This is a great column.
Succinct, brief and punchy - on a matter of great importance.
The fact that Van Onselen gets it reveals how ridiculously Woke Left our ADF leadership has become.
Just six days after receiving the Brereton report into wrongdoing in the special forces, the head of the Australian Defence Force, Angus Campbell, made the decision to strip all personnel serving in and with the special forces in Afghanistan of their meritorious unit citations.
Punishing the innocent not just the (allegedly) guilty. Tainting the service of the many because of the wrongful actions of the few. It is a disgraceful knee-jerk reaction.
I don’t have the slightest problem with throwing the book at those who engaged in wrongdoing, especially anyone who partook in what at face value appear to be heinous crimes. But why does punishment need to be so indiscriminately delivered?
Imagine being a parent of one of the fallen soldiers who served in Afghanistan. Required to hand back an honour you would look at every day to convince yourself the loss you’ve suffered was worth something. Those dead soldiers who did no wrong and aren’t even accused of wrongdoing are being dishonoured by the decision-makers of today.
Imagine being an injured soldier, facing up to the handicap you suffered while serving your country, with no allegations or even suggestions of wrongdoing. Now told that you must hand back the citation you rightfully earned.
Campbell has followed the advice of the Brereton report’s recommendation that meritorious unit citations for anyone who served with the special operations task group in Afghanistan be rescinded. They will also review distinguished service medals, possibly also stripping those from the innocent, not just the guilty.
The special forces commandos were cleared of any wrongdoing in the report, with the focus on the SAS instead. Yet commandos will also lose their service citations. That will include Cameron Baird, a commando who was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. How utterly ridiculous.
The chief of the defence force has recommended the stripping of these awards to the Governor-General. That is the process. But with the convention that the GG only acts on the advice of the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison should advise David Hurley — himself a former chief of the defence force — to reject Campbell’s request.
Morrison uses his acknowledgment of Indigenous traditional owners at the beginning of speeches to also thank armed forces personnel for their service. If he really means it, he has a duty to protect those who have served honourably.
If we don’t stand up for the thousands of personnel who served in Afghanistan, we are on a one-way road to dishonouring them the way so many Vietnam veterans were. Because of the actions of the few and the failure of politicians who sent them there in the first place.
Peter van Onselen is a professor of politics and public policy at the University of Western Australia and Griffith University.