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Credit: Illustration: Vintage Jim Pavlidis
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The war memorial must honour our true heroes
So the exhibits about a man who is known now to have breached the Geneva Convention’s rules of war will not be removed from the Australian War Memorial (The Age, 3/6). This insults everyone who served with honour, those who died, and those who returned and never recovered from the horrors of war. The name of my grandfather, who was killed near Ypres in World War I, is on the Wall of Remembrance. How is it he is in the same place as this disgraced soldier?
Kim Beazley, chairman of the War Memorial Council, says: “We are carefully considering the additional content and context to be included in these displays.” Perhaps they should start with these words from the Geneva Convention: “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war … Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.“
Perhaps the testimony of those who served with Ben Roberts-Smith, who had to deal with the treatment he inflicted on Afghan civilians, and who were afraid of him, could be included. Also the fear he invoked in them when he tried to prevent them from testifying about his violence. He deserves no recognition at all at the Australian War Memorial.
Julie Carrick, Leopold
Condemn our political leaders who took us to war
I do not support Ben Roberts-Smith, but I still feel some sympathy for him and his colleagues. The media revelation was appropriate and correct and I am delighted that the truth has been revealed via his ill-conceived defamation trial. Nevertheless, these hardened, trained killers are exactly that. Their exposure for long periods, fighting an enemy who is often impossible to identify, must desensitise their judgment and quite clearly their souls.
The “fog of war” is something few of us will ever experience. Rather than hounding Roberts–Smith and ruining his ongoing life, we need to reflect upon the judgment of our involvement in such a bloody mess of a war. We should turn the gaze towards our political leaders who decided to support our allies and go to war and, more importantly, how we repatriate these damaged souls, these “poor buggers” when they return to Australia.
Maurie Johns, Mount Eliza
Roberts-Smith was more than ’just a corporal’
So, according to your correspondent, Ben Roberts-Smith was “just a corporal” (Letters, 3/6). A corporal who was in charge of a section of Special Air Service Regiment professionals who, from my limited understanding of the structure of these things, were an autonomous unit.
David Raymond, Doncaster East
The pain that foreign forces inflict on other countries
In response to the veteran who expressed concern that the judgment on Ben Roberts-Smith might impact how his children and grandchildren view his service in the Vietnam War (Letters, 3/6). He wondered whether he will be seen as someone “who fought selflessly for their country? Or will they now look to him as a potential war criminal and murderer?“
History has already judged the Vietnam War and I am not sure how Australia’s interference in a civil war that it had nothing to do with was an act of self-defence. Let’s not kid ourselves. Let’s finally learn from history. Robert-Smith’s case is only a reminder of the misery foreign forces are capable of inflicting on local populations.
Sanja Nenadic, South Yarra
Enough with the self-congratulation
How many stories would The Age have printed if you had lost the defamation case? How many days would you have covered the story? You have won. Stop now, otherwise it looks like you are gloating.
Phil McAleer, Sandringham
Facing up to the truth
Perhaps the outcome of Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation case is a wake-up call to a country that has come to believe in the exceptionalism of its defence forces. Images portrayed of the bronzed Anzac, the noble warrior, have been idealised in word, film and myth. It may be time to accept the truth that Australian soldiers are capable of atrocities, just like soldiers of any country when driven by the dogs of war.
This myth is perpetuated by Anzac Day becoming less quietly reflective and commemorative to more jingoistic and celebratory. This also leads to an unrealistic understanding of the horrors of war. So too the emphasis in our war memorial in Canberra.
The brave witnesses in the defamation case will likely carry lifelong scars of their experience, both in action and the courtroom. We owe them a debt of gratitude worthy of a medal. Facing truth is cleansing and it is also necessary for a functioning democracy.
Maria Millers, Emerald
Brave, bully, murderer
“Ben Roberts-Smith was found by Federal Court judge Justice Anthony Besanko to have been a war criminal who murdered four unarmed prisoners” (The Age, 2/6). While in no way disputing these findings, I think that in the interests of fairness it should be pointed out that his actions in Tizak, Afghanistan on June 11, 2010, which resulted in his being awarded the Victoria Cross, were not called into question during the lengthy court case.
