Criticising a CDF (& Minister) for implementing the recommendations of the independent Brereton Inquiry into war crimes in Afghanistan is unhelpful at best. Especially where the attacks are so often incorrect factually or otherwise misunderstand, misinterpret or misrepresent the issues involved. This situation is not helped by frequently inaccurate media coverage (eg. a collectively awarded unit citation means a badge, not a personal medal), grandstanding by some politicians and media commentators, and a general failure to read the Brereton Report before assailing it and the resultant reform plans needed to stop war crimes occurring again.
Letter to The Australian
Saturday, 12 December 2020
The Australia Defence Association is long inured to uninformed, emotive or politicised “debate” on defence issues.
But a nadir is surely being plumbed.
Public discussion of the Brereton Inquiry into systemic war crimes in Afghanistan is largely ignoring two key aspects:
Its Australia, not just the ADF, that needs to face up to these crimes being committed in our name.
We must all understand and back reforms to prevent a reoccurrence
Alleged perpetrators remain entitled to the presumption of innocence. But whether anyone will be criminally convicted, or not, also remains a separate practical and moral issue to the broad fact such shocking crimes did happen and need fixing.
As substantiated by Brereton’s independent, 4-year, administrative-law inquiry and its detailed and reasoned recommendations. Crimes now subject to criminal investigation by the AFP.
In the meantime, two compelling Brereton judgements stand out.
Those in-denial regarding the war crimes do not belong in our defence force.
Both organisational and cultural change is required to reintroduce military professionalism in the units concerned.
Including active and symbolic steps to cure the sick unit cultures that enabled and concealed premeditated and systemic murders of captured prisoners. Not heat-of-battle incidents or battlefield accidents.
And where subsequent concealment has involved campaigns to intimidate and discredit digger whistleblowers, and peddle straw-man excuses in public generally.
A campaign still reaping public confusion fed by misinformation, myth and apologia.
Finally, now is clearly the time to back a capable CDF in his statutory command of the ADF.
And would be the worst time to reshuffle a capable Defence Minister who so “gets” this and other strategic issues, and is determined to back ADF commanders fixing them.
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