHOT IN HEAD
After squirters were "dealt" with, Special Forces would then cordon off a whole village, the report said, taking men and boys to guesthouses.
There they would be tied up and tortured by Special Forces, sometimes for days.
"When they left the villages, the men and boys would be found dead, shot in the head, sometimes blindfolded and their throats slit. These are corroborated accounts,'' she said.
In another instance recounted, two 14 year old boys allegedly had their throats slit.
"One disturbing example given to me involved an incident where SASR were driving along a road and saw two 14-year-old boys who they decided might be Taliban sympathisers. They were stopped and searched and their throats slit,'' Dr Crompvoets wrote.
"The rest of the troops then had to 'clean up the mess' by finding others to help dispose of the bodies."
"In the end, the bodies were bagged and thrown in a nearby river. Again, it was impressed upon me this was not an isolated incident."
SPECIAL FORCES TREATED LIKE GODS
One soldier told Dr Crompvoets that the leadership "really, really need to check who is getting public accolades and medals.
"It sends such a bad message and utterly reinforces the acceptability of the crimes people have committed,'' he said.
"They do this sh*t and then they get a medal and we all know what's actually happened. It's a joke. Then they are treated like God's by the younger guys and it just repeats again and again and again.
Dr Crompvoets found allegations of drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, unsanctioned and illegal application of violence on operations, disregard for human life and dignity.
"When you've obviously lived literally that high octane lifestyle, where you've got the power of God, and you come home victorious again and again and again, I think there is a correlation with both coping, but also then the sustainment of that high, and the fact that, 'yeah I'll take ecstasy, cocaine, heroin whatever, that's cool, I'm in control, I can stop when I want,'' a soldier told her.
"Drugs were rampant. Buying, selling, everything. There is a need to keep the intensity up to always be 'up'.
Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell called the allegations "deeply disturbing".
"These findings allege the most serious breaches of military conduct and professional values.
"The killing, the unlawful killing, of civilians and prisoners is never acceptable.
"It is my duty and that of my fellow chiefs to set things right."
Originally published as Brutal claims buried in war crimes report