Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fighting Spirits and Lost Souls

Yesterday an Australian soldier was killed in Afghanistan. It’s the third Australian death in both Iraq and Afghanistan (except for one guy who was fighting with the RAF). We're great at ducking bullets unless they're from our own guns. The first was a young private suspected of accidentally shooting himself with his own firearm in Iraq. The second, a 41 year old member of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Task Force - the victim of a roadside explosion. The third killed in an anti tank mine accident also in Afghanistan

The media fuss that has followed the death of these unfortunate men is alarming, maudlin, parochial and lamentable. We seem surprised when this happens . . . I don't want to detract from the tragedy because these men were someone's husband, brother, uncle, father but in this instance, they were also combatants put in harm's way and by their own volition. Isn’t that the general idea? They’re trained to fight not just look good in a Dress Uniform! It’s the nature of the job. I wish tabloid TV and the anti-war lobby would realise this and focus on the dickheads that send our troops into frey's that aren't ours. (I'm speaking of Iraq here, I endorse our peacekeeping in Afghanistan which is where the whole attention of the Coalition of the Willing should be focussed to my mind!)

The military has become a convenient way to achieve free qualification, especially for enlisted personnel. Or, you can enrol in the Australian Defence Force Academy and try for a degree along with your military training. Once finished with all the free education and training, there is some expectation that our preciouses may actually go to war. Despite the public outcry! What are they supposed to do stay home and spit and polish their rifles.

Peacekeeping, war, military policing and support for reconstruction is not a Sunday Picnic. It involves fighting, seeing sights you never want to see, taking risk, it’s not for the feint-hearted. Militia embarking on such sorties need a total education on what they’re getting into. Returning soldiers need proper debriefing, psychiatric assessment and ongoing support – sometimes for life.

In an effort to bolster dwindling interest in the armed forces, our Government in its wisdom is now recommending a try-before-you-buy program to recruit into the military. Yep, 1 year’s paid service to see if you like it! Not a bad plan . . . spend your gap year between school and tertiary education or gainful employment learning how to blow shit up and take over the world. (DrummerBoy managed to learn that with a bottle of vinegar and some pool chlorine but that's another story). The recruitment marketing even includes downloadable online gaming to encourage the young to pick up a rifle and fight for Queen PM and country. Is it working? Absolutely. Extreme Battleships and Supreme Air Combat are giving our online gamers a taste of the real thing and recruitment is up for our young would be combatants. But this ain't no Halo pal . . this is war!

What happens to these men an women when they return from the theatre of war. My cousin-in-law was a career soldier. He served in the first Gulf War, Bosnia, Sinai, Lebanon and other combat zones, he worked for the UN, he grew from an active grunt to top brass and retired a happy man at 55. He’s well adjusted.

Another relative was on a pension long before retirement age after flying helicopters in Vietnam. His nerves are shot, he can’t work, drive or function in the normal world but it took 20 years for his PTS to manifest itself. He came home with no debriefing and a raging community who were completely against the war and those who participated in it . . .he was made to feel guilty for being in the army and simply stopped talking about it.

Whatever you think of the current conflicts where Australians are involved, it’s vital that when they come home the balance is maintained. It’s a job. They enlisted but we also need to be cogniscent of their mental state upon their return. It’s important that our military men and women are not demoralised by ongoing criticism of the conflict or left to rot in their own psychosis. It’s we who should take responsibility and our elected politicians that should be criticised. Whilst our soldiers should fight, navy should sail and fly boys must fly, we need to be judicious about the conflicts in which we get involved. Vote with your feet people . . .there’s an election coming up!


Nonny said...

I think you are right Baino, yes they elected themselves for it but a country owes to the men and woman who fight for it to look after them when they come home. When you think of all those poor American lads stuck in Iraq its awful.

Daz said...

The chlorine and vinegar bomb is matched only in quality by the excellently dangerous sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid bomb I once made.
The chemistry books are right; it is stupidly dangerous to perform that reaction.

And unless I've woken up in 2552, it won't be Halo Wars for a long time ...

Brianf said...

"the victim of a roadside explosion"
This was a home made bomb made and placed for the single purpose of killing coalition soldiers. Made by and placed by fanatical terrorists not some kind of tragic traffic accident.
"an anti tank mine accident"
Again it was not an 'ACCIDENT'. It was an act of terrorism designed and built on purpose with the intention of killing people. It was no accident.

Daz said...

For once I have to agree with GI Ginger - the Islamic fundamentalists aren't exactly welcoming any soldiers with open arms.

And the boys did sign up for it - the slogan is hardly Join The Army, Stay At Home And Do Nothing is it?

Baino said...

Nonny: Welcome back. We treated our Vietnaqm vets badly and so many have suffered because of it. I hope we're more forgiving of particularly those in Iraq. It's a very unpopular war here and should cost the Government dearly come election time.

Brian: You're right, we have become used to sanitising the language to the point where killing our own is 'colateral damage' and dead soldier is a 'casualty of war' not someone's father, brother, son coming home in pieces in a box. It's sickening.

Daz: I worry about you doing chemistry, I really do . . Sambuca and explosives do not mix!

Nonny said...

Hopefully it will set an example for the next government and they will learn from their predecessor’s mistakes.

Daz said...

So Nonny, when do you expect hell to freeze over?

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I tried to leave a comment last night but my ISP decided that it was holier than all things, including governments and warmongers... let's not talk about it, okay, or I will have to bomb them. Suffice it to say , it always strikes me that we make a huge fuss when one of our own gets killed but what about all those thousands of Iraqis - others - innocent civilians - who've been killed. They never signed up for any such thing and they are the unremembered heroes.

But, on an entirely different and much nicer topic, I wanted you to know that I've awarded you with the "Nice" Award ;-)