Response to ADFA Concerns

Dear Mr McMahon,

Thank you for your email.

I am not sure if you checked the context of the quote Andrew Bolt published. It appeared in an article written nearly a year ago in a week in which there had been football sex scandals, defence sex scandals, and our then Prime Minister had been referred to as meat on a menu. The article drew on examples across all three spheres to describe a broader Australian cultural phenomenon of men pumping themselves up and male bonding through the sexual degradation of women. An observation I absolutely stand by.

The published article made no specific references to contemporary defence practices.

The one line email that Bolt published that referred to ADFA was a poorly considered off the cuff dismissal of a troll in a private email.

The off the cuff response reflected that I was in the midst of supporting a student through a set of circumstances that reflected the institutions on-going challenges in managing these issues. I don’t think it was in the institutions interests for me to expand on that then or now.

I am an employee of the University of New South Wales. ADFA cadets benefit from G8 quality university education in which they are exposed to a variety of ideas and are taught to think critically about them. I would hope that I do present the cadets with some ideas they find challenging. Fortunately, the students are of a higher calibre than many, and they value that opportunity. Last year the cadet’s evaluations revealed I was one of the most respected and popular lecturers at ADFA.

I hope that sufficiently clarifies your concerns.

Yours sincerely

Dr Lindy Edwards


One thought on “Response to ADFA Concerns

  1. I have sent this letter to Nick Cater.

    Dear Nick,

    I read your note on the Catallaxy files blog. You and Mr Thomas appear unconvinced that: There is a long tradition of firing up fighting men by invoking their shared ability to sexually degrade women. They tap into an ideal of male sexual power to create a cocktail of ego, aggression and sexual energy that they channel into battle. I tried to post something to this effect on Mr Bolt’s blog, but his moderator seemed to reject it for whatever reason.

    Some examples:

    Perhaps the Iliad is the oldest book in the Western tradition. In Book 2, line 355, Nestor (a commander of the Greeks) fires up the men: ‘Wherefore let no man make haste to depart homewards until each have lain with the wife of some Trojan, [355] and have got him requital for his strivings and groanings for Helen’s sake.’ There’s a similar sentiment from Agamemnon as well, pretty sure it’s in Book 2 but I lost the reference just now.

    The rape of Cassandra by Ajax (another Greek commander) is a staple image in Greek pottery. The rape of the Trojan women is a story told again and again. If you prefer to think of the Bible is the start of the long tradition, look at Numbers 31:17-18 or Judges 21. If you don’t like the Greeks, and you don’t think these parts of the Bible are properly part of any long tradition, recall Rome was founded on the rape of the Sabine women.

    If you want something more recent and American from a senior commander, General Patton in the WWII was quoted in August 1942 by his subordinates giving a speech to his men: “We’ll rape their women and pillage their towns and run the pusillanimous sonsofbitches into the sea.” – see “Masters of Battle: Monty, Patton and Rommel at War”, Terry Brighton. There are numbers of war-crime trials, including from Vietnam, where officers were accused of encouraging their troops to rape.

    I’ve picked these examples and looked at the ancient Greeks because that’s what Dr Edwards talks about in her opinion piece. But you can find the same sort of stuff from the Soviets in WWII in Germany, Germans in WWI in Belgium, Belgians in Congo in the 1890s, … Go to Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International’s websites and you’ll find example after example of not just commanders firing up their men, but the most horrendous violence being perpetrated against women today by soldiers, militia and other fighting men, often with the connivance or direct orders, or even in the presence of their commanders.

    And to be clear, I don’t know Dr Edwards at all, I have no idea what she does really, and in truth I think her argument is a bit wrongheaded – I think attempting to reform human nature and the cultural understanding of sex in the way she describes is a bit futile, however desirable it might be.

    This conversation is really about sexual violence. I suspect it is only the best and most exceptionally disciplined military organisation which can entirely stamp out rape and sexual violence. Clearly the RAAF where Mr Thomas and his father served in the 1940s-70s was one such exceptional organisation, and perhaps the justifiable pride which Mr Thomas seems to have in the RAAF prompted his doubting query to Dr Edwards. He should be happy that neither he nor his father were in the BCOF in 1946 which represents an entirely different military tradition which our country unfortunately also has, an element of which might be what Dr Edwards is seeing every day at ADFA. The link below is the war memoir of Allen Clifton. I encourage you to read chapter 20, and then ponder whether your blog article and analysis, Mr Thomas’ questions, or Dr Edward’s teaching are more useful in building a better Australian defence force – a goal you surely all share.

    Please feel free to forward this email to Mr Thomas.


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