Ben Roberts-Smith

No matter what other claims are made, Ben Roberts-Smith courage under fire can "never, ever be disputed".

Ben Roberts-Smith

The news this week has been dominated by the defamation verdict of war hero Ben Roberts-Smith.

The trial was a victory for the nine media group which, the judge ruled, had satisfied the grounds for their accusations levelled against the Victoria Cross winner.

I don’t know Roberts-Smith, although I know some people who do.

Accordingly, I make no judgement as to whether he’s a good bloke or not. Nor do I know first hand what sort of soldier he was.

However, what I do know is that our SAS troops are the best of the best.

They are trained to do a job that many of us simply couldn’t do. They go where others fear to tread.

Our Government send them in to do the heavy lifting - often in secret. By the time you’d know the’ve been deployed it’s likely they will have already returned successfully from their mission.

These incredible men and their extraordinary capacity was  never called upon more than in the disaster known as the Afghanistan war.

Calling it that is in no way meant to be disrespectful to our troops. They did a magnificent job of devouring the unpalatable sandwich they were asked to eat.

There was no frontline for them to face. Any person they encountered could have morphed from goat herder to terrorist and back again in the press of a button.

The atrocities committed by the Taliban against our people, as well as their own, were abhorrent. No one seems to give a hoot about their behaviour.

Being confronted with that poison day after day, rotation after rotation would challenge even the strongest spirit.

I know it broke some. Many of those who left the service are still trying to patch together a civilian life, starved of support by the Army brass.

Some covered up the trauma and continued to serve, compounding their own problems.

I will not judge any many for whatever transpired on the battlefield.

I have neither walked in their shoes nor lived their experience. Those who were concerned by the behaviour of their fellow soldiers deserve our respect and honour.

But so do those who were more brutalised by their service. A compounding experience of trauma or exposure to traumatic events changes people. They become desensitised to what many of us would find abhorrent.

Some of us are squeamish about killing an animal and yet we expect these men to be unaffected by taking the life of a human on the battlefield. The instant and deceptive transformation from friend to foe would simply compound the perceived threat.

That’s why I care nothing for the alleged crimes of Ben Roberts-Smith.

He was made by our Army, he did what was asked of him. If he was broken then it's the ADF which should bear responsibility for his repeated deployment.

Having the allegations against him tried in the media, a defamation court or the court of public opinion serves no positive purpose.

As to his Victoria Cross, it was awarded on the basis of a specific act of valour. Whatever else he may have done, his courage under fire can never be disputed.

It’s not a character award nor a token of appreciation. It’s the highest honour a soldier can receive for gallantry and valour.

While some of his colleagues may not have liked the way BRS was alleged to have gone about his business on the battlefield, those do not include the beneficiaries of his storming of the machine gun nest at Tizak in 2010.

I’ve no doubt that Roberts-Smith is not the only SAS regiment trooper worthy of a Victoria Cross. Others have received them but many, equally deserving have not.

They are all heroes who have paid an incredible price for their service.

That some may be flawed or bent or broken by that service weighs heavily with me. It’s why I don’t believe we should sit in judgement of any of them.

Our nation called, many, many times,  and these men responded, no matter how challenging the task.

We are all indebted to their service.

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