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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gallipoli good, Vietnam bad

An attempt to find common ground amongst Veterans in the recent debate about Australia's role in the Vietnam War (1962-72)... The article below received enormous feedback on the www.onlineopinion.com.au website


http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=9187
Gallipoli good, Vietnam bad
By Sasha Uzunov - posted Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Don Tate, Vietnam Veteran and author of The War Within, has made explosive claims that his unit was ordered to dispose of the bodies of enemy soldiers killed during Australia’s most controversial war by blowing them up. This debate has split the Vietnam veteran community.

The purpose here is not to agree or disagree with Tate’s book or to pick sides but to find common ground between the two warring factions, who both have a democratic right to present their case and evidence. No doubt there will be those who view the Vietnam War as immoral. But the cold hard reality is that no war in history has ever been nice and/or neat. Nasty things happened during World War I, II, Korea and so on.

Overall, Australia’s military had an impeccable record in Vietnam. There was no US-style My Lai massacre of innocent Vietnamese. Hypothetically speaking, it is one thing to blow up the bodies of dead enemy and another to kill innocent villagers.

There are those in the media who have a romantic notion of Gallipoli - a military operation during World War I that was a failure but which established Australia’s Anzac Legend - but who have condemned Vietnam.

We are also forgetting the Viet Cong communist massacre of innocent Vietnamese civilians during the battle of Hue in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive. And that many thousands of Vietnamese fled by boat to Australia post 1975, after the communist takeover.

Earlier this year, I remember sitting down to watch the evening news and saw a touching scene of the most recent Victoria Cross winner, Trooper Mark Donaldson, of the elite SASR meeting with World War II recipient Edward “Ted” Kenna, who has now sadly passed away. It was one generation of brave Anzacs passing on the torch to another. It reminded me of a famous drawing of an old War I digger handing over the mantle to a World War II digger.

It got me to think: who is the person who decides which war is “good” and which war is “bad” and should or should not be part of the Anzac legend? Donaldson, serving in Afghanistan, was the first to win the Victoria Cross in 40 years since the last winner, Keith Payne earned his in Vietnam.

To call Vietnam immoral would be insulting to Australian Vietnam veterans and the 501 who died there. It would be a slap in the face for Long Tan heroes Dave Sabben and Bob Buick; it would be insulting to Coral/Balmoral hero Neil Weekes and Operation Ivanhoe hero Gary McKay, who is a famous author in his own right. Moreover, it would denigrate Keith Payne, Victoria Cross winner for bravery in that war.

It would also be a kick in the guts for Tate, who was wounded in action in Vietnam. It would be offensive to the thousands of Vietnamese who now make Australia home after escaping communist tyranny.

Ray Martin, born 1944, the hugely popular Channel 9 personality and reporter, built a rapport with the Veteran community and even offered to use his then program, Midday with Ray Martin, to champion a Welcome Home March in 1987 for Vietnam Vets. In 2004 I interviewed Ray Martin by asking him:

… you’ve been a big supporter of the Anzac Legend over the years. Considering your enthusiasm and passion for the Anzac legend, could you explain why you didn’t volunteer for military service in South Vietnam? (1962-72). Don’t journalists who report on war have a professional and moral obligation to undertake some form of military training, much in the same way we require doctors, lawyers and mechanics to be "trade tested"?

Martin responded (by fax on November 15, 2004):

"I found your fax offensive, but I’ll answer it. Being a patriot, eulogizing the Anzac legend etc doesn’t require anyone to volunteer to fight a senseless, immoral war. Even Peter Cosgrove [then Chief of the Defence Forces] has acknowledged that Vietnam was wrong.

Your nonsense about ‘moral obligations’ to serve in the ADF [Australian Defence Forces], irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the war, is just that nonsense. I support everyone of our troops who put their lives on the line. But that doesn’t require everyone else to sign up, every time Canberra decides to go to war. Being a patriot doesn’t mean you blindly accept what the pollies [politicians] want. You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m entitled to disagree."

Martin provides no evidence to back up his assertion that Vietnam was immoral. For the record, General Cosgrove called the Vietnam War a mistake because it was militarily un-winnable not immoral, much in the same way that famous WWI correspondents Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett and (Sir) Keith Murdoch called Gallipoli a disaster at the time.

The Allies of which Australia was a member ended up winning WWI. The “Free World,” of which Australia was a member together with the United States, lost Vietnam in 1975 but won the Cold War against communism in 1989. Robert McNamara, the architect of the US war in Vietnam, later admitted the war was a mistake. Respected commentator Dr Gerard Henderson has made the brilliant point, missed by many but so obvious:

"As a consequence of Watergate, [US President] Nixon and his successor Gerald Ford, under pressure from Congress, walked away from the US commitment to provide military supplies to the anti-communist regime in South Vietnam. This contributed to the conquest of South Vietnam by communist North Vietnam, which was supplied by the (then) Soviet Union. "

Australia and the United States entered the Vietnam War in 1962 and pulled out in 1972 because of internal political pressure without losing a single battle. For three years an underdog ragtag South Vietnamese military managed to hold off the Communist North until 1975. If Gallipoli is seen as a romantic failure why not the three-year valiant struggle by our allies the South Vietnamese with their backs against the wall? Be that as it may, the Martin mantra is that Gallipoli was good, but Vietnam bad.

This is an introduction to Martin’s story for 60 Minutes about Gallipoli (April 21, 2001):

"Eight thousand, seven hundred and nine Aussie soldiers were killed at Gallipoli, but now 10 times that number of Aussie tourists make their pilgrimage each year. Most of them are about the same age as the soldiers who died there. As Ray Martin reports, it's a phenomenon, almost a rite of passage - young Australians in search of our history, and perhaps in search of themselves. "

The tone is reverential for Gallipoli but not for Vietnam. Why? Gallipoli was a military failure that cost more than 8,000 Australian lives and was fought in someone else’s backyard, Turkey.

One of the reasons why Australia’s Vietnam War was seen as immoral comes from media perceptions that have been now discredited, in particular the infamous, exaggerated Viet Cong Water Torture story that never was but brought fame and fortune to newsman John Sorrell in 1968, who later became Director of News at Channel 9 in Melbourne. The Sorrell story inflicted enormous psychological damage.

Gary McMahon, a two-tour Vietnam Veteran, tells of a mate who was:

“Absolutely destroyed later in his life about the lies and insinuations that came from the bullshit in that report. I served two tours of duty, saw a lot of action and cannot recall one incidence of anything more than an Aussie kicking an enemy body or spitting on one. Like that whole war though everything was misreported, misanalysed, misunderstood and so on.”

I tried to contact Sorrell when he was still alive: he died earlier this year. In a democratic society, we should be able to debate national legends and myths and taboo subjects. As far as I know, no one, including the media, holds copyright on the Anzac Legend. It belongs to everyone.

Vietnam for better or worse will remain Australia’s most controversial of wars for the simple fact it was the first television war, unlike Gallipoli.

Friday, July 24, 2009

PM RUDD TO HELP KIDNAPPED REPORTER

Interesting story in the Herald Sun newspaper today over Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd... and his willingness to help to free a kidnapped Australian journalist in Somalia.

Perhaps PM Rudd should be instructing his appointee as co-chair of the International Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Commission, Gareth Evans, to reveal any more information he knows about the David Wilson controversy.

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25826482-661,00.html
THE parents of kidnapped journo Nigel Brennan have met Kevin Rudd to seek help rescuing their son from his Somalian captors.
by Emma Chalmers
24 July 2009

Heather Brennan spent 20 minutes with Mr Rudd in Bundaberg on Thursday.

Mr Brennan, 37, and a Canadian journalist were kidnapped in Somalia 11 months ago and his family say his health is failing.

Mr Rudd said it was a "difficult, ugly and dangerous" part of the world and the Government was doing all it could to assist Mr Brennan.

"If I was to look at the consular cases upon which I have spent the most time since I've been Prime Minister, it is this one," he said.

"And similarly with the Foreign Minister and others. It is one which the Government takes seriously, but I do not underestimate the degree of difficulty involved in this."

THE parents of kidnapped journo Nigel Brennan have met Kevin Rudd to seek help rescuing their son from his Somalian captors.

Heather Brennan spent 20 minutes with Mr Rudd in Bundaberg on Thursday.

Mr Brennan, 37, and a Canadian journalist were kidnapped in Somalia 11 months ago and his family say his health is failing.

Mr Rudd said it was a "difficult, ugly and dangerous" part of the world and the Government was doing all it could to assist Mr Brennan.

"If I was to look at the consular cases upon which I have spent the most time since I've been Prime Minister, it is this one," he said.

"And similarly with the Foreign Minister and others. It is one which the Government takes seriously, but I do not underestimate the degree of difficulty involved in this."

read more....

15TH ANNIVERSARY OF DAVID WILSON KIDNAPPING/MURDER

26 July will mark the 15th anniversary of the kidnapping and later murder of Melbourne backpacker David Wilson in Cambodia. Three months earlier Brisbane backpacker and model Kellie-Anne Wilkinson was also killed in Cambodia (1994).

On 7 September 1994 Wilson, Englishman Mark Slater and Frenchman Jean-Michael Braquet were executed

Could they have been saved?


