Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2858

Top soldier given medals for killing Afghan civilians

The Troublemaker looks at the week's news including murdering soldiers, millionaire tax avoiders and the cops fighting thought crime
Issue 2858
Ben Roberts-Smith VC, Australia’s most decorated living soldier, murdered unarmed civilians

Ben Roberts-Smith waiting to get a medal for murder

Ben Roberts-Smith VC, Australia’s most decorated living soldier, murdered unarmed civilians while serving in the military in Afghanistan, a judge concluded last week. Justice Anthony Besanko found that on the balance of probabilities, Roberts-Smith kicked a handcuffed prisoner, Ali Jan, off a cliff in Darwan in 2012 before ordering a subordinate Australian soldier to shoot the injured man dead.

And in 2009, Roberts-Smith ordered the killing of an elderly man found hiding in a tunnel in a bombed-out compound code-named “Whiskey 108”, He also murdered a disabled man with a prosthetic leg during the same mission, using a para machine gun. Roberts-Smith took the man’s prosthetic leg as a war trophy and encouraged other soldiers to drink alcohol from it. Roberts-Smith began the case himself. He sued publications the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times for defamation over stories in 2018 detailing the killings and other crimes. The papers agreed that their articles implied that Roberts-Smith was a war criminal. But they adopted a truth defence, arguing that the allegations were accurate.

In a trial that lasted several years, the court heard testimony from dozens of witnesses, including soldiers who had fought alongside Roberts-Smith in the Special Air Services Regiment. Politicians and much of the media had previously hailed Roberts-Smith as an exemplary figure. In a 2011 sitting of the Australian Parliament, prime minister Julia Gillard and then opposition leader Tony Abbott hailed his VC award. “Ben Roberts-Smith has been called a hero, a legend and a role model, and he is all of these things,” Gillard declared. “But he is also a human being, a husband and a father.”

He was paraded before foreign dignitaries, including former queen Elizabeth II. Roberts-Smith is now liable to pay millions of dollars in costs to the newspapers.

Hurting poor people for having children doesn’t make more jobs

The government’s two-child benefit limit, which cuts  welfare payments to larger families in an attempt to force parents into low-paid work, has failed to increase employment levels.But it has left hundreds of thousands of households in poverty, according to the first study of its kind.

The government introduced the two-child limit in 2017, arguing that removing eligibility for benefits worth £3,000 a year per child for a family’s third and subsequent children would “incentivise” parents to move into work, or work more hours to make up the difference. However, the study from researchers at the London School of Economics says the policy’s impoverishment of larger low-income households has helped few parents get a job.

Instead its “main function” has been to push families further into poverty and damage their mental health. The policy is now estimated to affect about 1.5 million children, with more than a million of them growing up in poverty. More than half the households affected are working families. The study says the two-child policy fails to understand how and why parents in larger low-income families prioritise caring roles over work. It underplays many of the costs and complications of moving into work while bringing up young children, such as finding accessible and affordable childcare.

Impoverishing larger families because the parents actively choose to look after their youngest children “appears to be ineffective at best and discriminatory and harmful at worst”, the study says.

Amazon’s main British division has paid no corporation tax for the second year in a row. Bosses have benefited from tax credits on a chunk of its profit-boosting, job-cutting £1.6 billion of spending on infrastructure, including robotic equipment at its warehouses. Amazon UK Services, which employs more than half of the group’s UK workers, received a tax credit of £7.7 million in the year to the end of December.

What first drew the millionaire MP to tax cuts

Shamed Nadhim Zahawi, who was sacked as Conservative Party chairman over his own tax dealings, is leading a charge of more than 50 rebels calling for cuts in inheritance tax. He said he’s “haunted” at the prospect of paying tax on his fortune when he dies. Mega-rich former cabinet member Jacob Rees-Mogg and ex-Home Secretary Priti Patel are among the right-wingers demanding the tax is scrapped.

About 50 Tories are lining up to demand that chancellor Jeremy Hunt abolishes it in his Autumn Statement later this year. Just 7 percent of estates are required to pay the tax. And people can pass on estates of up to £1 million to their spouse or civil partner without paying any inheritance tax. Zahawi’s family might gain up to £40 million on his reported £100 million fortune if inheritance tax goes—although he will probably have taken measures to make sure he doesn’t pay much of it anyway.

Cops stop journalist for a thought crime

In an act of political repression, six British plain-clothes police detained journalist Kit Klarenberg at Luton Airport last month. He had arrived from Belgrade, Serbia, where he lives. Klarenberg, a writer for The Grayzone, was interrogated and had his bank cards, electronic devices and SD cards seized. He then had his fingerprints, photo and DNA taken, under parts of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019. The officers refused to tell him their names and offered call signs instead.

Klarenberg has written multiple exposures of the British government and intelligence services. Cops interrogated him for over five hours asking about his reports, his employment by The Grayzone and his personal political opinions including on the current British leadership and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In June of last year, Klarenberg used leaked e-mails to show British warmonger Paul Mason’s efforts to shut down The Grayzone and other anti-Nato publications and organisations. Mason reported Klarenberg to the police. Klarenberg remains under investigation.

Things they say

‘Please confirm  you suggested to senior civil servants and advisors that you be injected with Covid-19 on television to demonstrate to the public that it did not pose a threat?’

Question from the Covid-19 inquiry to former Tory prime minister Boris Johnson, based on information it has received

‘Why did you attend a personal/social meeting after you had called on the UK to stop all non-essential contact?’

Another question at the inquiry

‘Did you hold and express the initial view in early 2020 that Covid-19 was not a serious threat and was akin to swine flu?’

Another question at the inquiry

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance