It is reported in connection with the trial of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan that no Australian soldier has ever been convicted of killing a civilian or a prisoner.
This is quite believable; after all, even when Australia passed a law to punish second world war crimes we restricted its operations to parts of the world where no Australian soldiers had fought. It is, nonetheless, a stain on the nation's character that we have never been prepared to open our eyes to the obvious fact that Australian soldiers are not in comparison with the military of other countries uniquely angelic. In every war we have fought up to the present day some Australian soldiers have on occasion raped and plundered; in most of our wars we have been regarded by our allies as particularly prone to kill our prisoners. In every war to date those Australians who committed war crimes have been shielded by the Anzac myth. If the War Memorial were to institute a gallery showing Diggers beating up wogs in Cairo, machinegunning lifeboats, and conducting pogroms in Palestinian villages (all incidents recorded in our histories) there might be more public recognition that sending men to war is a terrible responsibility not so much because Australians may die as that Australians may kill.
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