Light from the Heart of Darkness?

I remember when David McBride’s father William McBride was presented to the world as a hero for exposing the drug thalidomide. Both David and his father, William, are whistleblowers – David in The Afghan Files and William about the abnormalities produced in children by Thalidomide. David is charged with breaching The Defence Act for releasing ‘information to people that weren’t entitled to it, and it wasn’t his duty to do so.’

A question of duty – military whistleblower
David McBride, interviewed by Michael West, gives some insights into why he went to Afghanistan as a soldier.

McBride: “I went to grad school in Sydney, I joined the British military first, I went to Sandhurst, I went to Oxford University. I was never like Julian Assange, I was never sort of against the Americans. I was never against the British. I really believed in the rule of law. I did a tour of operations in Northern Ireland.

David said that he was an idealist and believed in authority and that he believed Australia (and Britain) were doing the right thing.

That’s one of the misconceptions: that whistleblowers are activists or bomb throwers; generally where people (whistleblowers) very much believe in doing the right thing, when we believe we believe the propaganda that actually the government is good and the government follows the law.” – David McBride.

What does that make whistleblowers who are at odds with military industrial complex from the outset? Are we to infer that Julian Assange, is an ‘activist or bomb thrower? And what about Grace Tame and Britanny Higgins, are we to think that they have a political agenda when they exposed our parliamentarians for their lies and hypocrisy in their treatment of sexual harassment and abuse?

Dr McBride’s letter to the Lancet 1961

David McBride was nearly 30 years of age when his father was exposed as a fraudster and was struck off the medical register. Many women suffered as a result of his father’s falsification of drug trials. William McBride got away with it for years because he had been made a hero for detecting that thalidomide caused abnormalities in children. Was McBride the elder looking for recognition? He was not a researcher he was a pediatrician.

It may not have been William McBride who discovered that thalidomide caused defects in children … at least one ABC report claims it was a midwife at the hospital, Sister Pat Sparrow. [ABC: “Dr William McBride: The flawed character credited with linking thalidomide to birth defects” @ https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2018-06-29/thalidomide-william-mcbride-flawed-character-norman-swan/9920608]. In the end it was a geneticist and paediatrician Professor Widukind Lenz who discovered how thalidomide caused abnormalities.

Iraq
Since the early 1990s the ‘coalition of the willing‘ was using depleted uranium (DU) causing widespread abnormalities in Iraqi children.

“The Gulf War may have been a triumph against Saddam Hussein, but increased numbers of cases of cancer among war veterans and Iraqi civilians have been alleged ever since, and have been linked to the use of DU”The Lancet February, 2001 @ https://doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(00)00208-4

The effects of depleted uranium was exposed by The Lancet, the same medical journal that published his father’s letter, in December 1961, about Thalidomide. So, as it turns out, David’s father was a whistleblower as well.

David McBride went to Oxford … so what did he learn there? He joined the British Army went to police Northern Ireland for the British and did two tours of duty in Afghanistan? Young men and women in the British Army got blown up by IEDs throughout that twenty year war.

David gives his own testimony of the murders and horrors by Australian soldiers.

McBride: “It’s just, it’s just disgusting. Bs, it’s not national security information that a crime occurred and a child was murdered, and it was covered up by a government official. That’s a crime. And people need to speak (out) and no matter. I will, they could, they could execute me. But I will never say that it’s okay for the government to stop people talking about murders of children by soldiers because the government says (so). That’s wrong”

According to David McBride the Australian military was ineffective against a part time insurgency in Afghanistan.

McBride: “But we couldn’t even beat the Taliban with all these fancy drones and supersonic jets … one things I got angry with, there was a very good plane they used over there … it’s a cold war 50s design called the Warthog, it flies slow. Got a big cannon on it, it was perfect for fighting the Taliban, when you’re stuck down and they’re surrounding you … this slow plane comes in it’s like (you think), you know, you’re going to be alright. Anyway, they had plenty of them. They could have kept making them. But they phased them out. And the soldiers on the ground said what are you getting rid of our best weapon for and they bought in these, the F35 $6 billion plane, which wasn’t even as good. You know it because it flew so fast. (It) couldn’t just hit the targets on the ground, you have to come back for another one (fly over). By that time everyone was dead, you know, but because Boeing or McDonnell or whoever was pushing them in Washington.”

Response by the Australian government
“It would be inconceivable that Australia as a US alliance partner, would not join in military action”.Minister for Defence, Peter Dutton in response to former Prime Minister Keating’s contention that Australia should not follow the United States into a war over the South China Sea.

Does the defence minister seriously think we should have another Vietnam, this time against a numerous and well-armed military, the largest army on earth?

Are people more likely to listen to an ex-soldier (sprouting patriotism as part of his spiel) than to peace activists or to people like Assange, Snowden, Manning, Tame or Higgins?

Plenty of people went to Oxford.  But few chose a path to Northern Ireland to fight republicans or Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.

McBride seems to have learnt his lesson … he is pretty anti-establishment now. Or perhaps this was a family thing … his father paid the price of being a whistleblower one too many times … it turned out William was wrong about the anti-nausea drug used in pregnancy called Debendox, taken by around 30 million women with no evidence of harm. McBride the elder was labelled ‘a man of misplaced conviction’ and got struck off the medical register.

David McBride’s Road to Damascus
David McBride found his own road to Damascus. He spoke to Michael West about how it was the CIA that grew the poppy (heroin) in Afghanistan and not the Taliban.

And it is particularly ironic and disgusting to me because we … I did years and years of training both at law school and Oxford and in the military. And I knew that that wasn’t right, I knew that you couldn’t kill people (the farmers who grew the poppy) for being even involved in organized crime, you couldn’t just make that connection and to say, Oh, well, you must be part of an insurgency. Not necessarily and they don’t, you can’t just do the death threat. But they’ve got away with that. And the police come back, and now the city and there is credible evidence that the CIA are involved growing the poppy. So it’s become it’s become sort of disgusted, we try to paint the Taliban as as evil people, and there was a lot of propaganda that said they were behind the poppy and whatever. Actually, the opposite was true.

