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Muddy boots ...

By John Richardson - posted Wednesday, 22 November 2006


Last month, Prime Minister John Howard officiated at the launch of Peter Cosgrove’s biography, My Story.

As most Australians know, Peter Cosgrove is the former Chief of the Australian Defence Force, who retired last year, after a military career spanning 40 years.

There can be no argument with the fact that Peter Cosgrove was an outstanding Australian soldier. He was brave, professional and popular: a Duntroon graduate; recipient of the Military Cross in Vietnam in 1969. Cosgrove was appointed as Commander of the Interfet peacekeeping force in East Timor in 1999, subsequently became Chief of the Australian Army and was ultimately promoted to the role of Defence Force Chief in 2002.

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According to Harper Collins Publishers Australia, his publisher:

“General Cosgrove is not a man who flinches from telling it how it was. In these highly anticipated memoirs, the former Australian of the Year looks back over his respected and decorated military career with wit and warmth on top of the steel that made him one of Australia's most popular and widely recognised military leaders … the General cemented his reputation as a modern-day warrior chieftain as he displayed those characteristics we value most as Australians - strength, determination, intelligence, compassion and humour.”

John Howard’s adulation was no less fulsome:

“There is no doubt, of course, that Peter Cosgrove's finest hour was the successful Interfet intervention in East Timor. This was, after all, Australia's largest military involvement by far since Vietnam. And it is easy now with the distance of time to feel as though there was never any real challenge and that it was all inevitably going to happen as it ultimately did. Of course that was never the case and the fact that it proved to be a superbly successful intervention was greatly to the credit of General Cosgrove and, of course, greatly to the credit again of the superb training that our young officers received.”

And still on East Timor, Howard said:

“It was a superbly successful operation, it was an operation that had the overwhelming support of the Australian people and it's an operation which reflected the best qualities in the modern Australian Defence Force, a mixture of military skill and commonsense and compassion and an understanding that winning the hearts and minds of people in those situations is just as important as maintaining the peace and winning the military conflict.”

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In the face of such praise, the success of Peter Cosgrove’s book is doubtless guaranteed.

And that’s not all. Having made a smooth transition from the military to the corporate world as a Director of Qantas, Peter Cosgrove has also been mooted as a possible future Governor-General.

Unfortunately there remains a potential blemish to this dazzling success story that will simply not go away: unresolved allegations of torture and possible murder by members of the Australian Army in East Timor in 1999.

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About the Author

John Richardson is in semi-retirement from the corporate world but continues to do some consulting work. In retirement he became involved in the grass roots campaign to secure justice for David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib and an inveterate writer to the letters pages and to politicians.

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