Army was forced, very much against the will of some senior officers, to go down this path. As a result of that resistance to dealing with inconvenient truths a lot of good soldiers who had tried to expose these evils had their careers, and in some cases, their lives destroyed.
The reality is if Australia failed to investigate these matters many would have ultimately been referred to international war crimes investigators. What we should be asking is "why has it taken more than four years to get to this point?"
Despite the work Major General Brereton has done, justice has not yet been served and, in some cases, may never be. This was a "coercive administrative inquiry". People were compelled to testify regardless of whether or not they were incriminating themselves. The evidence collected cannot be used in a court of law.
Nobody has yet been charged over the alleged murders of 39 Afghans. That won't occur until the conclusion of more formal investigations which can only be "informed" or "directed" by this report. That could take up to a decade. This means, given the report deals with alleged offences dating back to 2010, 20 years may have passed before the families of victims will know if a specific individual has been held accountable. It's not good enough. Justice delayed is justice denied.
The alleged crimes themselves need to be called out for what they are; "unlawful killings" and "cruelty" are euphemisms for murder and torture which was then covered up by coercion, corruption, and deceit. It is apparent up to 25 members of the Special Operations Group may have indulged in truly barbaric behaviour in cold blood; none of it in the heat of battle.
The real surprise is the way in which rules were openly broken and official records falsified under the noses of senior officers. Leaders were focused on results to the exclusion of almost anything else. Commanders turned a blind eye to rule beaches, dodgy documentation, and the dark rumours now known to have been circulating for years before this process was initiated.
Although the inquiry found task force and group commanders should be held morally responsible for actions committed under their command, the ADF's senior leadership group is apparently off the hook.
General Campbell said the inquiry found no "credible evidence" top rankers (such as himself and the Governor-General, General David Hurley, who was the deputy chief and chief of the defence force for some of the period in question) knew what was going on. If true, this raises more grave questions.
Thursday's briefing's real failure was a lack of regard for the victims. Who were they? Who did they leave behind? When will those who lost fathers, sons, and brothers be compensated? If they have to wait until the criminal process is finalised it could take decades. It's not about us and ours; it's actually about them.