Trust in the system
David McBride learnt to distrust the system, at least parts of it. The question is what do we put in its place?

McBride: “I’ve got to admit I’ve been treated very fairly by the AFP, by the Crown prosecutors, by all the the Canberra judges and magistrates. I’ve appeared (before), I can’t speak highly enough of them. They’ve been so good. I’ve got no fear of the judiciary. And I if we have to have a secret trial, a judge alone trial, I’d say that’s fine.”

It takes a long time to work out an alternative (to the system). Truth is, an alternative is as elusive as ever.

Every war throws up its whistleblowers, often because of their own experience of injustice in war. The Vietnam war threw up its most decorated soldier as a whistleblower, Colonel David Hackworth. Whistleblowers often come from the ranks of conservatives. Hackworth’s dissatisfaction with the Vietnam war ultimately culminated in a television interview with ABC. On June 27, 1971, he appeared on the program Issues and Answers and strongly criticized U.S. commanders in Vietnam, said the war could not be won, and called for U.S. withdrawal. Hackworth often appeared at anti-Vietnam war rallies until the US was defeated in 1975.

Hackworth made one last appearance on the world stage as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, a character in the film Apocalypse Now. Like Hackworth, Kilgore was an air cavalry officer, played by Robert Duvall made famous for the line “I love the smell of napalm in the morning”. The character, obsessed with surfing, thought napalm was ‘the smell of victory’.

David Hackworth was buried at Arlington with full military honours

Isn’t the real problem is our relationship with the United States? Australia followed the US into Vietnam, Iraq, an Afghanistan. Some of the massacres become more comprehensible when a whistleblower comes out declaring we have gone too far. That person may or may not be turned into a martyr. In the case of David Hackworth, the Generals decided that his career accomplishments outweighed his supposed misdeeds, and that prosecuting an outspoken war hero would result in unneeded bad publicity for the Army.

But do soothsayers like Hackworth, McBride, Assange, Snowden, Manning and others do anything to prevent countries repeating their mistakes by going to war?

On the evidence, it would seem not.

Ian Curr
4 December 2021

Please note that the recording of David McBride’s comments are excerpts from an interview he did with Michael West entitled: A Question of Duty – Military Whistleblowers.

The full transcript of David McBride’s talk with Michael West is below. [Please let me know down below if you spot any errors].

A Question of Duty – Military Whistle Blower

Image circulated by a minor Chinese official that caused a storm

Michael West 

We’re here today with the Afghan files whistleblower, David McBride, who is facing a lifetime in jail for doing the right thing by exposing war crimes by Australian troops in Afghanistan. David, thanks for agreeing to chat with us. Can you give us a bit of background to start off what you’re actually facing in terms of your prosecution at the moment?

David McBride 

Well, you rightly said I’m facing a possible lifetime imprisonment. And there’s actually an unlimited upper limit. So I could die in jail and my late 50s. Now, even if they say, Well, you could have got 200 years, we’re only going to give you 20. That’s obviously it’s a big, it’s a big thing. And suddenly, that I’m not complaining about though, and I, I liked it emphasize, I don’t feel sorry for myself, this is something I’ve gone into with my eyes wide open. I believe it’s an issue that needs to be sorted for Australia’s future. And I’m proud to stand up for our belief, and if I’ve committed a crime, or I’ll go to jail, or all about the rule of law. So I’m not trying to get sympathy I’m I’m trying to get justice.

Michael West 

And your situation, in some respects mirrors that of a number of Australians who have acted on principle, and have come out and said, This is wrong in their various professions, and have been persecuted for it. We have witness K and Bernard Collaery. We have, of course, Julian Assange, the most globally recognized of this type of prosecution. We have Richard Boyle, who took on the ATO, there are a number of Austrlians How would your situation do you think differ from theirs?

David McBride 

It’s very similar. And there’s more similarities and differences. And the key thing, this is why my case is so important. We need to work out whether it’s okay. When the government can say it’s illegal to report government crime. Now, there haven’t been a majority, they can do that. I believe if they can do that, there’s no reason why they can’t pass a law to say it’s illegal to vote for anybody but us. I think that’s wrong. I think it doesn’t matter whether parliament has passed a law, legislation. If it’s fundamentally goes against the spirit of democracy, it cannot be law. I don’t think you can ever make it illegal to report government wrongdoing. And that’s what my case is all about.

Michael West 

So can you tell us just give us a background? A bit of a briefing on the timeline and what actually happened in terms of your involvement in the armed forces in Afghanistan and things that happened subsequently, that brought you to this position? It’s been going on for decade?

