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Friday, March 27, 2009

MEDIA END CHEERLEADING OF DEF MINISTER

MEDIA END CHEERLEADING OF DEFENCE MINISTER
by Sasha Uzunov

It was a case of the Australian media finally laying down their pom-poms and ending the cheerleading routine in reporting how tough the Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was in his war with his own Defence Department.

What civilians cannot understand is the Defence Department is a universe of its own. Outsiders who do not know how to operate in this environment get chewed up pretty quick. Mr Fitzgibbon, through no fault of his own, lacks two things: he has never served in uniform and secondly, he does not hold the aces when it comes to playing political poker with his own Defence Department.

Only one man, TEAM UZUNOV points out, is capable of doing so: Colonel Iron Mike Kelly, Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Defence.

It was a TEAM UZUNOV blog that first revealed the worsening relationship between the Minister and his own Department when an outsider, Mr Tim Holding, was being floated as go-between or trouble shooter in Afghanistan.

Later, TEAM UZUNOV revealed that because of the war between Mr Fitzgibbon and his Department that the only honourable thing was for him to fall on his sword.

The media have now revealed that Mr Fitzgibbon has apologised for not declaring trips he undertook to China

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25249324-601,00.html
Joel Fitzgibbon admits woman friend Helen Liu paid for China trips
Brad Norington and Patrick Walters March 27, 2009

Article from: The Australian
THE future of Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon was in doubt last night after he was forced to apologise for failing to declare two trips he made to China that were paid for by Chinese businesswoman Helen Liu.

The admission drew an immediate call by Malcolm Turnbull for Kevin Rudd to sack Mr Fitzgibbon.

Revelation of the trips came after it was reported yesterday a covert investigation by officials from Mr Fitzgibbon's own Defence Department allegedly unearthed security concerns about his links with Ms Liu. The Defence Department's internal security agency has begun its own urgent investigation into the allegations that Defence officials spied on the minister...
---

TEAM UZUNOV is not suggesting anything untoward in Mr Fitzgibbon's behavior and respects his privacy. However, with a real shooting war raging between the Taliban and Australian soldiers in Afghanistan the sideshow has taken the focus off that...

Mr Fitzgibbon was lightly rebuked by the Australian media when it was also revealed he had taken a mate on a joyride into a warzone on board a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) flight.
http://news.brisbanetimes.com.au/national/fitzgibbon-defends-friends-afghan-trip-20080730-3naf.html
Fitzgibbon defends friend's Afghan trip
Maria HawthorneJuly 30, 2008

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says he has no regrets about his decision to take a friend on an official trip to war-torn Afghanistan.

University academic Scott Holmes paid his own way to accompany Mr Fitzgibbon to the Anzac Day service in Gallipoli, with the trip also taking in Ankara and the Middle East.

But they made an unscheduled diversion to Tarin Kowt after Australian soldier Jason Marks was killed in Afghanistan on their last night in Ankara.

The opposition has labelled the trip "Joel's joy flight" and questioned the additional cost and security risk of taking Professor Holmes, an economics specialist and part-time adviser in Mr Fitzgibbon's electorate office, into Afghanistan.
-------------------------------------------------

It is a pity that the Australian media play follow the pack mentality when reporting defence issues. The recent change in that behaviour could be explained that Mr Fitzgibbon's position has become untenable so the media now feel safe to move against him, without losing the privileges of free embedded trips to the Australian Army base in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan.

Such cynical behaviour by the media does not serve the Australian taxpayer and his or her right to know about the goings on with the Defence Department

-------------------------------------

Thursday, March 12, 2009
DEFENCE MINISTER MUST GO
By Sasha UzunovCopyright 2009

Regardless of the SASR pay dispute, you know it is time for Australia's Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon to fall on his sword when he publicly has to wage a media war to bring his department under control.So much has been made by some journalists, acting more like cheerleaders and unofficial spin doctors, about how tough, feisty and angry Mr Fitzgibbon is with the Defence Department.

He has launched a well crafted media campaign where he has vented his “anger” at his department over being kept in the dark on a number of issues and the break down in communication of events in Afghanistan. In an unusual move, his predecessor, Dr Brendan Nelson, from the opposition, backed him up in Federal Parliament. Subsequent events, such as the SASR pay dispute, have confirmed what many have been saying for a long time, and that is Mr Fitzgibbon is out of his depth.

read more...

http://teamuzunovmedia.blogspot.com/2009/03/defence-minister-must-go.html

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Friday, January 30, 2009 - TEAM UZUNOV
MINISTER ON AFGHAN FACT FINDING TRIP?
ExclusiveTim Holding - Brumby’s man turned PM Rudd’s international man of mystery?

VIC MINISTER WON’T CONFIRM OR DENY AFGHAN TRIP
By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2009

Mr Tim Holding, a Victorian State government minister who is a former Australian Army Reserve Special Forces soldier, will not confirm nor deny speculation about him undertaking a short fact finding mission to Afghanistan on behalf of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
A prominent strategic analyst, who has the close ear of governments, and speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he wanted to “float the idea of Mr Holding undertaking a fact finding mission to the Australian base in Tarin Kowt province [in Southern Afghanistan].”

read more:
http://teamuzunovmedia.blogspot.com/2009/03/holding-peacemakercircuit-breaker.html
---------------------

The Age, Diary Column, Tuesday, 3 February 2009.
Timmy, don't forget to pack the water canteen
by SUZANNE CARBONE

TIM Holding was dubbed "Twinkle Twinkle" because he was considered a little star, and he's really made an impact in the water portfolio with those faulty four-minute shower timers that last for 40 minutes or four hours. But Dim's moment to shine may have arrived.

