An unusually-acerbic opinion piece was recently published by the University of New South Wales’ Newsroom. Therein, the author, Dr. Deane Peter-Baker, an ADFA academic, took issue with my most recent Fairfax op-ed on the conduct of Australian special forces in Afghanistan.
Although worth reading, many of the arguments, including the nigh-on verbatim passage about alleged paedophiles and their tarnished reputations, appear to have been recycled from an earlier op-ed written by Dr. Baker last year.
(Sidenote: it was me who suggested to Small Wars Journal’s Dave Dilegge that Dr. Baker’s first op-ed might be published on SWJ because it was the best public rebuttal to the original ABC op-ed I had earlier written on the topic).
Additionally (and sadly), there are also a number of demonstrable falsehoods in Dr. Baker’s latest rebuttal – most of them related to what was actually written in my Fairfax piece. Some of his gymnastic re-renderings of my arguments are, to use his phraseology, “frankly laughable”.
As such, while I readily encourage robust debate, I would also invite Dr. Baker to carry out a more careful examination of the text when crafting his next rebuttal to whatever it is that I write. This might help him avoid any future misinterpretations and/or misrepresentations of what is actually being said.
Of course, it is partly-true, as Dr. Baker was quick to point out last year, that I am but a “blogger turned ABC analyst [Correction: I’m a freelancer]”. And who is a mere blogger, after all, to have an opinion about anything?
Even so, it would be nice if those who choose to dive into my works would dive in proper and read all the sentences in all their completeness.
So. In full, and as kindly published by the UNSW Newsroom after I raised the factual inaccuracies with them, here is my response to Dr. Baker:
RESPONSE FROM C. AUGUST ELLIOTT
I would like to re-state my position to avoid misrepresentation. Dr Baker suggests I have been “throwing around the ‘war criminal’ label willy nilly”. This is not true. None of my writing has used the term “war criminal” to describe any member of the Special Operations Task Group. I used the term “illegal violence” (which comes from the Crompvoets Report) when referring to special forces allegations and used “war crimes” only in relation to historic case studies of Mỹ Lai and Srebenica. Dr Baker also says that I was “quick to condemn not just a whole Regiment but the entire 3000-strong Special Operations Command and all those who have served in it since 2001” for alleged misconduct in Afghanistan. The Herald article to which Dr Baker refers used phrases such as “some soldiers”, “certain charismatic corporals” and “insidious sects within special forces” (emphasis added) to ensure my critique specifically did not apply a broad brush to all within the organisation. Some members of the command are now blowing the whistle on alleged wrongdoing. They are witnesses, not suspects, and their claims should be heard out in full.