Afghanistan veteran slams defence chief’s campaign to strip medals
An Afghanistan veteran has slammed the chief of the Australian Defence Force’s demand to justify why senior officers should keep their medals as “devastating” and questioned the timing of the campaign.
ADF chief Angus Campbell has given officers 28 days to prove their service in the Afghanistan war was “distinguished” but it has sparked ire from veterans.
The action comes after the Brereton report released in 2020 which detailed alleged war crimes in Afghanistan by Australia’s special forces.
Retired Army major Stuart McCarthy, who did two tours of Afghanistan, has questioned the timing of Campbell’s action as the royal commission into veteran suicide recommences this week.
“Call me a cynic, probably justified by this time, but I’m of the suspicion the government is throwing out the issue of Afghanistan medals again to distract from the serious issues that will likely come out of the royal commission hearings this week,” he told Nine’s radio station 2GB.
“The issue I’m red hot on is the command failures that led to this situation go all the way to the very top at General Campbell himself.”
The royal commission handed down an interim report into veteran suicides earlier this year which led to an apology from the government.
McCarthy questioned Campbell’s Distinguished Service Cross as he believes it should not have been awarded.
“In the citation on his Distinguished Service Cross, he said he was given that award for ‘distinguished command and leadership in action’ – the key phrase is ‘in action’ and what that means is he was serving in action against the enemy in combat in Afghanistan.
“That, quite simply, is not the case.”
McCarthy said the defence force’s campaign was “devastating” and “doesn’t pass the pub test at all”.
Earlier, NSW Veterans Affairs Minister David Elliott said questioning officers’ honours could have “devastating consequences”.
“There are no winners when you humiliate veterans,” he said.
“I can tell you if one of these veterans self-harms because they’ve been treated or embarrassed, the blood will be on the hands of those who wear the brass.”
Crisis support is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14 or from Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
The Defence All-hours Support Line can be reached on 1800 628 036 and the Defence Member and Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.