The citation for that award records his actions, including that “with a total disregard for his own safety, he stormed the enemy position killing the two remaining machine gunners”. It noted that he had demonstrated “extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry”.
It may well be that Roberts-Smith is both a war criminal, murderer and bully, but at the same time a brave man who is capable of acts of extreme valour that resulted in his Victoria Cross.
Martin Ryan, Sunshine West
Show respect for victims
So the Australian War Memorial won’t take down their display about Ben Roberts-Smith. It is to be contextualised. Will they write “murderer” on it? The display should be removed as a sign of respect for those men who had their spirits destroyed while serving under him and for the innocent people whose lives he took.
Megan Peniston-Bird, Kew
Little care for veterans
I wholeheartedly support Senator Jacqui Lambie when she asks why Defence Force Chief Angus Campbell had not been stripped of his medals given he oversaw Australian troops in Afghanistan while some alleged war crimes were committed (The Age, 31/5).
Our men were sent to Afghanistan to kill or be killed. How would we know the pressures they faced, unless we were there? The supposed friends who turned against our army and killed our soldiers etc. I think our veterans should be given our support instead of victimising them for a posting they probably did not ask for. The treatment our men have had to endure since returning home fills me with disgust.
Wendy Gown, Shoreham
Lend a helping hand
Oh Zowie Douglas-Kinghorn – “Schizophrenia does not criminalise my brother” (Comment, 3/6) – my heart breaks for you. Your understanding of complex mental illness at your age is astounding. And you are right.
We should all have enough compassion to be able to allow people who behave differently to live their lives in peace and dignity. A helping hand when needed is surely not too hard to give. A heavy police hand is so unnecessary when someone is disturbed and frightened. It’s not too much to ask is it?
Julie Smith, Soldiers Hill
Our schools in crisis
As a primary teacher of many years, I have never experienced or witnessed such high levels of violence (The Age, 3/6). On a daily basis, colleagues are kicked, punched, scratched and spat on by students as young as five years. Getting help for these children is exceptionally difficult and is dependant on parental support, availability of services or appropriate assessments.
But what we are finding over and over again is the lack of support and protection from our employer: the region or Department of Education. Ordering us not to expel students, and sending emails recognising the spike in suspensions but subtly telling us not to suspend, does not create a safe work place for students or staff. Again, the systemic problems in Victorian education are not being addressed and they wonder why teachers are leaving the professions in droves.
Name withheld, Brunswick
Tackle the churches
There are fewer than 110 high fee-private schools in Victoria that the government can hit with payroll tax inclusion. There are more than 2000 churches that pay no rates, no land tax and no income tax. Maybe that is more fertile ground for governments to generate income than penalising schools.
Allan Grosman, Red Hill South
A very mighty force
Re “Democracy has withered under Andrews” (Comment, 2/6). Political parties do not govern in Victoria, private schools do. They get millions of taxpayer dollars from both state and federal governments each year, and if they do not like a proposed law they complain and it is scrapped or altered. O that the rest of us had such power.
Lorraine Bates, Balwyn
Danger of the third term
I share Sumeyya Ilambey’s concern about the deteriorating health of Victoria’s democracy. This follows a pattern we have seen before – a third-term leader who wins absolute power against a shambolic opposition, and then governs with an entitlement to trample over democratic conventions.
John Howard’s third term brought WorkChoices, Margaret Thatcher’s third term brought her attempt to introduce a poll tax. In each case the leader gave the impression they knew more than their colleagues. In each case their third term was their last.
I have supported Daniel Andrews from when he was first elected state leader but now, for the health of our democracy, he needs to step aside and let someone else take the reins. Follow the lead of former WA premier Mark McGowan: Andrews should quit while he still has a solid place in history to build on.
Chris Young, Surrey Hills
A shambolic opposition
From his home in London, Tim Smith says Victoria’s opposition has been insufficiently strenuous in attacking the government (The Age, 1/6). Victorians are generally aware of the shortcomings and failures of accountability of Daniel Andrews and his ministers. The problem is that the opposition does not present a credible alternative. Does Smith really think that throwing his clown cap into the ring will fix this?