Former Australian soldier Sasha Uzunov, now a photo-journalist, writes in his blog that Holding (below) could be destined for Afghanistan as Kevin Rudd's "eyes and ears" on the ground. You see, Holding is well credentialed as a former member of the Army Reserve in the 1st Commando Regiment - and he's Tourism Minister.

A "prominent Canberra strategic analyst" told Uzunov: "Mr Holding is an intelligent young politician with links to special forces. The Australian media underestimate his ability, which is why he would be ideal for the mission: he would slip under the media radar."

The analyst claimed the PM was not happy with the flow of information from Afghanistan so the analyst would suggest Holding embark on a "fact-finding mission" to the Australian base in Tarin Kowt. Diary asked Commando Holding about swapping a fluoro vest for a flak jacket, and he said:

....read more

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

KEATING MAN: NO COMMENT ON WILSON

KEATING’S MAN WONT TALK ON WILSON CASE
By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2009

Michael Costello, a Foreign Affairs adviser during the Paul Keating ALP Federal government, said he would not be commenting on the upcoming 15th anniversary of the kidnapping and murder of Australian David Wilson in Cambodia.

Mr Costello was the Secretary of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) from 1993 to 1996, and later became a Chief of Staff to then Federal ALP Opposition Leader Kim Beazley (1999 to 2001). He is now Chief Executive Officer of Actew AGL, Canberra’s power utility.

The former diplomat, released a statement through Actew AGL spokeswoman, Ms Stephanie Luelf on 25 March 2009:

“Thank you for your enquiry but we won't be making a comment.”

A story on http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/ , Australia’s premier e-journal on politics, revealed last week that the Australian government had turned down an offer of a military rescue mission to save David Wilson and two other western hostages being held by Cambodia’s notorious Khmer Rouge in 1994. All three were later murdered.

Mr Costello was asked why the government rejected the military plan. He was also asked, considering his position in DFAT when Prime Minister Paul Keating had committed Australian troops into combat in Rwanda in 1994, why he Mr Costello had not volunteered for military service as a youngman and fight in the Vietnam War (1962-72).

In 1998 the Victorian State Coroner began an inquest into the death of Wilson but was stopped when the then Coroner, Graeme Johnstone, retired in 2007.

The Who’s Who of Australia book reveals that Mr Costello was born on 23 March 1948 and joined Foreign Affairs in 1971 and did a stint as Head of Current Intelligence Office with the Office of National Assessment (ONA).

(end)

Link:

http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=8673&page=0

When politicians should step aside

On line opinion article on David Wilson - 19 March 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cambodia murder controversy

Australian David Wilson--Cambodia murder controversy continues-- could he have been saved?

PREFACE: 2009 will mark the 15th anniversary of the kidnapping and murder of Australians David Wilson, a Melbourne social worker, and Kellie-Annie Wilkson, a Brisbane model, in Cambodia.

In 1994 Australian David Wilson, and his two traveling companions, Englishman Mark Slater and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet were kidnapped and later murdered by the infamous Khmer Rouge.

Journalist Sasha Uzunov reveals that the Australian Keating government rejected a rescue mission led by the Australian Army's elite SASR...

Could Wilson, Slater and Braquet have been saved? In contrast, the US government successfully negotiated the release of American hostage Melissa Himes, also taken in Cambodia in 1994.... An inquest by the Australian authorities (Victorian State Coroner's Court) into the death of Wilson was stopped after the then Coroner retired in 2007. No word has come as to whether this inquest will be re-started.


ON-LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal

http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=8673&page=0
When politicians should step aside
By Sasha Uzunov - posted Thursday, 19 March 2009

After the enormous destruction of the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires in the state of Victoria, the experts told us never again. Australian politicians, whether fighting fires or wars, seem to have trouble heeding the bitter lessons of history but there is some hope.

Could the ferocious 2009 Victorian fires have been minimised? It is hard to say now, as we wait for the findings of the impending Victorian Royal Commission of Inquiry.

Still, 2009 marks the 15th anniversary of two “political bushfires” that still burn fiercely in the minds of many Australians.


The two “political bushfires” from 1994 are the Rwanda United Nations Peacekeeping mission fiasco and the killing of two Australian backpackers in Cambodia, Melbourne social worker David Wilson and Brisbane model Kellie-Anne Wilkinson.

The man at the centre of these 1994 “fires” was the then Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, who had a burning ambition to become the next UN Secretary-General. Since retiring from Australian politics, Evans has exacerbated this condition as a near-invisible international firefighter heading up the International Crisis Centre in Brussels. Ironically, Evans is again playing international firefighter for another ALP Federal government. Last year Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed him co-chair of the International Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Commission.

Then ALP Prime Minister Paul Keating and Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, in order to score international brownie points and bolster Evans’ tilt at the UN top job, deployed a contingent of Australian army medics, who were protected by a company of infantry soldiers from Townsville-based battalion 2/4 RAR, to African hell hole Rwanda as part of United Nations Peacekeeping mission that was flawed from the very start.

