Let’s not de­monise Dig­gers

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today - John An­der­sen john. an­der­sen@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

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.

Ando

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