27 Feb. 2008

Brave Aussie Diggers Shooting Innocent Iraqis

Your brave Aussie diggers at work:
Lamyaa Al-Saadi, a teacher, and her eight year old son were driving home from visiting family in central Baghdad in February 2005.

As they drove their red Volkswagen through the suburb of Aljaderia, they turned down a street parallel to a road where the Australian High Commission was situated. Nazar Al-Saadi, a 52-year-old shop owner, saw four Australian soldiers on the street and stopped the car.

An Australian soldier then knelt down, pointed his rifle at the car, and - without issuing any verbal instructions or making any signals or gestures to the family - fired four shots into the car. One bullet hit Mrs Al-Saadi, fracturing her face and skull. Her son Ahmed was badly wounded by glass and shrapnel.

The Australian soldier then ran away down the street.

Mrs Al-Saadi was lucky to survive. She lost hearing and sight on her left side, and underwent brain surgery and reconstructive surgery. The whole family is still traumatised by the attack.
OK, I've doctored the text a little to present the story above, but from the family's point at least, that is what happened. This is what our armed forces are doing in Iraq.

Sure, it's encouraging to hear that the Al-Saadi family is now living in government housing in Brisbane, while Mrs Al-Saadi gets access to surgery. But it's sad to hear that their lawsuit against the Australian government is likely to go nowhere.

We must have genuine accountability in these situations. Cash payments in sealed envelopes might work as a deterrent to further violence in Iraq, but we as a nation have our reputation for common decency on the line in cases like this.

And you can be quite sure that this is just one of many that have been quietly swept under the carpet.

What have we become? Are we all OK with this?

The ADF is terrified by the prospect that this legal case might succeed. Neil James, executive director of the Australia Defence Association (ADA), says:
"It's a very, very complex environment where we expect our diggers to make snap judgements on the ground and they shouldn't be analysed in an Australian court years afterwards using Australian peacetime, domestic legal standards.

"It's just not feasible and that's not the way that international humanitarian law and the laws of armed conflict work."
The real question, though, is what are our diggers even DOING on the ground in Baghdad, in contravention of international law, when the local population do not even want them there.

The ADF refuses to disclose how many other "grace payments" have been issued in such cases, or even to concede any wrong-doing in such cases.

I hope our current affairs TV shows will bring Mrs Al-Saadi in front of the cameras and give ordinary Australians a glimpse of the horrors for which we are all responsible in Iraq.