Despite the obvious limitations of the UN Rwanda mandate, Australian peacekeepers were able to do the best job possible in treating the many wounded and suffering during a genocide that saw rival ethnic Hutu extremists kill nearly a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

Years later, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was also responsible for the Rwanda debacle when he ran the UN peacekeeping portfolio, said:

“We must never forget our collective failure to protect at least 800,000 defenceless men, women and children who perished in Rwanda.

“Neither the UN Secretariat, nor the Security Council, nor member states in general, nor the international media, paid enough attention to the gathering signs of disaster. Still less did we take timely action.”

In his book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Canadian ex-General Roméo Dallaire, who was commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Assistance_Mission_for_Rwanda, claims that Annan was overly passive in his response to the incipient genocide. General Dallaire explicitly asserts that Annan held back UN troops from intervening to settle the conflict, and from providing more logistical and material support.

In particular, Dallaire claims that Annan failed to provide any responses to his repeated faxes asking him for access to a weapons depository, something that could have helped defend the endangered Tutsis. Dallaire concedes, however, that Annan was a man whom he found extremely "committed" to the founding principles of the United Nations.

So questions remain as to why Australian troops were sent to Rwanda.

In order to get an understanding of the Keating government’s rationale for getting involved in the almost guaranteed UN failure in Rwanda, immediately after our successful involvement with the UN in Cambodia, I applied on June 17, 2007 through the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to obtain the briefing notes of Greg Turnbull, the Prime Minister’s then media advisor but got nowhere fast.

I was a serving soldier in a Sydney-based infantry battalion in 1997, and remember speaking to a short, tough, wiry Corporal, a former surfer in civilian life, who had been on the Rwanda mission.

“We shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” he said. “It was absolute bloodthirsty savagery. But the politicians wanted us there even though we weren’t allowed to stop the massacres.”

This Corporal, who is probably a Sergeant or a Warrant Officer in the Special Forces by now, also revealed that there were elite (Special Air Service Regiment) SAS soldiers putting their hands up, without even being prompted, to undertake a rescue mission in Cambodia to rescue (kidnapped) Australian backpacker David Wilson, and his two traveling companions, Englishman Mark Slater and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet. After being kidnapped from a train on July 26, 1994, they were held for ransom by the Khmer Rouge in southern Cambodia. However, our SASR undertaking such a rescue mission had been vetoed by the civilian heads of Foreign Affairs and Defence in Canberra against the military advice and recent experience in Cambodia.

“The SASR were itching to go and could’ve pulled off the rescue mission successfully,” he said "... but were not called in".

David Wilson and his two companions were killed by their Khmer Rouge kidnappers a few weeks later.

Australia, at Gareth Evans’s urging, had sent a large UN peacekeeping force to Cambodia in 1991-93 and was an influential player in that part of the world when Wilson was taken from a train along with two other westerners.

Cambodia had been ruled by the murderous Pol Pot and his communist Khmer Rouge regime which killed millions and was finally toppled by neighbouring Vietnam in 1979. Decades of instability followed until a western brokered peace deal in 1991.

A 1998 Victorian State Coroner's Inquest into the death of Wilson headed by then State Coroner Graeme Johnston heard the testimony of an Australian Foreign Affairs official who had served as a diplomat in Cambodia in 1994-95, Alastair Gaisford:

“Evans was advised to use his direct personal connections with senior Cambodian officials, (particularly Hun Sen and Ranariddh,) to secure Wilson's safe release (but would not do so.)
"He (Evans) did not pick up the phone, as we advised him to do, to (tell them), 'Stop this military build up, stop now or we will cancel our aid or punish you in a diplomatic meaningful way'."

Gaisford was referring to a 1994 military strategy, known as the Three Leopard Spots, directed by Hun Sen to remove the Khmer Rouge from three major strongholds, commencing at Phnom Vour, where Wilson and the others were being held hostage. The Cambodian Army attack started there on August 6 ,1994 and it directly led the Khmer Rouge to kill the three foreign hostages a month later on September 7, 1994.

Prior to their murder, in early August 1994, the French government had sent a rescue team of intelligence officers (DGSE) to the Kampot province where the hostages were being held. Headed by the infamous Major Alain Mafart of Rainbow Warrior bombing fame, it conducted a four-day surveillance mission, then returned to its team to standby near Angkor Wat, awaiting the order to rescue Wilson, Braquet and Slater.

Also by early August, the British had their own SAS (Special Air Service) rescue team on standby in Bangkok, Thailand, like the French team already in Cambodia, waiting for their governments' green light. Fearing failure, the Australian government’s opposition to such a snatch and grab raid, forced the French and British governments to call any rescue mission off, ensuring the hostages murder three weeks later.

Gaisford, in his testimony to the 1998 Coroner's Inquest, said the Australian government had learnt nothing about kidnappings in Cambodia as it did not debrief embassy staff in Cambodia after the kidnapping and murder of Brisbane model Kellie-Anne Wilkinson http://www.gwb.com.au/gwb/news/496/2510.html three months earlier in Cambodia, nor learn the obvious lessons from Melissa Himes’ safe release in May 1994 by the same Khmer Rouge then holding Wilson and his companions on Phnom Vour.

