A former special forces soldier has blasted the federal government’s handling of the Afghanistan war crimes report and accused our leaders of contributing to the veteran suicide crisis.
“Enough is enough, we need a Royal Commission, ten veterans have died in the last month, 600 since 2001 – I can’t take any more of these phone calls,” former special forces 2nd Commando Regiment officer Heston Russell said on Sunrise.
Russell accused the government of planning to punish special forces soldiers by stripping them of their medals four months before the report was released.
He said the Prime Minister asked the Queen to sign off on a change to Unit Citations Regulations in July this year, allowing the Governor-General to remove medals on the recommendation of the Defence Minister or the Chief of the Defence Force.
“Previously this could only be removed by the Governor-General himself,” Russell explained.
Russell said the revelation rubbed salt in the wound for the 3000 Afghanistan veterans told by Defence Chief Angus Campbell they would be stripped of their awards to show “collective responsibility” for alleged war crimes revealed in the Report.
A government spokesman said the changes had been in motion since 2015 and the Prime Minister was not briefed on war crimes detailed in the report until days before its release.
“This does not pass the pub test,” Russell said.
“I’ve been given the assumption that this was a knee-jerk reaction over six days or two weeks, but what it appears to be is over six months’ of planning.”
“Veterans and their families are feeling abandoned.”
“This damage is immeasurable and the veteran community is outraged.”
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.