OPEN LETTER to President Emmanuel Macron and the People of the great Republic of France
Cher President et chers Amis Francais,
I, a 66-year-old Australian, unreservedly apologise for the shameful betrayal of trust and friendship, wrought upon you by two Australian men, our Prime Minister Mr Morrison and his conservative erstwhile rival, our Minister for Defence, Mr Dutton.
This country is proud and grateful to have been your friend. Two generations of my family fought hand to hand on French soil in both World Wars.
If called upon, I hope that I and my children would have sufficient selflessness to do the same, if circumstances call for us to stand beside you in time of need.
Please do not judge us by these two men. We were not to know they were capable of this doublecross. We didn’t authorise it and I and many of my fellow Australians don’t condone it.
Yes, we are sufficiently afraid of China’s declared ‘arms race’ and its threats to democracy, freedom and equality, to wish to ally with powerful friends, new and old who uphold what we value most.
We do have great and loyal friends, and among them are the United Kingdom and the USA, but provided one chooses friends carefully, the more friends one has, the better.
We want to be your friends.
We are appalled that apparently at the invitation of the Trump administration about 18 months ago, Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton whose plan this was, had concealed their plan not only from their colleagues in our Federal Cabinet but also from those diplomats who gave their French peers assurances all the while likely believing them, and, of course, from all of us ordinary Australian citizens.
The last few days I have felt blindsided and numbed by the way our country has been disgraced. I had been expecting an apology from our leaders. I am disappointed that it has not been forthcoming. So I take up pen and paper as a concerned Australian.
My disappointment and yes, shame that we Australians have, albeit by a very close margin, elected our government, not realising that these two senior leaders could act as they have done.
We have a strong sense of “mateship” which is to be there for our friends and maintaining loyalty to them, even when they make mistakes.
It also means that we must never betray our friends for fear of our enemies.
It was our mistake to entrust Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton with our future. They might have meant well for our country, as they say they did, but their method is and was always going to generate mistrust.
It is concerning that they did not understand that subterfuge in the course of going back on one’s word is not the hallmark of statesmen, or any leader, even a pragmatist who happens to hold high office. It is the subterfuge that has exasperated me. The outrage it has caused was predictable and deserved.
Whether or not it was necessary is immaterial, what was not necessary was the unequivocal assurances which were deliberately inauthentic.
It is actually worse for us in one way than it is for France because it is our country that has done the wrong thing and suddenly it is not unreasonable to respond that our country can no longer be trusted.
It is up to us Australians to prove otherwise to those who would reasonably brand us right now, little better than charlatans; and yet, our collective intention has always to be faithful friends as historically we have been.
Whether or not this decision is a correct decision or not is irrelevant because in all endeavours, it is not what we do, but the way we do it.
Mistakes can and should be forgiven amongst friends, and I as one of many Australians who feel strongly that we must maintain our national integrity, seek forgiveness.
I do not want nor expect that any sort of redress nor apology to you would be to insult or denigrate the UK or the United States.
The world is safer if democracies uphold liberty and rule of law.
It was not the choice that shames us, but the way it was hidden behind false assurances that was as France’s response stated, a kind of treason towards the community of what John F. Kennedy called “the Free World”; and being globally shamed is what our politicians deserve, given that others in our government haven’t come out to criticise the method, only meekly accepting that it was “meant to keep us safe”.
That your great country would be there for Australia in a crisis was my personally held belief and that for whatever reason, if all other of our many good friends amongst the nations of the Free World did abandon us, France would never shirk to be our strong and implacable ally as we have been yours. I have long believed that while we enjoy the friendship of France, Australia is always safe from its enemies.
That we citizens of Australia didn’t have any inkling of what these two leaders of our country were up to. Blindsiding you, our friends, was calculated without regard to it being unequivocally moribund and so obviously so that we might lose a great friend.
We don’t want to lose you, mes Amis!
To have misled you was a disservice to those of us who are proud and reliant on the collective integrity of our circle of friends and allies in an increasingly dangerous world.
It is up to us to show you and the rest of the world, that we are not the global pariah that our present elected leaders would have us be, and, sadly, as we have become in recent times, from relatively recently, a most trusted nation into the country to one which has not only doublecrossed you, our great friends but also lacks the gusto of resolve to partake appropriately in the world’s team effort to stave off global climate catastrophe.
Nevertheless, it is with regret that I can’t guarantee that I don’t speak from a minority, as our alternate government, the Australian Labor Party opposition has kowtowed but I know that many of us are ashamed not so much about what we did but how we did it.
It is up to me and my fellow Australians to find and empower leaders who make decisions without sacrificing integrity and trust.
In the past few days, like many Australians, I thought that Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton like me might have been numbed by the gravity of their error, and would soon apologise. It doesn’t seem likely now that they shall. They need to look behind their decision, not as to whether it was right or wrong, as I have no doubt they think the decision to have been right, but rather it was the lead up which was indefensible. I do not understand why they won’t apologise.
Your response is that we should be ashamed and I, for one, do feel ashamed. I have never felt so strongly that Australia has done the wrong thing to have been so spineless as to not have been open about it.
It pains me that neither Mr Morrison or the suddenly quiet Mr Dutton haven’t expressed any sort of apology. Well, mes Amis Francaises, I apologise. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long.
I am and shall remain, yours in brotherhood and faithfully
Andrew Cohen, surfer, Francophile, lawyer, born and raised in Sydney Australia.