Ten days after Kellie-Anne Wilkinson’s kidnapping and murder the next morning in April 1994, Melissa Himes, an American aid worker in Kampot was taken by the Khmer Rouge and held to ransom on Phnom Vour. The then US senior diplomat in Cambodia, Charles “Chuck” Twining immediately and publicly threatened the Ranariddh-Hun Sen government with cutting off US military aid if it did not stop military operations against the Khmer Rouge holding Himes. This direct diplomatic threat worked and Himes was released five weeks later after successful negotiations with her captors by her NGO, Food for the Hungry: only then did Cambodian government launch military attack against the Khmer Rouge on Phnom Vour.

Sadly, three months later, Wilson and his companions on Phnom Vour received no such direct official intervention from their own governments, despite repeatedly asking for such actions in desperate messages sent out during their six weeks’ captivity. Indeed, by official duplicity, the very contrary actually happened.

According to Gaisford, Prime Minister Keating and Foreign Minister Evans had privately given official written undertakings to the Cambodian government during August, that they would not cut off promised but not yet delivered Australian military aid irrespective of the hostage outcome. This was at the same time as they publicly accepted Cambodian government assurances - contrary to fact - that it would not launch its planned military operation against the Khmer Rouge holding the hostages on Phnom Vour "without prior consultation" with them.

As the Australian government already knew that military operations had commenced on August 6, Gaisford said, all Keating and Evans needed to do then was to threaten Hun Sen, as Twining had done successfully in April, and Hun Sen would have complied long enough to ensure the negotiation and safe release of Wilson, Slater and Braquet took place, then the Cambodian government could resume military operations against the Khmer Rouge on Phnom Vour.

When Keating and Evans failed to do so, they sealed the hostages’ fate by their inaction and lack of courage while publicly duplicitously telling the hostages' families and the Australian public that "we are doing everything possible to get their safe release". Nothing could have been further from the truth. Clearly, Wilson and his companions died on Phnom Vour in vain to protect Evans' false conclusion during a visit in April 1994 that "Cambodia had returned to normalcy" so as to keep his bid to become the next UN Secretary-General on track.

In 2005, whatever the failings of the Howard Coalition government (1996-2007), it did not pussyfoot around when Australian contractor Douglas Wood was kidnapped in Iraq. Immediately it sent in the SASR who then rescued Wood. No repeat of Cambodia 1994 inaction there. Wood lived to tell his tale. The truth is now known to all.

By contrast, the truth of the Wilson fiasco may never be known. The Victorian Inquest into David Wilson's death has been adjourned after State Coroner, Graeme Johnstone, retired in November 2007. Since then there has been no word over whether the Inquest will ever be completed. So we may never know why Evans simply did not pick up the phone. But he is now trying to save the world in his new role as PM Rudd's co-chair of the International Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Commission.

The moral of the story for politicians, whether it be fighting bushfires or wars, is to step back and let the professionals handle it, having first of all given them the necessary official support and tools to start and then finish the job.


Sasha Uzunov is a freelance photo journalist, blogger, and budding film maker whose mission is to return Australia's national defence/ security debate to its rightful owner, the taxpayer. He also likes paparazzi photography! He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 1991. He served as a professional soldier in the Australian Army from 1995 to 2002, and completed two tours of duty in East Timor. As a journalist he has worked in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His blog is at Team Uzunov.

Other articles by this Author
» CSI Dubrovnik: the Britt Lapthorne mystery - March 4, 2009
» 'Reverse Balkan blowback': good guys become bad then good - February 19, 2009
» VC winner heralds a new era of heroes - January 23, 2009
» Out-'talibaning' the Taliban: can the US ‘win’ in Afghanistan? - December 30, 2008
» Generals and Diggers saved the day in Timor - November 20, 2008

Thursday, March 12, 2009

DEFENCE MINISTER MUST GO


(above): Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon: some of the media have been acting as cheerleaders in his "media war" against his own Defence Department.
(below): Colonel "Iron Mike" Kelly has the street smarts and time in unform to become Defence Minister. Photos: ADF


DEFENCE MINISTER MUST GO
By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2009

Regardless of the SASR pay dispute, you know it is time for Australia's Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon to fall on his sword when he publicly has to wage a media war to bring his department under control.

So much has been made by some journalists, acting more like cheerleaders and unofficial spin doctors, about how tough, feisty and angry Mr Fitzgibbon is with the Defence Department.

He has launched a well crafted media campaign where he has vented his “anger” at his department over being kept in the dark on a number of issues and the break down in communication of events in Afghanistan. In an unusual move, his predecessor, Dr Brendan Nelson, from the opposition, backed him up in Federal Parliament. Subsequent events, such as the SASR pay dispute, have confirmed what many have been saying for a long time, and that is Mr Fitzgibbon is out of his depth.

Mr Fitzgibbon, a former automotive electrician without military experience, simply does not have the respect of those who serve in uniform and lacks the political street smarts to control the civilian bureaucracy within Defence.

He can vent his “anger” as much as he likes through the media but it will not change the situation. With Australian soldiers fighting and dying in Afghanistan, the Defence Department cannot afford to be distracted by political squabbles over who controls turf.

