Karen Middleton’s two commentaries on our Afghanistan horrors (“How ‘prestige, status and power’ led to Australia’s war crimes” and “The politics of deploying the SAS”, November 21-27) vindicate that ancient wisdom: good armies and their moral integrity are often destroyed by their being sent, unwisely, into bad wars.
– Clive Kessler, Randwick, NSW
Leaders make the culture
Although the Brereton report into war crimes in Afghanistan claims it would be a gross distortion to blame poor leadership, ADF chief Angus Campbell said, “It starts with culture … Not correcting this culture, as it developed, was a failure of both unit and higher command.” In all organisations, the job of building and maintaining that culture is not the responsibility of the various managers or officers but that of the leader. When once asked what he was busy with, Jack Ma, the then CEO of Alibaba, a company with about two-and-a-half times as many employees as there are soldiers in the Australian Army, replied he was building the visions and the values and the culture of his organisation. For the leader of our army, the response should be the same.
– Peter Nash, Fairlight, NSW
The right thing on Afghanistan
In the 1960s Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood, which forensically analysed the psyches of two men who committed a horrific crime. Now, Australia is examining its collective conscience over the killing of civilians in the Afghanistan war. All the possible explanations as to why these shocking crimes have occurred are being aired in the media. The reason(s) only some people are capable of abandoning their moral compass under extreme duress and committing murder can be opaque. More clear is the responsibility each Australian has towards the people of Afghanistan, towards the international community and towards ensuring justice is achieved. The other side of justice is forgiveness. And this is the heavy responsibility Australia has towards the perpetrators.
– Pam Connor, Mollymook Beach, NSW
No grilling for John Howard
The report on alleged appalling war crimes by Australian soldiers connotes a culture that allowed these crimes. And as usual the most senior people are removed from responsibility. One such leader is John Howard, who took Australian forces into Iraq on a known lie and with the excuse that his international mates were going there. Then into Afghanistan for similar reasons. The accused SAS troops would offer the same excuse of a culture controlled by a band of mates. Howard’s British mate Tony Blair had to face an inquiry, likewise the SAS, but Howard never had to answer to Australians.
– Michael D. Breen, Robertson, NSW
Regaining Anzac reputation
As a serviceman, I am proud that the chief of the ADF has made public, without delay, the report into the allegations of potential war crimes committed by some of our soldiers in Afghanistan, even though it is heavily redacted at this stage, to prevent corruption of any future trials. It is very rare for a country to acknowledge and deal with such matters when their own servicemen are involved, so it is a matter of pride that Australia is demonstrating great moral courage by not sweeping it under the carpet. This would not have been easy for any of the people involved, especially the initial whistleblowers. Let us hope that the damaged culture and reputation of our special forces, caused by a relatively small number of soldiers, can be restored to one that has the high moral values that we all believed was naturally inherited from the Anzac spirit of Gallipoli.
– Howard McCallum, Cambewarra, NSW
Again, not our war
Our government has little desire to learn from the missteps of previous governments. In the misguided attempt to volunteer troops for the express purpose of fighting other people’s wars, alleged war crimes have surfaced. Like the American soldiers in Vietnam, our soldiers are accused of killing the very people they were sent to protect. We were on the losing side in that catastrophic war and no closer to winning this fiasco in Afghanistan. In all likelihood the Taliban will triumph once again. Our efforts will be reduced to a mere footnote in history.
– Carmelo Bazzano, Epping, Vic
A cry for help?
A photo of Mr Morrison on page 9 of the November 21-27 issue shows him wearing a face mask displaying the Australian flag upside down. Flying an inverted flag was, in traditional maritime use, a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property. Is the PM trying to tell us something?
– Sid Williams, Concord, NSW
Taking on the bullies
I must congratulate James Boyce on “The sick truth” (November 21-27) and his sticking up for Dr Annaliese van Diemen. Her tweet on the impact of invasion on this continent’s population is unarguable. Yes, perhaps it should be 1788, rather than 1770, when the real fatal impact took hold, but the point is well made. This bullying of people as if we do not have the right to free speech has got to stop. It has implications for Dr van Diemen, for the abandonment of Assange, for all of us. Speaking out is what it is about, and working together. To be intimidated by people such as Senator Eric Abetz – it must not happen. We must spring to the defence of truth-tellers, before the bullies get in there. Bravo Dr van Diemen, bravo James Boyce, and bravo The Saturday Paper. Better than “mateship”, it is called “solidarity”.
– Stephen Langford, Paddington, NSW
Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 28, 2020.
For almost a decade, The Saturday Paper has published Australia’s leading writers and thinkers. We have pursued stories that are ignored elsewhere, covering them with sensitivity and depth. We have done this on refugee policy, on government integrity, on robo-debt, on aged care, on climate change, on the pandemic.
All our journalism is fiercely independent. It relies on the support of readers. By subscribing to The Saturday Paper, you are ensuring that we can continue to produce essential, issue-defining coverage, to dig out stories that take time, to doggedly hold to account politicians and the political class.
There are very few titles that have the freedom and the space to produce journalism like this. In a country with a concentration of media ownership unlike anything else in the world, it is vitally important. Your subscription helps make it possible.
Select your digital subscription