Following on from his previous book Uncommon Soldier where he explored the ‘myth, legend and reality’ which surrounds the modern day soldier and where it all commenced, Chris Masters takes a serious look at the elite of Australia’s Armed Forces, The Special Air Services, otherwise known as the SAS, the Commandos and the Special Operations Engineers Regiment, the most highly trained contingent of secretive and extraordinary men in the Armed Services of Australia.
He takes a close look at their roles in combat, the men who direct operations, the political red tape that has over the many long years in Afghanistan, caused far more problems that it ever prevented and the bravery shown by the men who often worked in incredibly difficult circumstances, to somehow or other try make a difference.
Afghanistan is the longest running war Australia has ever been involved in, cost unimaginable sums of money, incredible health issues for the men and women who served there and in some minds showed little for the massive effort. It bears close scrutiny.
That much of the work undertaken was done through political field glasses is a given, that it put the lives of many of Australia’s elite personnel at risk far more than was required, is and always will be, debatable. In the ten years it has taken Masters to compile record and write this detailed work he has listened to the best and worst of it from soldiers returning from the conflict, trying to get some sort of balance back into their lives.
He has also been forced to take a clear look at some of the operations undertaken by these elite soldiers, that have in the cold light of day, proven to be perhaps not so honourable, but many may say, such is war!
Masters examines the change in terminology that has the effect of disconnecting from the reality: when ‘dead’, becomes ‘passing’, when ‘kill zones’ become ‘engagement areas’, and ‘enemies’ are ‘neutralised’ or ‘reduced’. By using such terminology, somehow war becomes sanitised, the very last thing it will ever be, along with the very real changes in the lives of the men who become desensitised to the reality of their everyday, working lives.
In this in-depth look, courtesy of the men who went there, gave far more than even they could have expected, Chris Masters and the elite of the Armed Services, offer up a side of Army life rarely ever talked about in open circles, so that people can have a better, and more thorough understanding of what a ‘tour in Afghanistan’ really means. He looks at the flow on effect it has on the families who have also have walked every step with them, learning to cope with the loss of their beloved father and husband, to the men returning home to a country that is more foreign to them than the ‘bad lands’ of Afghanistan.
The final page of this comprehensive look at war, courtesy of the Taliban and the battlefields of Afghanistan, is very telling, touching on the triggers of public opinion, international security and the ‘tendency to look the other way’. There are still many questions to be asked, challenges to truth and whitewashing to be reviewed.
The real cost of sending a nation to war, because that is what does happen and has happened, is truly uncountable, which also needs to be reviewed under the microscope of what will no doubt be a situation which will simply never go away, never change and always, in one way or another involve Australian servicemen and volunteers.
To the faceless men who tend to live in the shadows, carry out instructions that are both dangerous and often times could be considered foolhardy, in the desire, belief and hope of creating something far better, we salute you!
|Publisher||Allen and Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen and Unwin|