However, the underlying problem and largely ignored by some in the media with their own agenda is that when you place politicians who have never served in the Defence Forces as Defence Minister, they are too busy trying to make up for it by ‘acting tough’. We do not need those with emotional baggage to prove their manhood by risking soldiers’ lives.
IRON MIKE KELLY - AUSSIE CROCODILE HUNTER?

The ideal replacement for Fitzgibbon would be Parliamentary Secretary “Iron Mike” Kelly, a former Army Colonel and lawyer who has served in Somalia, East Timor and Iraq.

He has the runs on the board: as an Army lawyer with the rank of Major he once wrestled and fought, in true Crocodile Hunter fashion, a warlord during the 1993 mission to African nation Somalia. (See the link to Iron Mike Kelly's Rumble in the Jungle - 1993)
To demonstrate his political cunning, he turned the tables on his opponent, the sitting member for the NSW Federal seat of Eden-Monaro during the 2007 election.

Iron Mike , who was critical of the then Howard government’s decision to go to Iraq, was holding an election meeting and was heckled by, Mr Peter Phelps, the chief of staff of the sitting Liberal member of parliament, Mr Gary Nairn.

Mr Phelps criticizing Iron Mike’s opposition to the Iraq War and the fact that he still served on the mission: said “…And you took part in it willingly because you weren't sent over there, you volunteered, didn't you?”

MIKE KELLY: No, I was a soldier, and I did what I was ordered to do.

PETER PHELPS: “Oh, like the guards at Belsen, perhaps? Are you using the Nuremberg Defence? No, no, come on.”

The Nazi Germany comparison would have lost a lot of public sympathy for Mr Nairn’s election campaign, which saw Iron Mike take the seat.

Moreover, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is no stranger to using military glory, such as the awarding of the first Victoria Cross medal for bravery in 40 years, to score political brownie points. So why not appoint Iron Mike Kelly as Defence Minister?

If this present government is serious about the Defence portfolio and in breaking with bad habits from the past, then it needs to practice what it preaches.


(end)

Monday, March 09, 2009

THE GOVERNATOR RICHARD BUTLER SNUBS TASMANIA

by Sasha Uzunov

Outspoken former United Nations action man in Iraq and ex-Tasmanian state Governor Richard Butler is in the news again and not for what he said but for what he did not say!

The Aussie Governator who once tangled with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein over weapons inspections has been appointed an academic with New York University in the United States.

Acting on a tip off, TEAM UZUNOV looked up Governator Butler's profile on the University website.

www.nyu.edu/public.affairs/releases/detail/2232

It reads as follows:

“Center for Global Affairs at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS).

"Butler has been appointed as NYU's first“Global Diplomat in Residence.” An expert in nuclear arms control, disarmament, international security, and the United Nations.”

But no where is there is any mention of his ill fated mission as Governor of Australia's Deep South state of Tasmania, also known as the Apple isle.

"From 1997-1999, he was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Security Council to serve as executive chairman of the United Nations Special Commission to Disarm Iraq (UNSCOM). In the wake of the first Gulf War, Butler was responsible for direct negotiations with Saddam Hussein’s government to "destroy, remove, or render harmless" Iraq's weapons of mass destruction..."

"Other appointments held by Butler were as Australian Ambassador for Disarmament (Geneva), to Thailand, and to Cambodia. As well, he served as president of the UN Economic and Social Council, chair of the UN's working group to create UNAIDS (a global program on HIV/AIDS), and chair of the Preparatory Committee for the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations, among many other positions.

"Additionally, Butler is well known for his policy statements and papers and is the author of these books: The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Crisis of Global Security (Public Affairs 2000); Saddam Defiant: The Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Crisis of Global Security (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2000); and Fatal Choice: Nuclear Weapons, Survival or Sentence (Basic Books 2001).

"He holds a B.Ec. from the University of Sydney, an M.Ec. (international relations) from the Australian National University, and has been awarded multiple honorary doctorates. In 1988, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), for service to international peace and disarmament. And, in 2003, Butler was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), that nation's highest civilian honor."

Butler, born in 1942, was made a UN weapons inspector with a big fat salary but had never fired a weapon in anger nor had volunteered for military service during the Vietnam War (1962-72).

He locked horns with Saddam over hidden weapons in Iraq and with one of his own inspectors on the ground, Scott Ritter, a former Major with the US Marine Corps and intelligence officer for US General Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf, the Commander of the first Gulf War in Iraq 1991.

Butler later turned on the United States as well.

In 2003, the then Premier of Tasmania, Jim Bacon, a Maoist trade union official in the 1960s and an anti-Vietnam war activist, made the controversial decision to appoint Butler as the state's governor despite being a staunch republican. But that didn't deter Butler from being The Queen's Man.

Less than a year later, Butler under controversial circumstances was forced to resign by new Premier Paul Lennon.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

i-Phone loving ex-Taliban Leader & David Hicks

i-Phone loving ex-Taliban Leader Mullah Zaeef in Kabul.
Photo copyright Sasha Uzunov 2007.

Apple i-Phone loving Afghan Mullah who once condemned David Hicks.

Here's a quirky story about an ex-Taliban leader Mullah Zaeef who loves his Apple iPhone that ran in the AP wire on March 3, 2009.