UNCOMFORTABLE ANNIVERSARY: David Wilson murder in Cambodia 1994

By Sasha Uzunov
copyright 2009

Some of Australia's biggest ex-politicians such as former Prime Minister Paul Keating and Foreign Minister Gareth Evans will look upon the 15th anniversary of the controversial kidnapping and later murder of Australian David Wilson in Cambodia with great discomfort.

The man at the centre of this controversy was Gareth Evans, now playing international firefighter on behalf of the Rudd ALP Federal government. Last year Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed him co-chair of the International Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Commission.

On 26 July 1994 an Australian backpacker in Cambodia, Melbournian David Wilson was kidnapped and later killed and three months before Brisbane model Kellie-Anne Wilkinson suffered the same fate. Both Keating and Evans have not said much on the issue.

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 back on 25 March 2009:

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

As a serving soldier in 1997, I remember speaking to a short, tough, wiry Corporal, a former plumber and surfer, who had been on the Rwanda United Nations peacekeeping mission in 1994. The Corporal, who is probably a Sergeant or a Warrant Officer in the Special Forces by now, revealed that there were elite SASR soldiers putting their hands up, without even being prompted, to undertake a rescue mission to save Australian backpacker David Wilson, who was kidnapped and held for ransom by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia but it had been vetoed by those in Canberra. Wilson was later killed by his Khmer Rouge kidnappers on 7 September 1994.

Australia, at Gareth Evans’s urging, had sent a large peacekeeping force to Cambodia in 1993 and was an influential player in that part of the world when Wilson was taken from a train along with two other westerners, Frenchman Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet and Englishman Mark Slater, who also later were killed.

A 1998 Victorian Coroners Inquest into the death of Wilson heard the testimony of an Australian Foreign Affairs official, Alastair Gaisford:

“Evans was advised to but did not use his direct personal connections with senior Cambodian officials to secure Wilson's release.

"He (Evans) did not pick up the phone, as we advised him to do, to say, 'Stop this military build up, stop or we will cancel our aid or punish you in a diplomatic meaningful way'."

Gaisford said the Australian Government did not debrief embassy staff in Cambodia after the kidnapping and murder of Brisbane model Kellie-Anne Wilkinson three months earlier in Cambodia.

We do not know if the Wilson inquest will be restarted as the then coroner Graeme Johnson retired two years ago and it was put on hold.

Whatever the failings of the Howard Coalition government (1996-2007), it did not pussyfoot around when Australian contractor Douglas Wood was kidnapped in Iraq in 2005. It sent in the SASR who rescued Wood.

The moral of the story for politicians is let the professionals handle it and give them the tools to finish the job.

VICTORIAN STATE CORONER:

After a 3 month chase for a response, a spokeswoman from the Victorian State Coroner's Office revealed today that no one was sure when the Wilson inquest would be re-started.

"You can register as an interested party," the spokeswoman said. "You'll be notified if it's restarted."

DON WATSON: PM KEATING SPEECH WRITER

On 19 March 2009, a response from prominent academic and social critic, Dr Don Watson, a former political speech writer for Prime Minister Paul Keating, was sought over his thoughts on the Wilson tragedy.

An email was sent to Melbourne University academic Professor Stuart McIntyre, who kindly suggested Dr Watson could be contacted via Ms Louise Adler, publisher of Melbourne University Press.

An email was sent to Ms Adler, as well as Ms Hilary McPhee, Dr Watson's wife, and a letter posted to Dr Watson's business address.

So far there has been no response.
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Previous stories

http://teamuzunovmedia.blogspot.com/2009/03/keating-man-no-comment-on-wilson.html
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
By Sasha Uzunov

extract:

"...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..."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

AFGHAN GENERAL DOSTUM

Australian journalist Sasha Uzunov dressed in local clothing at the monument for CIA operative Johnny "Mike" Spann killed during the Taliban prisoner uprising in November 2001. Qala i Jangi Fort, Mazar i Sharif, Northern Afghanistan 2007.



Left to right: Sasha Uzunov, David Pugliese, General Dostum and Scott Taylor. Shiberghan, Northern Afghanistan 2007.
DOSTUM IN THE NEWS AGAIN
By Sasha Uzunov

Pro-United States Afghan General Abdul Rashid Dostum is in the news again after coming under attack from the New York Times newspaper over the alleged deaths of Taliban prisoners in his custody back in 2001-02.

Myself, together with Canadian journalists Scott Taylor and David Pugliese were the first western journalists to interview, photograph and videotape Dostum at his headquarters in Shibergan, Northern Afghanistan in 2007 after he had refused to talk to the media in over 2 years.

