The UK’s Ministry of Defence has proposed that there should be a judge-led inquiry into allegations of illegal killings of Afghan men in Afghanistan in 2010-11 by the SAS. This follows the broadcast by the BBC’s Panorama programme entitled “SAS Death Squads Exposed”, a journalistic investigation of the activities of that particular unit at the time (view it on BBC iPlayer).
The programme was met by howls of protest from the usual suspects, enraged that “our heroes” should be subject to any criticism whatsoever, but within military circles there was a feeling that there may be an element of truth in the allegations. I wrote a piece for the Scotsman newspaper in which I was careful to maintain objectivity but I came to the conclusion that there is no smoke without fire, and my military colleagues agreed.
As the old adage has it, “there are no bad regiments just bad commanding officers”, and I suspect that may have been the case here. This is not helped by the fact that the SAS, unlike the special forces of some other countries, is essentially a self-regulating organisation, which begs the old question of “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”
A truly independent inquiry is to be welcomed and will either salvage the SAS’ reputation or bring the perpetrators of any illegal activity or war crimes to justice.