The diplomatic turmoil caused by the “comic incident” in China and Australia has not only set off the rise of global public opinion, but also attracted attention to the mental state of Australian Defence Force soldiers.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on the 6th that in the nearly 20 years since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, at least 500 Australian soldiers have committed suicide, more than 10 times the number of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
In the past two months, there have been frequent suicides in the Australian army, including at least 10 ex-soldiers. The analysis believes that in addition to the bureaucratic delay in the payment of subsidies, the investigation and follow-up of the Australian army’s abuse of civilians in Afghanistan are also one of the “key sources of pressure”.
The article said that from October to November this year, there have been at least 10 suicides committed by veterans in the Australian army, and 2 more in August.
The dead included one each from the Navy and one from the Air Force, one from the Gendarmerie, three from the Royal Australian Infantry Regiment and one from the Royal Artillery Regiment.
An Australian Defence Force spokesman also revealed that since August, “three active-duty full-time soldiers are suspected to have died of suicide” and said that suicide “is not usually caused by a single cause or incident”.
According to statistics, since Australia participated in the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, at least 500 Australian soldiers have committed suicide. In comparison, only 41 people were killed in the Afghan battlefield.
A survey by 2017 found that female soldiers are more than twice as likely to commit suicide as their peers.
Tasmanian Senator Jacque Lambi described suicide among veterans as “one of Australia’s most pressing problems”.
Afghanistan war crimes report as a “key source of pressure”
The article said that the Australian veterans face two major challenges this year: in addition to the delay in the payment of subsidies due to the epidemic, the Breitton report on war crimes committed by the Australian army in Australia was exposed, which is also one of the “key stressors” behind the suicide.
On the 19th of last month, Paul Breitton, judge of the Court of Cassation of New South Wales, Australia, released a report on war crimes committed by the Australian army in Afghanistan, revealing that 25 Australian special forces soldiers were involved in the brutal killing of 39 innocent civilians and prisoners of war, including “cutting throats” with the acquiescence of high-level officials. “Children and other creepy details.
The report triggered an uproar of public opinion. Under pressure, Campbell, the commander of the Australian Defence Force, admitted the crime and publicly apologized. He originally planned to recover the medals awarded to all 3,000 special forces personnel in Afghanistan. However, Campbell temporarily gave in after pressure from veterans and politicians.
Chris Mills, who runs a mutual aid group for veterans in Townsville, northeastern Queensland, said everyone was “terrified” by the Bretton report. All the (vets mutual aid) groups I know have realized that this (report) will be overwhelming for some Afghan veterans.”
It is worth mentioning that in December 2019, former Special Forces Sgt. Kevin Frost, who “wistle” war crimes in the Australian Army, committed suicide after being found to leave home. He publicly admitted in 2016 that he was involved in covering up the murder of Taliban prisoners of war, and also submitted photographic evidence to investigators, saying that he was “willing to go to prison for this” and encouraged more people to come forward and reveal the truth.
Retired Lieutenant General John Caligari, who commanded the 3rd Brigade of the Australian Defence Force, described the veterans’ group of veterans who were dissatisfied with the handling of the Breleton report, believing that “senior officers were exempted from punishment”, while ordinary soldiers were taken away with medals.
Bureaucracy procrastination becomes the “last straw”
Another factor is the bureaucratic delay in the payment of subsidies by the Australian Veterans Affairs Agency (DVA). The article said that this is directly related to the frequent occurrence of suicides.
For example, in April this year, a Victorian coroner proposed an independent review of the subsidies issued by the Veterans Affairs Bureau in his report. The report said that two years ago, a subsidy application for a veteran stationed in Afghanistan was rejected, which hit him “s hard” and committed suicide, and the agency’s handling was “incompassionate”.
In addition to war crimes reports, bureaucracy and military culture may also be factors affecting suicide.
Mills said that before the outbreak of the coronavirus, the Veterans Affairs Bureau had been slow enough to issue subsidies. The delay of the bureaucracy has been even more “absurd and unbelievable” so far this year. This frustrated many veterans, “they don’t feel like anyone cares about their lives or death.”
For many veterans, Caligali described the delay in subsidies as “the last straw to overwhelm camels.” The situation is definitely getting worse in 2020 (in the mid-pandemic).”