Let’s not demonise Diggers
MY guess is that rank and file soldiers humping their packs and kit on 30km marches through the ironbark savannah up on Herveys Range would reckon retired army general and Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove was a soldier’s soldier.
My guess is that rank and file soldiers weighed down with weapons and kit while dodging bullets and bombs in places like Afghanistan and Iraq would also reckon Cosgrove was a soldier’s soldier.
And during the Facebook blow-up last week, my guess is that, following Cosgrove’s veiled instruction to holierthan-thou defence force chiefs, politicians and media commentators to go take a cold shower, the rank and file now think he is a man among men.
What he said amid all of the hysteria was that the issue ‘‘ needed to be kept in proportion’’.
One reason serving soldiers think Cosgrove is one of them is because he sticks up for them when no one else in their ranks will lift a finger.
The military brass who should be defending them, instead behave like politicians and hoist the white flag in the face of perceived public outrage.
But, not Cosgrove. He doesn’t condone soldiers using language such as ‘‘ dune coon’’, ‘‘ sand niggers’’ and ‘‘ rag heads’’ on Facebook, but at the same time he doesn’t condemn.
He asks people to understand the situation these ‘‘ kids’’ are in and the terrible fears they face, day in, day out, when they go out on patrol.
He asks that they not be judged just on their Facebook comments, but on the job they do every day as well.
‘‘ Some soldiers who have been posting these disreputable comments are also putting their lives on the line for ordinary Afghans,’’ he said.
‘‘ Remember, these kids are actually, by their deeds, showing they see a worthwhile mission for which they’re prepared to accept that great danger.’’
Compare his statement on the issue to that of Acting Chief of Army, MajorGeneral Paul Symon, who said: ‘‘ The army is appalled by this behaviour. It is totally unacceptable and does not represent army values of courage, teamwork and initiative’’.
All Major-General Symon had to say was that the young men involved were living and fighting in a highly stressful combat environment and that they would receive counselling about the appropriateness of comments they posted on their Facebook pages. End of story. Maybe it’s time to remember the insults dished out to Australian soldiers returning from Vietnam in the 1970s.
This was a shameful period of our history and one that risks being repeated if we keep demonising our young serving soldiers over what are silly and intemperate remarks made on social networking sites.