Australian soldiers speaking exclusively to The New Daily say they are eager to join the fight against jihadists in Iraq after watching horrific videos of innocent people being murdered.
Risking prosecution and their careers for speaking out, the soldiers say travelling to the Middle East to battle Islamic State fighters is a justified use of Australian military forces, unlike the Iraq war which began in 2003.
“I can tell you that everyone still in the army or that has left wants to go NOW, not because we want war, but because we want to help,” says a serving infantryman and Afghan war veteran speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said 600 personnel would be sent to the United Arab Emirates within days, including a Special Forces contingent “that could act as military advisers to the Iraqi armed forces or to the Peshmerga.”
The announcement came as another internet video was released showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines by a hooded IS fighter. Mr Haines, a father of two from Scotland, was kidnapped last year while working in Syria.
One soldier told The New Daily that he was enraged by extremists boasting of torture and uploading images of murder to social media.
“We soldiers sit here, watching these events play out, in frustration. I sit here with my coffee and see IS beheading civilians on the news, and what am I, as a soldier sworn to protect, doing? Nothing.”
‘A flimsy excuse’
Each of the soldiers spoken to by The New Daily was critical of Australia’s original involvement in Iraq.
‘Phil,’ an Iraq veteran currently serving in the Australian Defence Force in a non-combat role, says the Gulf Wars were failed missions started for the wrong reasons on “false evidence,” but the rise of IS demands a military response from the nation’s which invaded Iraq a decade ago.
A lack of honesty and foresight by US, British and Australian politicians “created this lawless nation,” he says, but we cannot stand idly by as innocent people are killed.
‘I want to fight’
Aaron Gray, 33, from Bomaderry, NSW, served in the 2nd cavalry regiment in Iraq in 2006-07 for almost seven months.
He says there is now “a hell of a lot more justification” for a military incursion, and wishes he could fight alongside the Kurds.
“I wouldn’t be allowed anyway, but now that I’m no longer in the Australian army I would love to go back over there and help out the Kurdish military to stave off these people.”
Many US veterans of the Iraq War feel the same, according to Mr Gray – a desire to protect the people they once fought alongside.
Each of the retired soldiers spoken to by The New Daily felt like their original efforts have been, to some degree, wasted.
‘Hit them hard’
Of the serving and former soldiers interviewed by The New Daily, nearly all advocate a ground troop deployment.
Infantry, armoured vehicles, artillery, air strikes – we must send it all, they say. Aid and weapons are not enough.
“The only way to stop this massacre is to hit them so hard any time they try any crap like this it makes them think damn hard about trying it again,” says Matt Redwood, an Iraqi veteran of two deployments.
“I have seen some of what they are doing online, bragging about absolutely horrible acts. It is completely inhumane and needs to be dealt with not by a slap on the wrist or political talks but with rounds down range,” Mr Redwood says.
Julian Imlach, 40, from Myrtle Bank, Tasmania, who served as an intelligence officer in Iraq in 2007-08, is more cautious, given the risk of Australian casualties.
Forward Air Control teams (groups of soldiers who call in air strikes from the front lines) might be more effective, he says.
Mr Imlach, who returned to Iraq for two years as a private security agent after leaving the army, has many friends living in the areas worst affected by IS, and wants to help them.
“I worked with them, day in and day out for those two years. They’re dealing with all this s**t at the moment, so if we could go back over I would jump at it,” he says.