Specially Forced? Odd outburst from Director of Australian War Memorial

ABC TV News yesterday (2 November 2017) repeatedly ran an interview by Defence reporter, Andrew Greene, with Australian War Memorial Director, Brendan Nelson, in which Dr Nelson questioned the time being taken by the Army’s review into the conduct of Special Forces in Afghanistan. ‘Where is the national interest’, the Director asks, ‘in tearing down these heroes’.

The video of the interview now available online has been truncated somewhat: it does not include the Director’s reference to the role of the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, in putting the review in place. Nor does the video include the Director’s brief infomercial for the Memorial’s current exhibition on the work of the Special Forces, an exhibition which is advertised as ‘[d]eveloped in partnership with Special Operations Command’. But the first aspect at least is covered in the radio version.

We found it difficult to gauge whether the purpose of Dr Nelson’s interview was to hype the exhibition or spray the Australian Defence Force hierarchy (or perhaps both). Perhaps other observers may be better placed to read the implications.

General Campbell is an ex officio member of the Council of the War Memorial. Dr Nelson’s current term as Director expires on 16 December 2017. (New term ends 30 May 2019.) The appointment as Director of the Memorial is a matter for the Governor-General on the advice of the government (Act sec. 20).

David Stephens

3 November 2017 updated

Update 8 June 2018: Defence report suggests Australian war crimes in Afghanistan plus cultural problems within Australian forces.

Update 9 June 2018: more from Director Nelson, particularly on the impact of a drawn-out inquiry on ADF members and former members. Also on the ABC on 10 June.

Update 10 August 2018: long article in Fairfax on allegations against Ben Roberts-Smith VC for actions in Afghanistan.

Update 11 August 2018: follow-up including further Nelson remarks: ‘I have to ask where is the national interest in what’s being done here?’

Update 13 August 2018: more from Dr Nelson.

More still but another relevant comment from Paul Barratt, former secretary of Defence.

Update 14 August 2018: yet more from Director Nelson.

 

 

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