Political commentator Erin Molan has slammed immediate moves to strip senior SAS officers who served in Afghanistan of their awards in the wake of the Brereton inquiry as “appalling, clumsy, calamitous”.
It emerged earlier this week Australian Defence Force chief General Angus Campbell had again sent letters to some senior personnel telling them that he had referred the matter to Defence Minister Richard Marles to rule on whether they would be stripped of their awards.
The move has drawn criticism from Australian SAS Association who said the war crime allegations had not yet been proven.
On her Sky News program on Friday, Molan said many defence personnel felt affected by the “gross mishandling of this sad debacle” regardless of whether they had been accused of wrongdoing.
“We universally agree that anyone who has committed crimes must be held to account of course, illegal acts of misbehaviour of any type are reprehensible and contrary to the conduct of the vast majority of our men and women in uniform,” Molan said.
“But the presumption of innocence has to be upheld.”
Sky News host Peta Credlin says the only people who should lose their medals are those convicted of a ‘specific crime” after General Angus Campbell’s move to strip special forces officers of their Afghanistan medals. Ms Credlin says this is “on account of their responsibility for the possible crimes of a few individuals under their command”. “How can General Campbell keep his Distinguished Service Cross, for instance, awarded for leading the whole Afghanistan task force – Operation Slipper – in 2011, if his subordinates can’t keep their medals either,” she said. “Frankly, this whole business stinks of double standards and moral panic.”
She said any legal process must be allowed to run its course before any awards are stripped.
“Let me tell you, the absolutely appalling, clumsy, calamitous handling of this entire situation is the only proven crime so far,” she said.
And she questioned, with the spectre of Australia being drawn into a possible conflict with China, why anyone would join the military in the current climate.
“I thought we’d come a long way since Vietnam. Maybe not,” she said.
“This has been a tragic and regrettable … incident in our proud military history.
“The allegations themselves – absolutely. Just as bad the way it’s been handled.”
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