Opinion: Sad and Disturbing Times

There is no escaping the stark realities that the allegations of murder by our military during operations in Afghanistan will be a scar of shame for our nation. How quickly such a terrible brand fades, will depend on how well we stay united, and how quickly we can demonstrate that such incidents will never be tolerated by our people.  Equally is the strong need to ensure we resist increased restrictive rules of engagement which will only further impede operational efficiency and even more dangerous and disruptive, to provide further advantages to any hostile force.

We, as a nation, must never allow guilt to dampen our spirit to seek and achieve short and long term goals.  There must be sensible debate with clear sense of purpose which will enhance our national values, confidence, pride and unity. Nor should we shrink from our responsibilities to have a military which can and will protect our sovereignty and our way of life from any threat, no matter where and when. To do that, we must have sound positive direction by our political leaders and have total confidence in our military. Equally we must not over react to a noisy few and shackle our capabilities to fight.

If there is guilt, then no matter the nature of the crimes, there is clearly an urgent need to find the reasons why highly disciplined individuals with sound  military records in peace and war could slowly, surely and deliberately defy well know rules of war. I have no doubt subsequent official investigation by Teams, (hopefully including individuals experienced in combat) will include the obvious such as PTSD, inadequate periods of rest between operational tours and the frustrations in regards operational procedures within the chain of command and rules of engagement.

When the solutions and procedures for future operations are determined, let’s hope there is not an over-reaction with new rules which will create even more danger and difficulties for those men and women who wage war in conventional and unconventional areas of conflict.

The hierarchy could well begin by rescinding the recommendation to disband the SASR squadron in question and not to pursue forfeiture of unit citations. It’s London to brick on that such rational thinking would regain the confidence not of only those who were awarded the citation, but also the others who have or are serving our nation.  Nor should we ignore those yet to be born who will swear the sacred oath to serve their country. 

              Hold Your Fire  

In battle, the God to be obeyed is the sword
In fog of war, soldiers are both judge and executioner for their Lord
All are cheered and adorned with garlands on returning home
While sad bugles call as more names are etched on sacred stone
Strutting Suits and some Caesars*** claim honour to have led
And enjoy the same glory and pride as those who bled

Sins of war are to be seen as the fog of chaos clears
Clearly visible are the bleached shattered bones of war, so close, so near
 No longer to be ignored or hidden in dark secret places
A Blame Game is started to identify guilt of just a few scarred mute faces
Perhaps veterans of many tours of duty have succumbed to war’s brutalization
Accusing fingers then pointed at such battle weary soldiers, who risked all for our nation

In high places, some throw smoke screens to mask blunders
Soldiers without guilt are stripped of honour as they wonder 
Citations for honorable deeds in war no longer recognised by those in safe places
Smoke screens thin, and amateur pens gather at starting gates for the shameful race
“March the guilty bastards in” before trial, is the official starters call
It echoes past honoured graves into rooms of despair where veterans struggle not to fall 

Disbelief by all who proudly wore the famous badges “Strike swiftly “or “Who dares wins” 
So many to read with blurred eyes of their beloved unit sent to the rubbish bin
Aging warriors to forfeit unit identity and honour without recourse
Many who by night and day, fight a black dog **of constant grief, terror and remorse
While in Canberra’s political and military forts, many a finger is justifiably burnt

Simply because lessons from past wars were clearly ignored or never learnt.

George Mansford © November 2020

** Black Dog—PTSD

*** But not all

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