The worst trap in journalism is to simplistically divide the world into black and white; good and evil. The advent of so-called "social" media has merely emphasised this tendency. Perspective has been lost. The reality is that the truth is both complex and nuanced.
This is why the report into possible war crimes carried out by Australian troops in Afghanistan that's currently sitting on Defence Minister Linda Reynolds' desk is about to explode with such vehemence. It will destroy this bifurcation of the world for good.
Major-General Paul Brereton's report into the allegations of war crimes has been sitting in Russell Hill for months. What makes it too hot for the politicians to release is that it isn't a story that can be told simply. Revealing what went on will make a mockery of the binary distinction that's bedevilled our reporting of the Afghan war.
The vital point to understand about this investigation is that it was originally commissioned by the Special Forces Commander, Jeff Sengleman, and not forced on him. By recognising there were questions that needed to be investigated he demonstrated a courage that went way beyond facing the enemy. That decision was, in fact, the key moment, because it showed that the forces were genuinely prepared to live by the values they espoused.
That's why - when the report is finally released - the focus will be on the wrong thing.
For almost two decades there's been no nuance in the story pushed out by headquarters. Aussie diggers were doing good: building schools, training Afghans, killing terrorists.
The truth was, of course, never that simple. Many of those schools are now madrassas teaching fundamentalists the path of righteousness. Some of the soldiers we trained turned their guns on our soldiers, rather than killing Taliban.
We will have the equivalent of a body count; a messy process where everyone picks over the details in the document and attempts to second-guess the investigations and decisions made by Brereton. The fact that he's an impartial Supreme Court Judge will be irrelevant to those who still seek to dissolve reality into simplicity.
No matter what details are contained in the document there will be a couple of days of fury and denunciations, anger and angst, and the social-media driven political world will spin on, focusing its spin and division on new targets, leaving shattered lives in its wake.
This is perhaps the biggest, incalculable, ramification of the inquiry. The specific events that Brereton's investigated will be dealt with in detail. Unfortunately the ripples from the report will affect everyone who's been deployed to the Middle East.
The simplicity of the story underlying our deployment wasn't wrong; but it wasn't right either. Our soldiers were sent to fight Islamic extremists. Unfortunately, terror doesn't wear a uniform. The bad guys weren't always wearing black. The problem is that the spin-masters, those telling the story, are often doing it to achieve their own ends.
Unfortunately, what appears quite simple back in Canberra isn't really like that as you get further and further up the valley and penetrate the complex fabric of reality.
There are never simple answers to explain what goes on in war and this will be the key to making sense of Brereton's report. Don't jump to divide the world in two, because everything changes depending on whose perspective you choose to take as you interpret the world.
Today we rely on either tweets or short posts (of no more than a couple of sentences) to provide the information we need to make sense of the modern world. Such tiny bites of opinion aren't useful ways of attempting to convey the complexity of what's occurring around us. Dangerously, they also encourage a rush to judgement without a full knowledge or understanding of what occurred; without recognition of the emotional stress and confusion of the moment.
For years we've been told our involvement in the Middle East could be explained simply. Our soldiers were doing good and fighting terrorism. They were. But "terror" doesn't wear a uniform.
As a nation we will need to understand and accept complexity.
Sometimes - like the dark night in 2008 when Rozi Khan was killed - bad things happened.
Khan had emerged as a local leader in the war against the Soviets, long before the first Australian boot ever touched the sandy soil of Uruzgan. But Khan was from the Barakzai tribe and this was threatening to some of our close allies, who were Popalzai.
On one terrible night (an event previously reported) Khan was shot dead, most likely by our Special Forces in a friendly-fire incident.
Some experts have suggested they were manipulated into killing Khan. Many had suspicions, but there was never going to be any way of tracing a link between faulty intelligence and that final, tragic moment.
Something very bad happened in the darkness, but that outcome couldn't be blamed on any one individual. Certainly not on an Australian who may have squeezed the trigger and killed an ally.
We'll need to retain that same sense of perspective as we attempt to interpret Brereton's detailed report. We've been led to understand that it will encompasses more than just one event and one individual, and this means there will be a lot to read in order to make sense of what occurred. Taking the time to understand what occurred, in all its detail, will be vital.
The long delay in releasing his findings suggests that, as well as eliminating the enemy, we may also have murdered others in cold blood.
War doesn't produce heroes. Only complexities.
- Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer.