As more and more veterans reach out in the wake of the Brereton report into war crimes in Afghanistan allegedly committed by members of the SAS, the more obvious it is that there is no consensus about how to respond.
The one response that is definitely wrong is appearing to do very little at all. And that's the risk the Australian War Memorial faces now.
Should the AWM take down the SAS exhibit from public display, as suggested by retired admiral Chris Barrie? There's wisdom in that, since it's built on a lie of omission, and it would allow time for a considered reconciliation of the facts. In its current state, the exhibit does not live up to AWM director Matt Anderson's promise of a "place of trust and truthtelling".
Should it halt the 2022 scheduled release of the official histories of Australia's involvement in Afghanistan? The historians working on the three planned volumes will have access to the full unredacted Brereton report, but many of the most salient details will need to be redacted for the public while court proceedings are still under way.
Is it fair to devote a significant amount of limited public space to the darkest actions of Australia's involvement, if the majority of our soldiers served with distinction and honour, achieving great outcomes for the people of Afghanistan? This is where I've received the most varied responses from veteran communities.
Who gets consulted in how the War Memorial proceeds now? The Prime Minister? The AWM board? Veterans? Modern wars only, or older wars too? Are war crimes contentious enough hold a postal survey of the Australian public?
Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester said this week that it was inevitable there would be changes to Afghanistan exhibits.
"We'll have to tell the whole story," he said. "The War Memorial is a place of truth-telling. It tells the story of Australian service, courage and sacrifice, and unfortunately it tells the ugly side of battles as well."
Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell received praise for his transparent report launch, answering questions from journalists until there were no more left.
Governor-General David Hurley, a former Defence Force Chief during the Afghanistan operations, finally reappeared, in Tasmania, far from reporters covering these events. He took no questions.
If this story has raised issues for you, you can contact:
- Open Arms - Veterans and Families Counselling - 1800 011 046
- Safe Zone Support's specialist counsellors - 1800 142 072