David McBride 

What are the similarities that I have with the ATO whistleblower Richard Boyle, and Bernard Clary, that the cases that you’ve mentioned, and in fact, Jeff Morris, the Commonwealth Bank was so worried that we were all actually relatively conservative minded people who believed in the rule of law and believed and doing our job. That’s one of the misconceptions that whistleblowers and sort of our activists or bomb throws generally where people very much believe in doing the right thing, when we believe we believe the propaganda that actually the the government is good and the government follows the law. And when we see something wrong, we think that it’s actually our job to speak up. I have a very sort of blue chip background, I can’t and I’m from a wealthy family. I went to grad school in Sydney, I joined the British military first, I went to Sandhurst, I went to Oxford University. I was never like Julian Assange, I was never sort of against the Americans. I was never against the British. I really believed in the rule of law. I did a tour of operations in Northern Ireland. I came back, I was a barrister in Sydney, and I joined, I found the law a little bit too, lacks the public service that I wanted. And I rejoined the Australian Army at my wife’s suggestion, but this time as a lawyer before I was just a soldier, but as a as a lawyer, and I found that the perfect combination of what was important to me, I was half lawyer, half sold half defending the country. Using my legal brain. I had a good career. I did two tours of Afghanistan and not everybody gets selected to go to Afghanistan. I became increasingly concerned that we were talking the talk or not walking the walk. We had a case in 2009 where we killed five children. And there was a trial but the trial was axed before it got to court. And I think as a result of conservative pressure, I began to realize or or suspect that polling and public perception was really running the war in the sense that even if someone had murdered five children, in this case, if if it was, you were going to lose votes by having a trial, there would be no trial. And that’s been borne out in England. And increasingly, the war was being run, like a crooked real estate operation where we were putting out false information all the time, we made heroes of people who weren’t heroes. We made villains of people that weren’t villains. And that’s one of the important things, while I’m known as the sort of war crimes was where it first started, because I could see that’s good soldiers were being scapegoated for just doing their jobs because the political winds have changed. And they needed scapegoats. So they found some scapegoats. It’s a bit like the NRL analogy where some some famous players get into trouble, but you don’t want them to go down because the club gets going to go down. So you find some 19 year old new recruits, and you’ll make an example of them. Because that won’t affect the club’s bank balance. And there was more and more of that going on. I think one of the best illustrations of what I was talking about happened in recently when the the Afghan nation that we built or the government we built collapsed in a hit days after Americans left. And that showed what a lie it was for for 20 years, we said it was going well, publicly. Everyone in the military knew it wasn’t. And it showed that we were we were pumping out things that had no relation to the truth. And that in itself was a cry. We were fooling the Australian public with aligned to the Australian Parliament, saying everything was going well. Our allies were often criminals, drug dealers, pedophiles, but we pretended that they weren’t. In order to sell a good news message. It was a bit like, and your viewers will understand this. It was a bit white the war was it was a huge military, Enron and that we were putting out good news information.

David McBride 

Things were going well, but it was a it was a house of cards, a Potemkin village which was about to fall down. I could see that in all sorts of levels. We were putting out PowerPoint to say, Oh, look how well we’re doing when it when it had no. bearing on the truth. We were sharing metals on people who were murderers that ended and we knew that. And occasionally we’d make a scapegoat of someone who was just doing their job. So it was it was a big problem. It was hard to get people interested because it just sounds too big. And you would have this as well. I mean, if you start to talk to someone about it, especially but I was a true believer. And I believe the whole stuff I still do, I still do believe that democracy is good. And we you know, we should be fighting for freedom. All that stuff’s good. It sounds good. But when you began to see the seamy side of it, it’s a bit like a police force, which is which has become corrupted, you become quite revolt. And it was hard to be taken seriously because people didn’t want to believe that it was so rotten at such a high level. Because you look like a conspiracy theorist, and you look like you’re sort of hate on everything, but I don’t I don’t I love the American people. I think that they, I think that their government and our government have been hijacked by some of the most cynical people and they use patriotism, they use words like freedom and democracy in order to sell a product, which is not, not the product, we’re actually getting talking

David McBride 

about the selling products. The the opium trade obviously didn’t stop. So that was still a huge source of income and the spectacular collapse. And, you know, the Taliban coming back after 20 years, and then, as you said, evinced the failure of the nation building thing, but just on that IBM tried thing, was it interrupted during the time or was it just allowed to continue? AndI’m glad you mentioned it, has there been any change?

David McBride 

This is one of the things which illustrates how topsy turvy our worldview was, or the propaganda. I was privileged enough to go to Afghanistan in the year 2000. When the Taliban are running. I travel all around or making a travel documentary. And being a former soldier, even though they were the Taliban were already demonized around the world. I had some sympathy for I knew that they were an amateur government and I knew they were a product of the Civil War and the Russian and 20 years of terrible things. So the Taliban actually destroyed the poppy because they decided Mullah Omar decided it was anti Islamic and that people would be addicts were bad. Afghan addicts would die. And he probably didn’t think it was good for American kids to be dying either. So they actually destroyed it great. They were desperate for money, they have 1000s of people dying of famine, but they still destroyed the puppy. And I know that because we drove around and we saw the fields and and they were the sort of people if they said something they did, you know, they weren’t like us. And yeah, when we came back in 2000, the terrible thing was we put in Hammid Khazi’s brother and family. And they started growing it again. And because they were anti Taliban on our side, they were allowed to grow. And we probably also had terrible wheels within wheels, where we killed a lot of poppy growers, and then we just killed them dead. And that was that was against international law. But the Americans just decided as they do with it, with their very questionable interpretations of international law to say, if you’re growing poppy, you’re going to give the money to the Taliban, therefore, your Taliban and we’re just going to kill you. That’s wrong. And that was actually murder. But the Australians were involved in it a lot. This is one thing that hasn’t come out yet. We’re involved in what they called a lot of anti Nexus operations where we just killed Poppy growers. And it was illegal, and no money in within the Australian, rather had enough backbone to say, you know, wish for we can just kill people for growing poverty. And it is particularly ironic and disgusting to me because we I did years and years of training both at law school and Oxford and in the military. And I knew that that wasn’t right, I knew that you couldn’t kill people. For being even involved in organized crime, you couldn’t just make that connection and to say, Oh, well, you must be part of an insurgency. Not necessarily and they don’t, you can’t just do the death threat. But they’ve got away with that. And the poppy has come back, and now the city and there is credible evidence that the CIA are involved growing the poppy. So it’s become it’s become sort of disgusted, we try to paint the Taliban as as evil people, and there was a lot of propaganda that said they were behind the poppy and whatever. Actually, the opposite was true. For all their kind of medieval ideas. They didn’t … they killed the poppy, they thought it was kind of evil. And when we came back, it was this toxic nationality that we were right. And they were wrong, meant that we we grew Poppy. We use the money for ourselves. We got allies who are openly pedophiles, openly murderers, we would we would engage with anybody as long as they would be on our side. And it made me it still makes my skin crawl now as a saying it particularly for someone who grew up as such an idealist, I began to see that we were the bad guys. You know, we were full of it. You know, we said the stars and stripes and we talked about democracy but we were drug dealers. We will poppy grow as well …. we were we were murderers, we get Abu Ghraib which had no you know, no one high up got punished. We did we we cynically did Quantanamo Bay a no. And they actually came they said all well, if we bring these prisoners back to America, they’re going to have rights. Even if we hit them in Afghanistan, they’re going to have some rights. But if we bring them to someplace which has a questionable legal status, we can torture them, you know, and the rendition was the same. We can’t bring them back to America and torture them, we’ll take them to Kazakhstan, and we’ll pay them a couple of billion dollars, so we can torture them in Kazakhstan. That’s our ally. And that goes against all the training I had. And I was repulsed by it. And the more I looked into it, I actually started it relatively small. And this is a point worth making. As well as that I didn’t go straight to the media. I wrote a very

