…Selous Scouts atrocities, blood lust and no prisoners policy
Review & Mail Writer
Carton-Barber has told Review & Mail that as a member of a Rhodesian headquarters, that he was present at briefings where it was disclosed that several so called “terrorist atrocities” actually were the work of the Selous Scouts.
Again there was an underlying theory. It being that because the Selous Scouts were posing as members of the guerrilla movements, that victims would develop antipathy toward those movements.
A parallel was that international perception also should sway sympathy from the liberation forces toward the Smith government
As it turned out though, tribespeople were not the only ones to suffer cold blooded murder by Rhodesian troops. Whilst at Gweru, Carton-Barber was tasked to investigate why no guerrillas were being captured in RLI “Fire Force” actions.
The concern hinged on the fact that Rhodesian intelligence harvesting was being starved. His conclusion was that the “enemy” wounded and those willing to surrender were being shot out of hand in violation of international law.
His report was rejected by Headquarters Midlands District, but after the war “The Saints,” a Rhodesian history book was to throw light on what was afoot. There is a bald admission that a sort of policy not to take prisoners existed.
Feeble excuses are tendered, but there is a reference to the anger that greeted the well known downing of a Viscount airliner on 12 February 1979.
What stands out though, in Carton-Barber’s view, is that such a policy was self defeating because it did rob the Rhodesian Army of information that might have been obtained from prisoners. “It was a blood lust attitude that ironically contributed to the Rhodesian defeat,” he tells Review & Mail
His discomfort at the take no prisoners approach is moulded by a personal experience. Whilst with the South African Army in Angola he witnessed allied UNITA soldiers cut the throat of a surrendered Cuban soldier.
The episode left an emotional mark, because Carton-Barber thought that if he’d been taken prisoner that he’d have expected to be treated in accordance with the decency of international norms. Neither the RLI nor it’s officer hierarchy had any qualm about disregarding the “civilized” values they pretended to be upholding.
Of course it’s impossible to determine the statistics of these war crimes, but Carton-Barber can’t be far off his estimate of “hundreds” of dead. Neither can he be wrong when he says that, “The RLI’s reputation for proper and acceptable military effectiveness is nonsense. I don’t deny that there were times when they were highly efficient, but they often behaved like a collection of thugs given free rein by leaders of doubtful professional and human quality. In the final analysis wanton murder cannot be portrayed as legitimate battle success. It’s a falsehood, one being perpetrated to this day”
What passed for Rhodesian “strategy” was borrowed in part from Americans in the Vietnam War. There it was called the “body count,” a notion that battlefield success could be measured in the amount of casualties inflicted.
During the Second Chimurenga, the Smith regime and its generals like Peter Walls referred to what came to be known as the “kill rate.” Here too was a theory, it being that the sustaining of disproportionate fatalities indicated that the war was being “won.”
So long as this rate was favourable to the Rhodesian Army, so could the regime claim that it was in control and that the liberation armies were being defeated. Walls alluded to this in public statements made in South Africa where later he settled.
What he chose not to say was what grounded this propaganda. The reality was that the propaganda was relayed to the world via a secret policy of not taking prisoners. It was aimed at fooling everyone into the false belief that the “kill rate” goal actually was being achieved in security force “effectiveness” and liberation army “incompetence”.
“Effectiveness” was an outright lie, but Walls can be measured by his dirty hands that were to drip blood elsewhere.
It involved the downed Viscount of 12 February 1979 that partly “justified” the take no prisoners policy. To this day whites regard the Viscount incident with angered distaste, but remain ignorant of the background and especially the direct role of Walls in the tragedy.
The truth finally has emerged in the Pretoria High Court documents. – R&M