Helmut Simon, Thomson
More footpaths, please
Re “A dangerous practice” (Letters, 3/6). We do not need a campaign to educate the public about how to walk on roads safely. We simply need more footpaths. A lack of footpaths is a blight on the liveability of towns and cities. It forces people to own a car to get around even for short walkable distances, disadvantaging those who can least afford one. It makes the easiest and most accessible form of exercise, walking, dangerous and unpleasant. Every road should have a footpath.
Catherine Miller, Chewton
The real source of power
It is quite bemusing attempting to understand the fuss and vitriol surrounding the prospect of having a formal Voice to parliament for First Nations people. The staggering growth of the unelected, unrepresentative lobby industry seeking to influence all governments over the past few decades is a huge blight on our democratic processes.
This reality sits alongside large corporate campaign contributions, inconceivably not given without some donor benefit in mind. Even with a Yes vote, the influence of this representative group will still pale into insignificance compared with the power of the unelected voices.
Graham Black, Hamilton
An ineffective ministry
What purpose does the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs serve if the Voice becomes a constitutional right of Australians? What does this new call for a Voice to executive government say about the inability of the ministry, on its previous and current work, in representing the small number of Australians under its brief?
Martin Leggett, Langwarrin
An act of self-defence
Re “‘Insidious abuse’: judge rules husband killer deserves mercy” (The Age, 2/6). When will we stop punishing victims? Rebecca Payne, who was found guilty of murdering her violent husband, acted out of desperation after enduring years of horrific abuse. This woman needs to be nurtured and cared for after years of incomprehensible horror, not subjected to more by being imprisoned for 16 years with a non-parole period of 10 years, for an act of self-defence.
Jennifer McDougall, Soldiers Hill
Surely a man of his times
Having followed politics in my youth, my memory of (papal knight) Arthur Calwell was not that of his being “a renowned racist” (Comment, 2/6). My belief is that he followed immigration policies firmly supported by most MPs on both sides of the house.
Philip Scambler, Ocean Grove
No longer people’s park
The grand prix has missed its self-defined – and very generous – deadline to return the whole of Albert Park to the public. That’s five months and counting that large parts of the park have been shut off. No doubt there are suitable repercussions for this breach built into the contract. Aren’t there?
Paula O’Brien, St Kilda
AND ANOTHER THING
Everyone’s obviously forgotten about Breaker Morant.
Rowland Banks, Prahran
Ben Roberts-Smith also shot himself in the foot by instigating a defamation case.
David Beardsell, Balwyn North
Shakespeare would have fashioned a moving tragedy from the Ben Roberts-Smith story.
Barrie Bales, Woorinen North
Did Roberts-Smith think that “Dirty Harry” was actually real?
Gerry Lonergan, Reservoir
Why does a war criminal get to keep his military decorations?
Angela Woolard, Mordialloc
The result of the court case is a credit to your admirable journalists but the excessive gloating and back-slapping does The Age no credit.
Peter Robinson, Kilsyth
The Liberals’ Warrandyte preselection process might be another embarrassing “car crash” if Smith joins the fray.
Andrew McFarland, Templestowe
A soufflé doesn’t rise twice.
David Lyall, Mount Eliza
Peter Hartcher’s observations on the Voice (3/6) should be prominently pushed in the Yes campaign.
John Pitman, Eltham
I agree with Ann Blake (4/6). Constitutional recognition Yes, extraordinary powers no.
Noel Mavric, Moonlight Flat
Imagine if AI replaced MPs (2/6), donors and lobbyists with policies which advanced the Commonwealth. Total science fiction.
Peter Thomas, Pascoe Vale
At last, a Codewords puzzle (3/6) that required some thought. Long may it continue. I loved the word “succubus”.
John Cummings, Anglesea
Congratulations to Joe Armao for his exquisite front-page photo of figure skater Cailin O’Keefe’s joyful “leap into winter”. (3/6).
Janet Theodosi, Hawthorn East
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