David McBride 

diplomatically worded 20 page document with with 400 attachment. This was in what year? This was in 2014, after my 2013 deployment when they’d threaten to arrest me because they said I was obstructed justice, but I was actually standing up for these soldiers who were being made scapegoats. I said, You’ve got to apply simply I just said we have got to apply the law in investigating SAS people … by this stage in 2013, the winds of change, and they were looking for some SAS scape goats, I believe, and they were trying to put some people on trial for murder, who had simply just done a job and may have may have shot one someone by mistake in the heat of battle. But they, they had not committed murder. But the military bras was so cynical, they needed someone to go to jail and they were looking and I stood up for this guy and said No, I didn’t say he was innocent. I said, we just need to apply the law. And they tried to put me in jail for that.

Michael West 

What charge what charge did they lay?

David McBride 

… ‘obstruction of justice’. And that was never going to work. I just laughed a bit like you did what your defamation I was like, How can a lawyer be guilty of obstruction of justice by giving a legal opinion, you know, I might be, you might have a different legal opinion. But if you don’t want a lawyer to give a legal opinion, why you send them to the battlespace, anyway. But I began to see the reality of the military structure. And it wasn’t about the head lawyers just for show and wasn’t really I didn’t expect me to follow the Lord and help essay and soldiers, they wanted me to follow waters. And if the politicians water is a scalp and wanted me to bring on a scalp and I didn’t like that, and then I got back, I wrote a 20 page, complaint, internal complaint, even a complaint because, you know, it’s a very hierarchical structure, and you lose your job for being rude to say you’re off and they can’t actually escape the cold insubordination, which just means having an attitude and put you in jail. So I couldn’t have an editor I wrote this thing. And I did it in my spare time. And it took me months and months and months. And now even when I read it back, I’m quite impressed by it. I even saw the AFP I contacted the AFP hotline. And I said, I think there’s something wrong in the defense wasn’t that we don’t follow our own law . And we don’t we do it deliberately. And if nothing else, it’s a spending of it because you’re only meant to spend money on legitimate goals for the pub that is fighting the war. But we were spending money on false media messages, which is not fighting the war. And we were spending money on scapegoating people again, which is not fighting the war. And it was because they’ve worked out that if the if the electorate likes the military, they will tend to reelect the the incumbent government. And so they were important, it was important for them to the electrical like the military. So they were spending money was a way to get around adverts government or election advertising or spending a lot of money on making the military likable, regardless of the facts. And so I said even even if it’s just on a pure spinning law, we need to have a look at this. So that the AFP fought me off. They said, if the government does it can’t be illegal, basically. And they said, anyway, you’ve got your own military police. And if they will find out the military police work for the generals. They’re gonna they’re not gonna, they’re not gonna investigate their own generals. So don’t expect them to do anything. and I were like, in Warsaw, they were quite good. I mean, they weren’t they weren’t evil, but but they were they were just like, they’re, that’s, you know, that’s a bad world we live in, you know, the government can do what they want. So anyway, I wrote this long internal complaint, and I was trying to say, look, we need to follow the law. We can’t just scapegoat people one day. lionize lionise people, the next we do if there’s, if there’s an allegation of murder against the famous person, we have to look into it, you know, we’ve got Carrie and I, that time, I was still a true believer. And I was hoping they’d come back to me and say, with a deep breath, they’d say, look, you’re right. We’re fighting a war, we got carried away. And yeah, we did start to run a bit fast and loose with it. As I was trying to say, draw the analogy to say, if the military are allowed to continue in life, and and murder for for political purposes, whereas again, I’m gonna fucking go and kill the Labour Party guy and say it was a suicide. You know, there’s no difference. There’s no legal difference between doing those things. We can’t mislead the Australian public. And we and it’s all very well to say, Oh, we never do that. But a military don’t think that way. If you say to them, it’s alright to kill people and lie, but they’re going to continue to do it until you tell them that’s not.

David McBride 

And it was a worrying thing. So I tried to make this point. As diplomatically as I caught, I still had a career at that stage. And although I was rapidly that was going down the tubes because I’ve seen as a travel, you know, equipped people couldn’t I was surprised a new might find this. I was surprised how many people ran for cover and couldn’t believe that I wanted to make travel. Even at this stage. It was just a relatively polite letter saying Are you sure? We don’t want to have a second look at this and at the time, I was prepared for them to say yeah, yeah, I can see your point. I thought I might get a pat on the back and now Who knows maybe even a promotion for doing what? Taking that hardcore,

Michael West 

inhabiting corporations to precisely this slide as to debate somebody being deemed to be not part of the team. But a troublemaker, of course that can either they buckle under and put up with it or but in your case, of course, you, you didn’t you continue to do what you thought was the right thing? Well, I took them a whole year

