‘I’m Not Prepared to Burn Them’ – MP Refuses to Name SAS Soldiers Involved in Alleged War Crimes in Afghanistan

UK Minister Johnny Mercer’s chilling testimony before a public inquiry unveils unsettling allegations of unlawful killings by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan, highlighting the challenges of investigating military misconduct and raising questions about accountability. Here’s the whole story.

Long History

The United Kingdom has a long history of military accomplishments and achievements, and the government frequently holds up the armed forces as a beacon of liberty to which all citizens should aspire.

However, in recent years, since the invasion of Iraq and the military operations in Afghanistan, a dark cloud has descended over the conduct of some of the soldiers involved in those wars. 

Just this week, in a shocking admission before a public inquiry, Johnny Mercer, the UK’s Minister for Veterans, made startling revelations regarding the unlawful killings of civilians by members of the Special Air Service (SAS) in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2013. 

These allegations, if true, would be a shocking admission that British forces were involved in what would amount to war crimes under the Geneva Convention.

Challenging Investigation

Mercer’s testimony was all the more revealing due to the challenges he claimed he faced in his investigation of these allegations and the profoundly unsettling conclusions he reached. Mercer recounted how he ultimately became aware of these allegations, dating back to his time serving in Afghanistan in 2010. 

While serving in the army, Mercer described a sense of unease, which eventually evolved into more concrete warnings from colleagues after he became a Member of Parliament. 

Mercer shared that upon assuming his ministerial role, then Defence Secretary Ben Wallace tasked him with probing these allegations. This started a process that would eventually lead Mercer to his deeply disturbing conclusions. 

Despite his initial reluctance to believe the reports, Mercer took it upon himself to uncover the truth behind the disturbing allegations. 

Putting Up Obstacles

However, he expressed a deep frustration that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was putting obstacles in his way. 

He described interactions with senior officials, in which he left feeling unconvinced of their assertions and even felt like he was being manipulated throughout the investigation process. Mercer said he felt he was “being gamed” by the then-head of the Army, Mark Carlton-Smith, and the MoD.

Mercer stated that he initially wished to find evidence that would either disprove or exonerate the soldiers of the SAS. Still, his evidence yielded no evidence which contradicted the disturbing claims.  

Frank Testimony

Mercer’s testimony was uncharacteristically blunt for a sitting MP: “I don’t want to believe it, but at every stage, I have tried to find something to disprove these allegations, but I have been unable to.”

Throughout Mercer’s testimony, the proceedings were marred by interruptions due to national security concerns. At one point, proceedings were halted after Mercer inadvertently disclosed information that was protected by secrecy orders, including the names of some soldiers. 

Mercer voiced profound scepticism regarding the insufficient explanations given to him by senior officers and officials from the MoD. 

He cited instances where crucial evidence, such as body camera footage, was allegedly unavailable despite established protocols that mandated recordings on missions. 

No Back Up

Mercer alleged that body camera footage was made compulsory after “a particular operation in 2006 that didn’t go too well” and that backups of all camera footage were customarily kept. 

Mercer’s gripping testimony also delved into the personal dilemmas he faced, particularly those regarding two individuals who warned him about the seriousness of the allegations. 

Despite pressure to reveal their identities, Mercer adamantly refused, citing concerns for their safety and well-being. 

“The simple reality at this stage is I’m not prepared to burn them. Not when, in my judgement, you are already speaking to people who have far greater knowledge of what was going on,” Mercer stated. 

Urged to Reconsider

Sir Charles Haddon-Cave, the presiding judge, urged Mercer to reconsider his decision not to disclose the names, expressing hope for a change of heart in the future. 

He emphasised that the inquiry operated independently from the government and was accustomed to managing confidential information.

As the inquiry continues, Mercer’s shocking testimony should serve as a catalyst for greater accountability and transparency for the military, which has historically received the benefit of the doubt in such matters. 

Complex and Troubling

In the past, the complex and troubling allegations surrounding the conduct of SAS soldiers in Afghanistan would have, most likely, stayed in the dark. 

His account underscores the challenges of investigating such sensitive matters within the military hierarchy and the potentially corrupting influence of that institution in the pursuit of justice.

The post ‘I’m Not Prepared to Burn Them’ – MP Refuses to Name SAS Soldiers Involved in Alleged War Crimes in Afghanistan first appeared on Pulse365 Limited.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Sean Aidan Calderbank.

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