Those 39 lives now remind Australians that like their own country, the modern nation of Afghanistan has been constructed by the cruelties of war, four decades of it since the Soviet invasion in 1979.
“I am sincerely sorry for their loss,” Australia’s chief of the Defense Force, Gen. Angus Campbell, said Thursday of the Afghan nation. “I can’t imagine the pain, the suffering and the uncertainty that that loss has caused both at the time, and the continuing uncertainty of how that happened.”
The Australian army believes that the allegations gathered by a four-year investigation by the Inspector General of the Australian Defense Force (IGADF) is enough to prosecute 19 of its soldiers for the alleged war crimes of murder and cruel treatment.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a special investigator to bring those men to trial. All names have been redacted from the lengthy report made public on Thursday. For now, the 19 accused of committing war crimes are unidentified to the public.
But just as the collective shares in valor and sacrifice, it is sharing in the shame.
Campbell announced Friday that a review would be commenced into all honors that Australian soldiers received for fighting in Afghanistan. As many as 3,000 special forces personnel who served in Australia’s longest war could now be forced to hand back their medals, including the Meritorious Unit Citation. Senior commanders could lose their Distinguished Service Medals.
“What is now known must disentitle the unit as a whole to eligibility for recognition for sustained outstanding service,” the report reads.
“What this report discloses is disgraceful and a profound betrayal of the Australian Defense Force’s professional standards and expectations. It is not meritorious.”