David McBride  

to decide. And they and they eventually came back with it. As I expected. This is one of the frustrating things about being a military lawyer is that you’re wanting your bread and butter jobs is putting down complaints. So I kind of knew how they were going to handle it exactly the way I would have handled it, draw it out, write a very long response. And so on balance, we’ve decided he’s got no case, which of course is what they did, but I still have to go through that motion. I knew I wouldn’t get any sympathy if I went straight to the press. And I didn’t really want to I was still very much I’m wanting to stay in military labor. It was the perfect job for me half lawyer half soldier. That was quite … it was a very hard time for me. I searched for what I was going to do. I did in 2014 I spoke to Chris Masters. I chose … I didn’t want some little bit of the universe I didn’t know his full history when I chose him … I knew he was a relatively conservative guy who wrote positive things about the military had been to Afghanistan had been with us  … so I thought he would care. I thought he’d say look we are scapegoating SAS people when they don’t deserve to be …. and I think that the reason we’re doing that is to cover up some really serious crimes by  famous people. He seemed to get it and I wasn’t I’m not ashamed of speaking to him …. I might go to jail for speaking to him but I’m not a sound but he was a he was a bit like the the Watergate affair in that it wasn’t going to fix itself without the media …. I tried to ask the the military to fix themselves they weren’t and he

Michael West 

You went through the proper whistleblower channels?

David McBride 

…. through the channels and actually under the Act, the Public Interest Disclosure Act you are allowed to go to the media if you make a complaint and then the complaint is fobbed off. And I waited over a year and they fobbed it off that off eventually and said you’ve got no grounds and and then I started going to people like masters who are very responsible This is one of the annoying things it’s not like I went to the Chinese like on a solid secrets I had I had a top secret security clearance. Access to a lot of things could have got me a lot of money if I wanted that way. I didn’t want that. I am I went to a very responsible journalists who I thought like Bernstein and would would could could could really start asking more questions and get some action, which is what I really wanted the problem with all this it’s not about you know, me having a tantrum about it. Them not doing what I wanted. If if the military is corrupt, if the military doesn’t do what it says it is doing and doesn’t spend money, the work meant to Australia’s not protected. And that bothered me as a lifetime soldier that bothered me to say we’re not even protecting the country. We’re pretending to protect the country. But if this present government fought the Chinese as they seem determined to do, they would consider it acceptable if Darwin was totally bombed by getting a green screen of Darwin. Dutton standing there go, Darwin is safe. Instant soldiers … just that’s how they fight wars with phony phony stuff, they don’t really care about what happens. I don’t care whether you I don’t think they care. But how many civilians got killed? As long as no one fell. Now. It’s all about public opinion that bothered me. That really bothered me because not only was it wrong, it meant we weren’t going to win wars.

Michael West 

Did you know though, that what sort of apprehension did you have, what sort of feeling did you have that your taking this next move? To release the information more broadly in the public interest in the national interest indeed would end up … You must have known the risk of rolling the dice on this?

David McBride 

Yeah, I did. And that’s why I don’t want sympathy and but I wasn’t …. it never occurred to me. I never had any fear. The journalists always said they were fair to me and they always said, you understand that you’ll be in the frame for this. And I can understand I guess that shows you the sort of disconnection between being an investigative journalist within their brave people they do a good job and actually being a soldier. I mean, they they didn’t really want to go to jail for doing their job, which is fair enough,

Michael West 

They’re exposed too, career wise.

David McBride 

Yeah, yeah. And I get that …. but I was a soldier and I was …. the reality it’s not been melodramatic, but the reality of being a soldier is that you might have to die for your country. You can’t if you don’t like that you shouldn’t be a soldier. So I was and I was so angry by what I saw as the absolute trashing of everything we were, we were meant to stand for that. I was like, bring it on, you know, I don’t care about going to jail. I just want justice. It was a bit odd,  like Rambo in the sense that I was so angry about what we, what we’d become. Because even from the early days, I saw the hell they said, Jim, you know, I said, Look, I’ll do a bloody public appearance in my uniform, if necessary, if I think it’s going to achieve. I don’t want to self destruct. The only reason I needed to sort of stay out of jail for as little as I could, as I needed to win the case. And I wasn’t going to win the case from a jail cell. But I certainly was never afraid of that. And that’s because I was I was a true believer in Australia. I was a true believer in democracy. I was a true believer in America. And I was so angry when I saw that it was we were increasingly becoming a nation of car salesmen. And it’s unfair to car salemen, but the worst kind of comment, and I was angry, I wanted it fixed.

Michael West 

And that conviction, the rule of law state stays today. It doesn’t, because you’re not contesting that if they want to hold these trials that David McBride trial in secret and camera, neural, contesting that you’re saying, Well, if that’s the case, you’ve still got a reasonable view of the judiciary and that they will come up with make the right decision in the case is that is that correct?

David McBride 

That’s the case, I wasn’t even going to get lawyers to begin with. I’m satisfied. I’ve got I’ve been treated very fairly by the AFP, by the Crown prosecutors, by all the the Canberra judges and magistrates. I’ve appeared before), I can’t speak highly enough of them. They’ve been so good. I’ve got no fear of the judiciary. And I … if we have to have a secret trial, a judge alone trial, I’d say that’s fine. I am i I’m about jail, I, from the very beginning against all the legal advice I had, I’d spoke to the police, I said, Yes, I gave the documents over. I don’t want the case to be run about whether I gave the documents I did. I did it because I was justified. I did it because I think that it’s in certain circumstances like a holocaust or whatever. You must be justified in speaking to the press. And it’ll be a question of fact about whatever the circumstances were bad enough. But I’m happy to have that issue ventilated and happy to have that issue. Just you

Michael West 

didn’t pass on operational. So there, but there’s no operational things of risk here. This was about historical things that had happened, again, about breaking the law basic

David McBride 

that the government and that’s why that’s where I get angry. They’re all the judicial people have been fantastic. The government is not the government has been totally disgusting in that regard. And they know there’s no operational. What happened, you know, if someone murdered someone on a hill in Afghanistan 10 years ago, that’s not national security information. That’s just a crime. And the idea that that would somehow endanger us to the Chinese. It’s just, it’s just disgusting. Bs, it’s not national security information that a crime occurred and a child was murdered, and it was covered up by a government official. That’s a crime. And people need to speak and no matter. I will, they could, they could execute me. But I will never say that it’s okay for the government to stop people talking about murders of children by soldiers. Because the government say that that’s wrong.

