In case you wonder what us retired soldiers think of the recent decision to court martial three soldiers due to their actions in Afghanistan then here is a letter doing the rounds of the ex-service community with explanatory notes by a Vietnam Veteran.
For those of you who don’t know, Roger Tingley won his Miltary Cross as a 2nd Lieutenant in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The email letter below has been written by Roger as a result of the decision (apparently against the wishes of the Chief of the Defence Force) by one (military) lawyer to court martial 3 young soldiers who made a (split second) decision, tragic as the consequences were, to return fire in a combat situation recently in Afganistan, a situation which it is certain that lawyer has never nor never will have to face, and a situation so dreadful that lawyer could never in her worst nightmares begin to imagine or understand.
Combat soldiers who served during the Vietnam (and any other) war could almost certainly tell of at least one situation that they either knew of, or themselves experienced, where innocent people became casualties. The politicians who send our young men to war know, or should know, without question, that a tragedy such as this is always likely to occur. That these young men now have to face further tragedy in their own lives, regardless of the outcome of their respective courts martial, is a disgrace beyond belief. If someone is to be punished for the tragic deaths of the innocents in this situation, why not the politician(s) who made the decision to send them in the first place or even the electors who chose that (or those) politician(s) to make that decision.
These three young men, privates, the lowest rank in the military hierarchy, are the scapegoats for just another of the tragedies which occur when old men send young men to fight their wars.
former Lieutenant Platoon Commander during the Vietnam War.
One of the young men sent to fight old men’s wars.
I am but a small part of growing and grave concern: not just within the ADF Family and the wider Veteran Community; but of the Australian Electorate at large; that we are seeing the first real nails in the coffin of the ANZAC Military Forces as we knew them.
That the nails are being manufactured from political, delivered by civilians, held by senior civilians in uniform and hammered in, by direction, by mid level military careerists who recognize their masters.
Recruitment is already, although the real facts are obfuscated, becoming a less than cost effective factor and we may be struggling in less than a decade, to find enough service personnel, particularly on the ground and NOT in a barracks base or airfield complex.
Those in power at this time, will by then be well supered….but we will remember them.
So, speaking of Remembrance Day…and the young men (and their poor families) who are about to be dragged through dirty political mud, be publicly pilloried and, whatever the outcome, have their very lives changed forever, may I, in the spirit of fair play, gently ask our current (RAAF) ADF Chief:
Is the Australian Government now going to publicly discriminate: or are they now going to charge any and every single Australian RAAF Ex Serviceman who ever took part in any deliberate bombing (especially Firebombing) of any city or town, anywhere in the world, in World War 2.
I sincerely trust that every addressee will ask the same question of at least one journalist and one elected representative…..well before Remembrance Day.
Roger L Tingley MC