I had the good fortune to interview this guy, Mullah Zaeef in 2007 in Kabul, Afghanistan. I have him on video tape talking about Australian terrorism supporter David Hicks. See below the link to my Herald Sun article.

This was an exclusive story at the time! It ran in the Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph... I have video footage of the Mullah Zaeef condemning Hicks.
I wonder if Mullah Zaeef will give David Hicks a call on his new i-Phone?

In 2008 it was reported that Hicks was planning to marry a Sydney university student and he had consulted a christian pastor...

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,,24839726-2,00.html

David Hicks plans to marry girlfriend Aloysha Brooks, says pastor
By Verity Edwards, The Australian, December 24, 2008
------------------------------------------------------------------

Afghan tech boom: Mullah embraces iPhone


Press (AP) - March 3, 2007. KABUL –

Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef is a former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. He spent almost four years in Guantanamo. He wears a black turban, has a thick beard — and is never without his Apple iPhone.

The ultra-conservative Taliban banned modern technology like the Internet and TV during its harsh 1996-2001 rule, but those items have boomed in Afghanistan since the regime's 2001 ouster, helping to bring the country into the 21st century.

Zaeef, who reconciled with the Afghan government after being released from U.S. custody, says he uses his iPhone to surf the Internet and find difficult locations, employing the built-in GPS. He even checks his bank account balance online. "It's easy and modern and I love it,"

Zaeef said as he pinched and pulled his fingers across the iPhone's touch screen last week. "This is necessary in the world today. People want to progress."

-----------------------------




Sasha Uzunov dressed in native Afghan clothes behind the camera taping Mullah Zaeef. On the right is Canadian journalist David Pugliese, also in native dress. (Photo by Scott Taylor)


DAVID HICKS MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
by Sasha Uzunov


David Hicks, the Australian convicted of supporting terrorism in Afghanistan, has been in the news again.

Whatever you think of David Hicks, there is certainly more to the story than meets the eye.
In May 2007 as an Australian journalist, along with Canadian colleagues, Scott Taylor and David Pugliese we were granted an interview with a former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, who spent 4 years in Guantanamo Bay, and were surprised to hear his negative thoughts about David Hicks...

This was an exclusive Australian story in the Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper at the time.
I also video taped an interview with the ex-Taliban diplomat.



David Hicks not 'true Muslim'


by Sasha Uzunov, May 17, 2007 12:00am


DAVID Hicks was not a true Muslim and was regarded as a possible spy by other accused terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, says a former inmate and one-time Taliban diplomat.

"All the people, including me and the Arabs, we're thinking he was a spy," said Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, back in Afghanistan after spending nearly four years in US custody including at Guantanamo Bay.

"He was separated from us. The Americans were scared he would be killed by the other prisoners," the Afghan man said in an interview in Kabul. "He was not a true Muslim."

After five years in US custody, Hicks is expected to leave Guantanamo Bay within days for Australia, where he will serve nine months in a jail near Adelaide before being set free. He is being returned to Australia under a deal after pleading guilty in a US military commission to a charge of providing material support for terrorism.

Hicks was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001, where he was accused of training with al-Qaida and of fighting alongside Taliban troops. But Zaeef, a former Taliban minister and ambassador to Pakistan, denied Hicks was part of the Taliban regime, toppled from power in Afghanistan by the US invasion in 2001.

After his release without charge by the US, Zaeef now lives in Kabul but under the close watch of the Hamid Karzai Government, which provides a security guard for his protection. Zaeef said he was not in contact with the current Taliban leadership, who are fighting Australian and other coalition troops. He said Australia was now an enemy of the Afghan people because it had supported the US-led war in Afghanistan. Zaeef said coalition forces had killed a lot of Afghani people.

"And the people became enemies of the Americans, of the Canadians and others," he said.

"People are not thinking the Americans, the Canadians are neutral, that they have come for peace and stability. "The people are thinking that the Canadians, the British, the Americans are all enemies since they are killing us."



NATO, U.S. stand in way of peace in Afghanistan: Taliban chief
Most Afghans blame foreign forces for civilian deaths, former official saysDavid Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen. Published: Wednesday, May 09, 2007

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BRITT LAPTHORNE MYSTERY

Western backpackers enjoying the scenery in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Photo copyright Sasha Uzunov 2005.


ON-LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal




CSI Dubrovnik: the Britt Lapthorne mystery

by Sasha Uzunov - 4 March , 2009


The American forensic crime show franchise, CSI: Crime Scene Investigations, CSI: Miami, and CSI: New York, has sparked enormous public interest in the use of science to solve mysterious deaths or murders. Perhaps with the media feeding frenzy associated with the tragic Britt Lapthorne case, we could see a Dubrovnik CSI hitting our TV screens.


In television the whodunit is solved within 60 minutes but in real life, answers may never be found.


We know that the 21-year-old Melbourne backpacker was last seen leaving a night club in the Croatian seaside resort town of Dubrovnik on September 18, 2008 and in October of the same year her decomposed body was found in Dubrovnik waters. Her parents maintain she was murdered.