Michael West 

Just another issue here, in the aftermath of Afghanistan since the withdrawal, of course, the people that are sticklers for we should have been there in the first place and our contract was fine. The basically the people, the promoters of it. They’re now saying that women are in danger. Now, is that the case? Because this is the obviously, you know, from the conservative side with Vietnam War, that we’re not the refusal to, to embrace the fact that it was a complete farce and that many people died unnecessarily, in that case, millions and then Iraq, of course. The propagandists of course, continued to find justification. And it seems to me that the central justification is now that we are trying to do the right thing for women, a Taliban are going to be bad for women. In fact, they haven’t got a great track record on women and masking. Generally, what is your view about the Taliban women you must have got a reasonable feel for it while you were there?

David McBride 

That’s all a crock … the only reason they even say that is because they know it’s likeable. When the progressive …. one of the things I used to do as a military lawyer was sign off on what they call Information Operations files which is false information we put out in order to win the war, whatever that may be, of course, a bit like the murders and covering up, it’s been abused. So it’s like you might have seen in the Syrian war when fighting ISIS. There were things on social media about here’s pictures of ISIS, killing a gay person, or throwing a gay person off the road. And as someone has been involved in those I can You can see that that’s a fault. That’s a fake for ISIS make your gay people but that is not for a real photo. It’s convenient to win the progressives over to the war. You know, we will make up stuff to win progressive or conversative votes… led just

Michael West 

to get just to get consent. Yeah, national consent for the for the war.

David McBride 

And, and if you asked an Afghan girl, what they most want, they would say not to be killed by American bombs (??), thank you very much. I mean, we we killed 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of young girls with our fucking bombs. So it’s just it’s it’s disgusting to hear George W. Bush say with his wife, oh, it’s all about Afghan women’s and girl he doesn’t care about Afghan women and girls anymore that he cares about Texan women and girls. He cares about saying something which will touch a chord. We we we we killed so many Afghan women and girls and we continue to. And there’s no justification for starting a war. Because you’re worried about human rights. That is it. It’s a whole new level of cynicism, to show that we weren’t we were we weren’t in the war to help Afghan women in the world. We were there for all sorts of reasons, Mainly for revenge, mainly to win elections. We didn’t care how many people were killed. and Afghan women and girls, if they’re honest, can’t stand George W. Bush and and he’s phony sentiment and anybody else that kind of says the same thing. They know that they’re not that we don’t really care about Afghans that that is something that we use to sell a product, which was a war, which was run for political purpose.

Michael West 

So tell me we’re up to exactly now now you’ve had the proceedings delayed for another year or so because this hanging over your head until the kickoff isn’t over until for another year or so

David McBride 

it’s not even really kickoff and preseason. In the sense that there’s a there’s a first as an original trial, a pre trial about whether or not I’m protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which is an act, which you would expect, judging by the name is out there to protect people who do public interest disclosure. And they’ve already admitted that it was a public interest because they’ve dropped the well, they’ve decided not to continue with the charges against the ABC journalists. And the reason that they gave was because it was a public interest story. And they don’t prosecute people for public interest stories. Right. Okay. So that’s on the record that they know it was a public interest story, and you think I’d be protected by the act. But the public interest Disclosure Act is a bit like the Fair Work Act. It seems to be the opposite to what it actually proclaims to mean. So first of all, got to decide whether that I don’t know I’m not actually confident that act is going to protect me only because the act is so ridiculous, and it’s not even now we’ve got this ridiculous Kafka situation where the government has admitted the act is pretty hopeless and needs to be rewritten. But I’m still going to go to trial under the old act, go figure, you know, taxpayer money, not their money. Why not? And I’d rather just go straight to the the jury trials going to be a jury from God knows how they’re going to have a secret top secret jury trial. I imagine everybody in the jury might be they’ve all got security clearances, it might be a very, very conservative pause, but

Michael West 

they need to have security clearances? Well, it’s

David McBride 

all if the government the government are going to be hoisted on their own petard has said he said one hand they’re saying this is all super super duper information. And the other hand, they’re gonna have to find 12 People who can hear it superduper information who don’t work for government, or maybe they do so

Michael West 

the jury selection process will be interesting won’t it?

David McBride 

And they gotta even if they get people from the street, they got to have to get they gotta have to give them security classifications, and it’s gonna make a mockery of the idea that the information was that secret if they got to pick people out of suburban Cameron’s it’s the security clearance to get to my level takes two years. I have to ask all sorts of questions. Look at your bank details find out about your sexual past every hotel you’ve spent in so that’s it’s just it’s a ridiculous idea. And that goes but the government don’t want to have to admit that it’s really not. The information wasn’t really. It was about murders. It was about crimes. It’s not actually about our secrets, you know.

Michael West 

So it seems that the government’s playing a drag-it-out type of game. Yeah. So often the case with whistleblowers, they like to make an example. Yeah. And to create a lot of problems in somebody’s life and the life of the family and the children. Yeah, that sets an example. Don’t go blowing the whistle. Just shut up and do Yeah, which the government wants you to do.

David McBride 

Yeah. And we touched on it. And they like to think and this is my message to the people who worked for the Attorney General’s department and the Australian Government’s this is, you know, you are the bad guys. My mother was 92. And she was trying to hang in here for the end of my trial. And she’s recently passed away last week, she died. And there’s no doubt that my trial contributed to her death. She was a ????. And it was it was an extra bit of anxiety and pressure to have a son maybe going to jail for life. So I decided the AGs and you are the bad guys, my father died after I was, I was on the run when he died, wasn’t actually charged. I couldn’t go to his funeral because I knew I’d get arrested. You know, we are we are basically a pretty good Australian family, the government would like they would like to see me commit suicide, then it’s not a it’s not like two equally match sporting teams fighting each other. They are pretty bad. And if you you know, if you work for the government on this, they they wouldn’t say it out loud, but they would be happy for my children to self harm. For me to self harm. They really want to destroy me. And they think that that’s part of the job. And I say it’s not that’s not the Australia I grew up in.

