Modern war is like nothing that has gone before. The opposing sides do not line up in clear sight of each other, one army in red and the other in blue, and march at each other. No, today the fog of war weighs heavier than ever. So those who would sit in judgment of the special forces soldiers who fought in Afghanistan should keep a few things in mind.
Firstly, everything that you may have read in some media reports are purely allegations or accusations. It must be remembered that nothing has been proved against any members of the Perth-based Special Air Service Regiment. The reports have come from unnamed sources on one side only. We haven’t heard from the other side. We simply do not know the intimate details of what really went on — what these highly trained soldiers were really facing.
Secondly, these men were fighting to maintain the freedoms that we enjoy in this country — the key word here being “fighting” . They were in a war. It was a war unlike any other fought in history — a war in which the enemy was often almost impossible to identify. An enemy that may have masqueraded as a friend one day only to try to kill them the next. It is very easy to sit in our comfortable lounge rooms in the safety of Australia and pass judgment on situations that happened in circumstances many of us can’t , for a moment, even start to understand.
Thirdly, these men who fought for our way of life have now had unproven accusations hanging over their heads for many years. Why our top military leaders think this is an acceptable way to treat these men is incomprehensible. And what about the effect this is having on the soldiers’ families, who have had to sacrifice so much.
Former defence minister and head of the Australian War Memorial, Brendan Nelson, has said he was increasingly worried for the welfare of soldiers caught up in the investigations and their families.
It is now recognised how poorly our country treated our soldiers when they came back from the Vietnam war, and how that had such a detrimental effect on their wellbeing. Surely our country has learnt enough not to treat another generation of soldiers the same way?
Are we a country that is going to tear down the very people who have put their lives on the line to maintain the life we so cherish? Is this the sort of country we want to be?
12th June 2018