first published on February 1, 2018 by Will
Last year, hundreds of pages of classified documents regarding Australian Special Forces operations in Afghanistan were leaked to a major media network.
The documents included reports of civilian deaths and enemy corpse mutilation by the elite fighting force. The media ran with it, attempting to destroy any and all accomplishments by the Australian Defense Forces in order to fully cash in on their freshly acquired, leaked documents.
While civilian deaths on the battlefield are horrendous from an emotional standpoint and counterintuitive from a tactical standpoint… That is the reality of war. People, whether good, bad, or indifferent, get killed, displaced, beaten, raped, burned, and maimed. War is absolutely terrible, and that is why it should be avoided. If it were only combatants killing combatants, there would be nothing wrong with it.
This is the main reason it’s so important to keep operational records from the public. I’m not saying that wrongful killing reports shouldn’t be investigated, but releasing them to the general public is never a good idea.
Civilians, and politicians for that matter, cannot fathom the complexities of engaging an insurgency in combat. They seem unable to understand that, even though we’re the good guys, our bullets will kill whatever they come into contact with. Intelligence can be wrong. Islamists operate in a manner that intentionally puts their own people at risk in hopes that Western forces will accidentally kill them, because they know that we place a greater worth on life than they do.
In contrast to what the Australian media wants their consumers to believe, there is absolutely no benefit in targeting civilians, and frontline soldiers know that more than anyone. If you work closely with your host nation population, you will have a much smoother tour, and they will often help you out by warning you of imminent threats. However, if you level their marketplace with a JDAM, there’s going to be ten times more IEDs waiting for you while patrolling.
Last year’s document leak did nothing more than once again prove that a nation’s people are fine with sending good men to do bad things on their behalf, just so long as they are kept completely ignorant of it, unless it has been watered down or filtered through a public relations press release or film dramatization… which is fine, because part of the reason we serve is to ensure that our people to never have to be faced with the realities of war and allow them to live in their ignorant bubbles of what they perceive as reality.
However, if those same ignorant people and lawmakers want to suddenly cast legal judgement on a situation they don’t understand, because they’ve never experienced the fear of being in the dark a thousand miles from home in enemy territory… then that is injustice, especially considering that democratically elected politicians are the ones who sent them into this predicament. The blood is on everyone’s hands.
The media may say that the image of Australian Special Forces is tarnished, but if you ask me, they have only reinforced a long-understood fact. “You do not want to mess with these guys.”