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OPINION: A veteran wonders why Garrie Hutchinson is a protected species

Sasha Uzonov

As a trained journalist I do not like to indulge in conspiracy theories because most simply are not true. Usually there is a logical explanation for an incident, as in why the mainstream media will not examine certain issues. With the Garrie Hutchinson saga it is more a case of the domino theory applying.

Those who lived during the Cold War era will remember the theory that if Vietnam had fallen under communist rule in the early 1960s then the rest of Southeast Asia would topple like dominos. We now know that the theory has been discredited.

First of all, let me say that there is nothing wrong in a man or a woman opposing military service because of their conscience or political ideology. In a democracy we allow people to express different and at times unpopular views. That is the rough and tumble of Australia’s democracy in action.

I think most Australians would agree, including war veterans, that a person’s courage cannot be measure simply by wearing a uniform or having medals on their chest. People have survived horrific personal tragedy such as battles with cancer, the loss of a loved one or losing a limb in a serious accident. Others have the bravery of standing up for their views.

Garrie Hutchinson in my opinion is a hero in the truest sense of the word, for having the guts to oppose the Vietnam War because of his conviction. No one can criticise him for that. One of my favourite high school teachers was Michael Hyde, former Vietnam War protestor.

I think the anger at Garrie comes from veterans, quite rightly, who believe he has positioned himself as the major interpreter of the ANZAC legend, which was forged by men and women serving in uniform facing adversity. Many Vietnam Veterans are furious because of what they had to endure when they returned from a controversial war. The perception is that when they were fighting in Vietnam their voice could not be heard, and when they returned they now have to ask permission to discuss the ANZAC legend.

Likewise, recent veterans from East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan feel as though they are stage props wheeled in and out of the media stage when it suits journalists and book authors.

There are powerful media forces standing in the background watching the Garrie Hutchinson test case. The fear is if Garrie were to “fall” from his position as interpreter of the ANZAC Legend then other big name journalists and media commentators could be next. But we know from history that the domino theory was just that a theory…

We also know that over the past thirty years Australia’s national security and defence debate as well as our sacred national myth the Anzac Legend have been hijacked by a group of media commentators and academics, who have never served in the military. These people play a major role in shaping our defence policy and the media refuse to expose them.

It is an issue that remains touchy, even taboo. So many of Australia’s big name journalists have built a media tough guy image as war reporters and any scrutiny of whether they have served in uniform or not becomes a question of ego and masculinity–and generates downright hostility.

How do veterans explain to the big names in the media that their fears are unfounded; that their jobs are not under threat.

Sasha Uzunov graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from RMIT in 1991 and volunteered in 1995 to serve as an Australian Army soldier and went to East Timor (1999 and 2001)
As a journalist he has worked in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.


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February 2019
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