Opinion: Andrew Hastie – Reflections on the Afghanistan Inquiry.

Dear Ted,
This was a long, difficult week. Thank you all for the support and thousands of responses to my reflections on the Afghanistan Inquiry.

For those who missed it, my essay can be read here.

In summary: First, we have forgotten basic truths about human nature. We all are capable of doing terrible things, particularly when left unaccountable. We must guard against this reality.

Second, the reality of war is inherently violent, escalatory and degrading. It hardens people over time, including our best soldiers. We must remember this truth about war, not the sanitised version that was sold by Defence’s Public Affairs Officers.

Third, parliamentary scrutiny of Defence is broken and needs fixing. We need an independent Joint Parliamentary Defence Committee where tough questions can be asked in a classified, protected space. Without it, our parliament can’t exercise proper civilian oversight of our military.

Fourth, there is nothing wrong with a warrior culture in special operations units. The problem at SASR was a warrior culture built on power, ego and self-adulation. But there was also a good, competing warrior culture at SASR of humble, quiet operators. They were supremely competent at arms, but never thought themselves bigger than the team or the mission. This is the warrior culture that blew the whistle on the wrongdoing that has shamed the SASR. It is the warrior culture of the Regiment today.

Fifth, in the hierarchy of virtues, moral courage remains paramount to physical courage. There were junior leaders at SASR who made hard decisions to uphold the sacred trust reposed in them by the Australian people. Leaders who took responsibility for their command. They know who they are and we honour them.

Sixth, I still believe the profession of arms is a noble one. We must always hold ourselves to high moral standards. When wrong is done, we must hold ourselves to account. But Australia has fought wars in the past; we will fight them in the future. We must be ready. And we cannot afford to lose. 

Finally, please remember the soldiers and families of the Special Operations Task Group that served in Afghanistan. Australia sent them to war; Australia must also bring them home. Some now feel like strangers in their own country. We must bind their wounds: physical, moral and psychological. That’s our responsibility. That’s how we move forward as a country.
Best,
Andrew Hastie MP