Saturday, 26 September 2009

our new Vietnam - lets avoid this one hmm?

I was reading this morning about our governments attempts to cover up injuries to our serving troops in Afghanistan. I fully understand the military need for secrecy to protect sensitive operations under way, but there is also something more important at stake here. That is the future welfare of the men and women who are serving now.

When nine members of the Special Operations Task Group were hit by heavy rocket and machinegun fire in an attack on the Taliban in September last year, Defence had no intention of releasing any details about the battle after the casualties were brought in.

In a briefing two months later, special operations commander Major General Tim McOwan complained that news of the battle "was leaked and found its way into the Australian media".

Because of the leak, Defence was forced to confirm the incident, in which Trooper Mark Donaldson became the first Australian to win a Victoria Cross in 40 years. McOwan said the Taliban exploited the news on local radio stations the same day.

"In essence," he said, "an information release by us afforded them a propaganda opportunity."

Reading the above segment of that article carefully confirms this, but it raises another question. Would Mark Donaldson have ever got recognition for his bravery?

In the years to come the men and women who are involved in the covert operations will have to take their place silently in Australia and pretend nothing had happened.

We know this has had profound consequences on the young people who came back from Vietnam, so why in such a short time are we setting up to repeat the same problems?

It is a political issue if you agree or disagree with our Governments decision to to be involved in Afganistan, but irrespective of that we owe recognition and respect to the people who went into harms way.

We need to send a clear message to our military leaders that while objectives and battles are important so too is the support and understanding of the Australians who are humans not only soldiers. This is something our Armed Forces needs to pull its head out of its ass about and start acting on.

Less propaganda more reality back home please