Michael West 

Well, it’s certainly the case with Assange, who has effectively been tortured by his incarceration, isn’t it? So it’s part it’s part of the playbook. There’s no doubt.

David McBride 

It’s part of the playbook. And I think that it’s clever, but it’s not great.

Michael West 

No, but extreme pressure on people certainly seems to be part of the playbook. Now. What about the other proceedings? And what’s one of the other acts that they’re that they’re pursuing you on?

David McBride 

Well, there’s a whole lot of Acts there. I  don’t read them too much. One thing that’s in my favor is it’s not a it’s not a pure Official Secrets Act is not like the simple act of giving documents to the ABC is not enough of that. There’s a gap of legislation on charged under the Defense Act with an oldy worldy thing which says I, I gave information to people that weren’t entitled to it, and it wasn’t my duty to do so. Now that I love that phrase, because I want to run the case. On the idea that exactly was my job. I had a practicing certificate as a lawyer. I was a military officer who went to the military schools where they talk about honor and ethics and moral courage meant to have moral courage as mirror is one of the sort of touchstones of the Australian Defence Force. And I reckon I did exactly what I was meant to do.

Michael West 

which you’ll be able to say in court.

David McBride 

Yeah. And I want to I want to have that in judged in court. Did he do his duty? Or did he not? What is it? What is public servants duty when they see the wrongdoing?

Michael West 

So in a public sense, the media coverage of this and then the fact that you went public? intrepidly gave you positive coverage, generally. But how have you seen the media cover it since then? And you’ve decided to keep it in the public domain rather than keep a lawyer to lawyer because you feel that you’ve got a better chance of justice? Or because you because you’re doing the right thing by talking about these issues publicly?

David McBride 

It’s always a gamble. And I have I have argy bargy with my lawyer who is an ex newsman, so he knows a lot about it. My attitude is I haven’t been fingers burned a few times, but my attitude is I’ll speak to anybody, anytime. But that’s a bit of a gamble. And I’d had a bit of beginner’s luck. I got set up once by a piece at the Sydney Morning Herald and I think the guy had been, he was a defense writer. And he was quite clever. And this is what it was quite a good illustration about a clever hatchet job. And then he talked, he said, a lot of sort of relatively puffy things about you know, I’ve been to Oxford and I was boxing and whatever. But he put the burden and a few if you file paragraphs if there is if a judge or someone was reading it, they kind of implied that I was a little bit unbalanced that I was that I was a little bit you know, wound up a bit too tight and just did it subtly. So I got my fingers burn on that one. Luckily, people don’t read things very closely anymore. I was very angry about it. Most people were like, good I go, I didn’t get to the last five paragraphs. You came across very well. And there was something in there about me biting someone’s finger off never done. That’s fucking great. But it’s interesting how people don’t really read stuff but I think it’s been helpfully the Twitter has been really good for me, I need to sing your praises, because you the independent media is so powerful. And you could easily be the best intention person in the world. And you could go down the drain pretty quickly. Because you weren’t, there’s no guarantee the mainstream media will help you. And they might and I haven’t been treated particularly badly, but they. It there’s a lot of

Michael West 

we’re sensitive to government sensibilities, perhaps

David McBride 

I think certain journal been not mentioned a particular papers, but I think certain journalists have a lot of personal sympathy with me, but of course, that they are Yeah, they got the government is a huge advertiser in The Australian and they don’t want to miss the government off the first time it was covered. I spoke to a journalist in his very positive fashion, and yet the first thing that was covered and all said was I was charged with theft …. you know charged with theft. And even though we talked about all the major issues, you know, and they have done some very good things for me, they have covered what, you can’t get everything. I mean, there’s so many wheels, the wheels, The Australian have covered the fact that the the leadership, I’ve got questions to answer, which I like, and I’m very grateful for them doing that, because that’s my key thing.

David McBride 

Obviously, the the nine newspapers are covering the war crimes trial, which I think is, is really good.

Michael West 

And you’re the substance of your your own work has ended up before the Bereton commission as well. So that’s, that’s being tested. Yeah.

David McBride 

Good. And that was covered well, I was happy with that. And I got good press after Bereton came out. And that was very good. I can’t certainly can’t complain about that. Again, I my, as a lot of people have said to me, it’s funny how you have seen this in you would say this in the in the Trump and Brexit, there is a disconnect between the mainstream media narrative and what a lot of people actually think. And people often say to me, we can’t believe Bereton’s conclusion that no General knew anything. That’s just totally improbable. And so people say that to me, and that’s my one complaint about that is to say, we need to look at the leadership. This is not just a problem of a few people at the very bottom. I mean, if I was, putting those people in jail would solve the problem, but that won’t. And I’m more worried about the next board and the last war. And if we have shonky people at the top, we’re not going to win it. And this is one of the things I say to the conservatives say, the theory of being conservative and freedom was all very well, but look at what happened in Afghanistan. I mean, it was a failure, it was an absolute $6 billion failure. So if if your team are that good, we would not have had had been beaten by a part time insurgency. And this is where I laugh about the the arms manufacturer lobbyists. If equipment was enough to win a war, we would have won the war. But we couldn’t even beat the Taliban with all these fancy drones and supersonic jets and so we need a bit more than that. And we saw it …. and one of the things this is as I was becoming one things I got angry with, there was a very good plane they used over there it’s it’s it’s cold war 50s design called the Warthog, flies slow. Got a big cannon on it, it was perfect for fighting the Taliban, when you’re stuck around and they’re surrounding you in this slow plane comes in it’s like and again, they may May May May, May may remember, you know, you’re going to be alright. Anyway, they had plenty of them. They could have kept making them. But they phased them out. And the soldiers on the ground said what are you getting rid of our best weapon for and they bought in these, the F35 $6 billion plane, which wasn’t even as good. You know it because it flew so fast. He couldn’t just hit the targets on the ground, you have to come back for another one. By that time everyone was dead, you know, but because Boeing or McDonnell de whoever was pushing them in Washington, they were getting them orders for them. I think this is one of the reasons is very cynical, but I say now I’ll talk from an insider has seen a lot of secret documents. I think one of the reasons that they’re pushing China and Russia again, is there much more lucrative war markets in that if you’re fighting China, you can sell 1000s of F 35s and new aircraft carriers were the problem with fighting the Islamists is that you couldn’t justify, you know, new fighter planes and aircraft carriers. And and that was a problem. And the

