Dr Samantha Crompvoets tells the story of a report on war crimes in Afghanistan


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The woman who first heard the shocking confessions that led to this week’s report has revealed what happened behind the scenes.

She was the outsider who broke the code of silence on unlawful killings among Australia’s elite special forces.

But Canberra-based military sociologist Dr Samantha Crompvoets was originally tasked with delivering an entirely different report: an investigation of special forces culture and tensions with commandos.

What she discovered five years ago in a document that has remained confidential until this week, was a story that would shake up the military and tear the reputations of men “like God” who risked their lives in Afghanistan in Australia’s longest war.

A soldier told him, “The guys just got this thirst for blood. Psychosis. Absolute psychosis. And we raised them.

Dr Crompvoets wrote that soldiers told him about incidents in which special forces cordoned off an entire village, taking men and boys to guesthouses.

“There they were tied up and tortured by special forces, sometimes for days. When the special forces left, the men and boys would be found dead: from a bullet to the head or blindfolded and their throat slit, ” she wrote.

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She also says that two 14-year-old boys were arrested and searched by SAS soldiers, before being cut their throats.

“The rest of the troop then had to ‘clean up the mess’ which involved bagging the bodies and dumping them in a nearby river,” she wrote.

His shocking secret letter to Defense Forces chief Angus Campbell included soldiers making comparisons to the massacre of unarmed civilians during the Vietnam War in the village of My Lai and the torture of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. .

The soldiers confided in him their horror and disgust at what they had seen and heard.

“So for me they knew they were telling me things and I would report them directly to Angus Campbell,” she told news.com.au.

“There was that kind of, ‘she’s got the chief’s ear.’ It was an advantage for me. Sometimes it was a criticism of me. But they knew I was going to make an accurate report, or that I could get the message across to the right person. “

The soldiers wanted to talk but feared the repercussions.

“It’s quite complex for them to talk about these things internally because they felt so threatened,” she said.

“There were so many people who wanted to protect the reputation of special forces. It was just too difficult. It was too hard. “

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She handed over two documents in 2016. The report she was commissioned to deliver and an unrestricted private letter to General Campbell describing what she had found.

But the woman the soldiers also told their secrets made a point of noting that she had never fought in war or even served in the military.

Dr Crompvoets almost apologized in his letter, noting that she is academic and not military.

She holds a PhD in Population Health Epidemiology from the ANU School of Sociology and a BSc from the University of Melbourne in History and Philosophy of Science / Psychology.

She did not test or investigate the allegations, but simply reported them. It was the Brereton Report that then investigated these allegations in the years that followed.

An expert in organizational culture, she was commissioned in 2015 to speak to soldiers and delivered her shocking report in 2016.

“This second report was actually what I was committed to doing. It was almost like, “Here’s the response to what you contacted me to do,” she said.

“But in doing this report, I also said, ‘This is what I’m hearing. And Angus (Campbell) said write everything down.

Dr Crompvoets’ work sparked the Australian Defense Forces Inspector General’s long-standing report into the Afghanistan investigation, known as the Brereton Report, which was released on Thursday.

His own report was also made public for the first time as an attachment.

She admitted to being confronted with the magnitude of the letter she sent in 2015.

“I hit send and took an international flight. It was such a huge thing. It was “send” and then I just needed to unzip, “she said.

“There was no question that it was taken incredibly seriously. This is why writing this letter was so important. Rereading now, I have spent so much time trying to situate myself. I never went to war. So I felt incredibly vulnerable. But they were just fantastic.

She admits that reading the Brereton Report this week was a cathartic feeling.

“Honestly, it wasn’t until I read the Brereton report the other day. I had a huge meltdown just reading it. I sobbed and sobbed,

“I think I intentionally kind of forgot what I wrote. I had really pushed him down.

“They just needed this avenue. But even these last few days, I get so many messages from people wanting to disclose things saying, “I served in this regiment, right now I want to tell you some things. Please call me.'”

Originally posted as Dr Samantha Crompvoets tells the inside story of the Afghanistan war crimes report

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