Many theories about how Lapthorne died or was killed have been offered. The latest comes from former New Zealand law graduate turned award winning television investigative reporter, Ross “Rosco” Coulthart of the Seven network. Rosco Coulthart was able to track down other female tourists who had alleged they were approached by men posing as Croatian police officers and who tried to abduct them. A photo sketch of the alleged assailants revealed they were serving Croat police officers. But local officials denied any police involvement.


Coulthart has an excellent track record in uncovering big stories and is one of the Australian media’s genuine nice guys.


However, a highly respected former Australian multicultural SBS TV star reporter, now living in Croatia, believes that the international media needs to tone down its hysterical coverage of the Britt Lapthorne and focus on the facts. Mr Vladimir Lusic, Croat born Australian who hosted the hugely successful SBS TV current affairs program Vox Populi, said:


“The Lapthorn case investigation is still open and, as far as I know, Croatian and Australian police experts are co-operating. What the outcome will be I refuse to predict since I am still a proud former Australian award winning investigative journalist.


“Everyone in Dubrovnik and the rest of Croatia sympathise with the young girl’s family, relatives and friends. In line with that, whatever the Lapthorn family thinks and says is completely understandable - they tragically lost their beloved daughter.


“However, all extensive ‘investigative’ media reports about the case and Dubrovnik which do not include all the facts are incomplete and misleading. Not telling the whole truth is equal to telling a lie,” he said.


Mr Lusic was awarded 1989 Golden Gavel Award for Excellence in Legal Reporting.


Mr Peter Hanrahan, SBS TV’s founding current affairs and news director, on December 13, 1990 told Australia’s prominent ethnic affairs expert, reporter John Masanauskas that Lusic was “a very competent journalist and always fair”.


Lusic now works for the Croatian State Broadcaster HRT (Hrvatska Radio Televisija) and heads its International Section.


Lusic has ruled out the possibility that Albanian organised crime elements tried to kidnap the Australian backpacker to use her in a brothel.


“What Albanian mafia? There are no ‘mafia’ organisations of any kind in Dubrovnik. It’s one of the world’s most peaceful tourist destinations,” he said.


“Movie stars, politicians, princesses and sheiks walk the streets without paparazzi and any other harassment. Children of all ages play in the parks without any supervision. Hundreds of thousands of tourists, including young people, pass through Dubrovnik every year. It is true that young tourists have more ‘fun’.


“They drink, get drunk and have sex on the beaches - even on the rocks high above the sea. Over the past century there were incidents when people fell or jumped from the rocks.


“However, in comparison with other places in Croatia and the world, such incidents were extremely rare. More importantly, not one kidnapping has ever been recorded in the Dubrovnik region - except, of course, during the 1991-1992 war when the Serbian led aggression on Croatia brought looting, raping, murder, destruction of property etc.”


According to testimony given to the United States Senate by the FBI in 2003, Balkan organised crime groups, particularly those composed of ethnic Albanians, have expanded rapidly over the last decade to Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, and the Scandinavian countries, and are beginning to gain a foothold in the United States. In the last year or two, European nations have recognised that Balkan organised crime is one of the greatest criminal threats that they face. European police organisations now estimate that Balkan organised crime groups control upwards of 70 per cent of the heroin market in some of the larger European nations, and are rapidly taking over human smuggling, prostitution and car theft rings across Europe.


This writer has been to Croatia three times, 1983, 2002 and 2005 and walked the streets at night and felt very safe. In 2005 in Dubrovnik I saw hundreds of Aussie, Kiwi, Pommie, Yank, Canuck (Canadian) backpackers enjoying themselves. I even remember recognising a heavily intoxicated and aggressive Australian TV camera operator and a companion on holiday giving the locals at Dubrovnik airport disdainful looks in jest. It was all light hearted fun.


For the sake of justice and for the peace of mind of the Lapthorne family, hopefully, closure can be found.


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Sasha Uzunov is a freelance photo journalist, blogger, and budding film maker whose mission is to return Australia's national defence/ security debate to its rightful owner, the taxpayer. He also likes paparazzi photography! He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 1991. He served as a professional soldier in the Australian Army from 1995 to 2002, and completed two tours of duty in East Timor. As a journalist he has worked in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His blog is at Team Uzunov.

Other articles by this Author
» 'Reverse Balkan blowback': good guys become bad then good - February 19, 2009
» VC winner heralds a new era of heroes - January 23, 2009
» Out-'talibaning' the Taliban: can the US ‘win’ in Afghanistan? - December 30, 2008
» Generals and Diggers saved the day in Timor - November 20, 2008
» Remembrance Day: remembering all - November 10, 2008

Monday, March 02, 2009

HOLDING- THE PEACEMAKER/CIRCUIT BREAKER?



Tim Holding the peace-maker/ circuit breaker in Defence Dispute?
PM RUDD WONT SAY IF HOLDING’S THE MAN FOR A-STAN


By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2009

It what would have only taken a few minutes to confirm or deny if Victorian State Government Minister Mr Tim Holding was being considered to head a trouble shooting mission to Afghanistan on behalf of the Prime Minister, has turned into a month long saga with the PM’s media office refusing to comment either way.

With tensions mounting between the Defence Department‘s civilian top brass and the Federal government over the SASR pay dispute, perhaps it has been wise not to add fuel to the fire.

The Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has launched a well crafted media campaign where he has vented his “anger” at his department over being kept in the dark on a number of issues. In an unusual move, his predecessor, Dr Brendan Nelson, from the opposition, backed him up in Federal Parliament. Subsequent events, such as the SASR pay dispute, have confirmed what Team Uzunov blog revealed more than a month ago about the break down in communication.

Nearly three weeks ago a media query about Mr Holding was put to PM’s Chief of Staff and highly paid Wiz kid advisor Alister Jordan but there was no response. Ms Jamilla Rizvan of the PM’s Media unit was contacted but again no response.

Team Uzunov blog, in an exclusive story on 30 January 2009, revealed that a leading Australian strategic analyst, who has the ear of the government, floated the idea of Mr Holding to act as a kind of circiut breaker in the break down on communication between the army brass and the government over the flow of information about Afghanistan.

Pundits say Mr Holding is a well respected politician and a former Australian Army Reserve Special Forces soldier who would be able to “talk the talk” whilst Mr Fitzgibbon, a former automotive electrician without military experience, has been waging a losing battle to bring to heel the civilian top brass.

Below is the story published on 30 January 2009, which was also quoted in The Age newspaper:
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Friday, January 30, 2009 - TEAM UZUNOV


MINISTER ON AFGHAN FACT FINDING TRIP?
ExclusiveTim Holding - Brumby’s man turned PM Rudd’s international man of mystery?

VIC MINISTER WON’T CONFIRM OR DENY AFGHAN TRIP


By Sasha Uzunov
Copyright 2009
Mr Tim Holding, a Victorian State government minister who is a former Australian Army Reserve Special Forces soldier, will not confirm nor deny speculation about him undertaking a short fact finding mission to Afghanistan on behalf of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.


A prominent strategic analyst, who has the close ear of governments, and speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he wanted to “float the idea of Mr Holding undertaking a fact finding mission to the Australian base in Tarin Kowt province [in Southern Afghanistan].”


“Mr Holding is an intelligent young politician with links to Special Forces. The Australian media underestimate his ability, which is why he would be ideal for the mission: he would slip under the media radar,” the strategic analyst said. “Mr Holding has not been informed of the proposed trip.”


The analyst said Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was not happy with the flow of information about Afghanistan coming from the army chain of command and needed his own “eyes and ears” on the ground for a couple of weeks to assess the situation.


Mr Holding’s office was contacted a week ago to confirm or deny if Mr Holding knew the speculation about the Afghanistan trip. But no comment has been forthcoming.Mr Holding served as a Signaller or communications expert with the elite Army Reserve Special Forces unit, 126 Commando Signals Squadron, then attached to 1 Commando Regiment, 2nd Company, at Fort Gellibrand, Williamstown, Melbourne, Victoria from 1991 to 1993.


Greg Sher the eighth and most recent Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan was also a member of 1 Commando Regiment (1 CDO Regt).Mr Holding is the Minister for Finance, WorkCover and Transport Accident Commission, and Minister for Water, Minister for Tourism and Major Events in the John Brumby ALP state government.


A former Australian intelligence agent, with extensive Middle East experience, and also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he believed that Prime Minister Rudd would change Australia’s current military policy and commit a regular army infantry battalion (about 500 soldiers) to Afghanistan very soon.


Current military policy is for Australia’s Special Forces units, SASR and 4RAR (Commando) to do the frontline fighting in Afghanistan, which according to standard doctrine should be carried out by regular infantry.


SASR and 4RAR (Cdo)’s traditional roles include surveillance of the enemy, information gathering or carrying out raids against targets or securing entry and exits points for other army units.


SASR, 4RAR (Cdo) and 1 CDO Regt fall under the Australian Army's Special Operations Command (SOCOMD).


In contrast the Canadian army, after decades of peacekeeping, has regular infantry fighting the Taliban in the dangerous southern Afghanistan province of Kandahar. But over 100 Canadian soldiers have been killed.


(end)

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The Age, Diary Column, Tuesday, 3 February 2009.


Timmy, don't forget to pack the water canteen
by SUZANNE CARBONE


TIM Holding was dubbed "Twinkle Twinkle" because he was considered a little star, and he's really made an impact in the water portfolio with those faulty four-minute shower timers that last for 40 minutes or four hours. But Dim's moment to shine may have arrived.


Former Australian soldier Sasha Uzunov, now a photo-journalist, writes in his blog that Holding (below) could be destined for Afghanistan as Kevin Rudd's "eyes and ears" on the ground. You see, Holding is well credentialed as a former member of the Army Reserve in the 1st Commando Regiment - and he's Tourism Minister.


A "prominent Canberra strategic analyst" told Uzunov: "Mr Holding is an intelligent young politician with links to special forces. The Australian media underestimate his ability, which is why he would be ideal for the mission: he would slip under the media radar."


The analyst claimed the PM was not happy with the flow of information from Afghanistan so the analyst would suggest Holding embark on a "fact-finding mission" to the Australian base in Tarin Kowt. Diary asked Commando Holding about swapping a fluoro vest for a flak jacket, and he said:


"While I will sit by my phone awaiting the Prime Minister's call, I will make it clear to him that I will only travel to Afghanistan in the company of my friends at The Age Diary."
Who knew Twinkle had a sense of humour? We'll only go if he acts as our human shield. And brings a shower timer that works.
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