Michael West 

reality, of course is though the following is that most you can keep the wars going for a long time. And then what would happen if China did actually decide to have a crack at Australia We did get involved in a war with China?

David McBride 

Well, this is the thing as I say, I really speak to your conservative viewers here. Our team are so rubbish in the sense that our leadership, I mean, I so idiotic military leadership, and we would we would we couldn’t be Fiji in a war. Not that we don’t have the equipment. We just do not have anyone with any backbone. We would never tell it like it is, we need people who tell the truth, if things are not going well, we need to say I mean, we lost to the Taliban, they weren’t that good. We lost to them over 20 years. We need to monitor things. That is good. We’re having a Senate inquiry. I hope there’s a Royal Commission, I don’t care, I can’t find out what happened. Should we need a Royal Commission in the Defence Force to find out whether they are phony or whether they actually know what they’re doing. I mean, I’ve got a, I’ve got a view on that. And I’m happy to have a judge look on it. But it’s a bit like the banking thing, I suspect. well, there’s enough evidence to suggest we don’t know what we’re doing in the defense space. And there’s a lot of lobbyists. And there’s a lot of careerists who tell you the right thing, but there are very anyone that actually tells the truth ends up like me shunted out. And that’s a problem. Because at the end of the day, we’re meant to be defending Australia, and everything we believe in for our children, our children’s children. And if we’re …. bullshit will not defend them. We need people who actually talk the truth. And it’s again, it’s an incidence disgusting development, that they’re putting people who tell the truth in jail. And again, I an even worse twist on the one. A lot of the a lot of things went wrong in Afghanistan. There is one person in Australia who’s going to go to jail for Afghanistan. And that’s me,

Michael West 

the guy that’s telling the truth,

David McBride 

the guy that told the truth, and they’ve have never proved that I haven’t told the truth, even even even my haters say, Oh, you shouldn’t have released a dog. No one’s ever said I made them up, I printed them in my garage. And it was all wrong. The real numbers, real documents, you know, and how dare you let anyone else read them? By God, if the Australian public found out, you know what we’re actually doing? It doesn’t make sense. People just don’t. But psychology is an important thing. A lot of people hate me and say he broke the rules.He broke the rules is like, Well, I think the military broke the rules. And I think someone who understand up and accountable.

Michael West 

Do you have background silent support from people in the establishment that would be too scared to say anything publicly, but will feel that you are doing the right thing?

David McBride 

I think so. I think a lot of judicial people, I think people I admire know that it was it was a hard road and I did itboth David and his father, William, were whistleblowers – David in the Afghan Files and William about Thalidomide.. A lot of people are frustrated people in public service support me because they know the public service has been very political completely politicized. And that now they’ve got the senior executive officers that get huge pay rises for basically doing what the government wants, and not actually helping Australia. And they’re all very frustrated, because they know that they have to do it, they lose their job, and they’re on the scene about the last guy in Canberra who didn’t get the memo, that you don’t really work for the Australian people, you work for the government, and that’s wrong, but I’m going to fight that.

David McBride 

So a lot of people support me in that people are quite scared. Yeah, I do get whispers to say we support you. We, I don’t know … in the defence force …. it would be … they would be in trouble even for having my phone number. Such is the sort of witch hunt. But I I like to think there’s …. a what I love   ….  is a lot of everyday Australians write to me, you know, farmers and retired cops and things like that. And they say we know where we’re grey nomads now … we’ve seen what you’ve done is great his 10 year olds would love that. I think the average Australian is a really good person. What what has disappointed me is the intellectuals … I don’t think … I don’t know that they’re doing enough … anyone that scratches their chin and goes that’s a grey area …they don’t really help and that’s a bit of a failure of the private school system.

David McBride 

The people who really should be standing up for what is right. seem to be more interested in counting their job-keeper millions. And building a new house in Palm Beach or Balmoral and that’s a shame. But the average Australian is good. They get it. And they can see whenever you tell your story to someone in the pub whatever they say that sounds right  and that you tried to do the right thing about war crimes. Yeah. And they’re trying to put you in jail now. Yeah. So I’m hopeful about about Australia’s future. But we need to win this case. And I don’t see winning the case as necessarily being acquited is not about … I  could go to jail. But as long as people hear about

2 thoughts on “Light from the Heart of Darkness?”

  1. It is ironic that being on the right side as far as history is concerned is that in the era of the times you are labelled as the villian. I wonder how history will judge this moment in time.

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  2. Hello MickMar21,

    Thanks for your comments. I do not wish David McBride to be viewed as a villain. He is up against too much. It is up to others to make that judgement. He is right to criticise Australian involvement in Afghanistan and reveal what he knows.

    I read your essay ‘Lockdown Protests’ about the clamp down on the anti-lockdown protests. Although I disagree with the protestors, police firing rubber bullets on them is ridiculous.

    Also I think taking away crib and smoko rooms from construction workers is wrong.

    The whole process around Covid has been mismanaged.

    Ian Curr
    8 Dec 2021

    Like

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