In 2008 we paid him a visit at his palatial compound in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

We also visited the Quala i Jangi (Kala i Jangi) Fort in Mazar i Sharif, the scene of the Taliban prisoner uprising in November 2001 which resulted in the death of CIA operative Johnny "Mike" Spann.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/11/world/asia/11afghan.html?_r=2

by James Risen

WASHINGTON — After a mass killing of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war by the forces of an American-backed warlord during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Bush administration officials repeatedly discouraged efforts to investigate the episode, according to government officials and human rights organizations.

Dostum's response:

http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Security-Watch/Detail/?lng=en&id=103454


Seven years after the fact, deceitful reports about the massacre of Taliban POWs in Afghanistan continue to be published, and the public has the right to know the truth, General Abdul Rashid Dostum comments for RFE/RL.





An Afghan National Army (ANA) Colonel shows us the cellars of the Qala i Jangi fort where the Taliban prisoners were held in November 2001. The scene of the uprising. Photo by Sasha Uzunov. copyright 2007.
An eerie reminder. A cap and a tuft of hair still remain in one of the underground cells.
Photo by Sasha Uzunov. copyright 2007.
----------------------------------------------------

Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Micheal_Spann

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Qala-i-Jangi

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

SHOOTING FROM THE LIP

SHOOTING FROM THE LIP: Office of Police Integrity spin
By Sasha Uzunov

Award-winning reporter Cameron Stewart together with Greg Sheridan, Mark Dodd and Patrick Walters form The Australian newspaper’s dream team of defence/national security experts but it seems Stewart has trouble understanding the basics of ballistics.

Cameron "James Bond" Stewart who previously worked as a civilian employee for Australia's super secret intelligence organisation Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) before becoming a journalist should you would think understand the principles of marksmanship or shooting. www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22653583-5014045,00.html

In a story that ran in The Australian on July 13 2009 titled 'No Tasers' for deadly police, Stewart quoted a soon to be released report from the Victorian Office of Police Integrity (OPI):
www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25770795-5006785,00.html

“Victoria Police has failed to tackle the shoot-to-kill culture that made it the nation's most deadly force, and its officers should not be trusted with Taser stun guns, the state's police watchdog has declared.”

There is a long running battle between the watchdog OPI and the Victorian Police Association, the union, over the introduction of the Taser Gun. The Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland is opposed to the non-lethal weapon being handed out to all police.

The Stewart story does not explain what this shoot to kill culture is, which it is not. If Stewart will indulge me, maybe I can give him a soldier’s five (Australian Army slang for lesson).

Ok, let us start with Victorian Police Association Secretary Senior Sergeant Greg Davies, who summarises it correctly:

"These are highly adrenalin charged situations, where people are trained to shoot to the centre of body mass. Now, if that then becomes a shoot-to-kill policy in someone's view, then, they're entitled to their view. That's not the case, our people do not go out and deliberately try and kill people." www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/07/13/2624046.htm

If Stewart has not lost me yet I will use simple language. There is no such thing as shoot to kill as a marksmanship principle either in the Australian Army nor any police force. If anything, it is shoot to stop an armed attacker as a last resort.

What does the centre of the seen mass or centre of the body mass mean? In one scenario it means that if the target is an adult male/female standing up, then you aim your weapon, pistol or rifle, for the abdomen or chest area in order to hit the target. In plain english, if it is a bullseye paper target, then you aim for the centre circle.

But why not just aim at the target’s hand or leg in order to wound him or her? Well, pistols are usually accurate upto 25 to 50 metres; assault rifles, such as the Australian Army’s F88 Austeyr, upto 300 metres. Wind, rain and other conditions can affect accuracy, as can the level of nervousness in the person handling the weapon.

Therefore, if you aim at the centre of the seen mass you have a better chance of hitting a target than if you aimed at a hand or leg. In other words, you have a bigger area to land a bullet on.

The consequence of missing an armed offender with weapon drawn can mean death for a soldier or police officer.

Any Police weapons instructor will tell you that firing 3 or 4 bullets may not stop an armed offender high on drugs. Australian soldiers from the Townsville based infantry unit, 1RAR, who served on the Somalia mission in 1993 in Africa were finding that in clashes with militiamen, high on a drug called the Khat leaf, that 5 or 6 bullets fired from the Austeyr rifle was not enough to stop them.

But police shooting an armed offender is always the last resort when every other means has failed. It is always difficult for those who have never been in such a situation to understand.

Snr Sergeant Davies quite rightly has expressed scepticism at the leaked OPI report.

“We do have some issues with the fact that reports are released-leaked from the OPI and then nobody butters up to answer questions about it," he said.

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/836787/vic-police-watchdog-urges-against-tasers

A media that does not scrutinise basic marksmanship principles is easier to persuade with spin.

(end)

links:

US MARINE SHOOTING TEAM GUIDE
http://www.aihpa.com/Training&Guides/US%20Marine%20Shooting%20Team%20Guide.htm