Thursday, November 20, 2008

Generals and Diggers saved the day in Timor

The fighting quality of the Aussie digger that saved the day in East Timor not Desk Warriors.
Private Carl "The Enforcer" Lloyd, Alpha Company, 4RAR, East Timor, 2001.
Photo by Sasha Uzunov.

On Line Opinion - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate.


by Sasha Uzunov

Influential Defence expert and former Fairfax journalist, Hugh White, has revealed that Australia’s involvement in East Timor succeeded because of the Indonesian military’s (TNI) reluctance to fight a full scale war; this is partly true.

"Interfet succeeded as well as it did largely because Habibie and the TNI allowed it to succeed," White said.

Interfet was the name of the 1999 Australian led mission to restore order after East Timor declared its independence from 24 years of harsh Indonesian occupation. BJ Habibie was the then President of Indonesia who permitted East Timor to hold a UN supervised referendum.

White, who was the deputy secretary (strategy and intelligence) in the Defence Department, and the mastermind behind the Interfet mission, fails to mention four big factors behind the success.

They are: the brilliant leadership of two Australian Army generals, Frank Hickling and Interfet Commander Peter Cosgrove, the calibre of the Special Forces, the SASR, and the ordinary digger when confronted by the pro-Indonesian militia groups.

There was a secret war in East Timor fought by Indonesian Special Forces: Kopassus. The objective was to inflict as many casualties on Australians and New Zealanders in the hope that their respective governments would withdraw.

The Howard government at the time deliberately used the Army’s elite Special Forces unit, SASR (Special Air Service Regiment), to do most of the fighting in East Timor: fighting which should have been performed by the infantry.

The political logic was that the public and media would accept SASR casualties rather than a 19-year-old infantryman, fresh out of home or from a small country town.

But political logic does not necessarily make good military sense and vice-versa. In East Timor the pro-Indonesian militia tried to inflict as many casualties as possible on our infantry units, including battalions made up of many reserve/part time soldiers, in the hope that Australia would withdraw.

White is quiet on the issue of throwing reservists into the deep end after the regular army had been gutted; it was only the quality of the ordinary Australian soldier which stopped a disaster from happening.

It was General Frank Hickling’s foresight in 1998 as the Chief of Army that should be acknowledged. He issued his famous “back to basics” order that all Australian soldiers, regular and reserve, must sharpen their war fighting skills. He was concerned at the rundown of the Army.

Ironically, it was White and another defence expert, Paul Dibb, who were the prime movers in cutting back Army numbers in the late 1980s. Neither have ever served in uniform.

Respected Brigadier Jim Wallace, former Special Forces Commander, wrote in 2003:

"Unfortunately, Australian defence policy has been mainly wrong for the whole of this period. Even after we committed troops to East Timor, Professor Paul Dibb, the policy's chief architect, was standing in front of parliamentary committees vowing that Australia would not be conducting what he called "expeditionary" operations out of the region. This was despite a series of major UN deployments over many years to places as far a field as Rwanda and Somalia. Afghanistan and Iraq have hopefully now discredited this logic.

"At the same time, Dr Hugh White was arguing in initial drafts for the 2000 white paper to reduce the size of our army to about 19,000, on the basis that, like Professor Dibb, he didn't see the Government needing options for deployment out of the region, particularly for sending the army. The result has been an incredible demand on the dedication and professionalism of our special forces as they have again been thrown into the breach that our supposedly expert defence planners couldn't predict."

War is a serious business and it needs to be left to the professionals, not arm chair generals.


Howard fear for Diggers in Timor

John Lyons, November 03, 2008
The Australian newspaper

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Royal Australian Navy sailor. Photo: US Defense Department.


An American study into Gulf War Syndrome has found the illness is real, according to Australian veterans' news site...

But the issue here in Australia has been downplayed by politicians and some in the media, who see themselves as future government advisors and therefore do not want to rock the boat.

I was one of the first journalists to take a closer look at the political dimension to Australia's connection to Gulf War Syndrome...

In 2007, I put in a Freedom Of Information request for documents relating to Gulf War but the request was knocked back. At the time one prominent Australian journalist with ties to the ALP threatened to take legal action if I persisted in my investigation. He simply wanted to shutdown any scrutiny.

Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper -- 12 February, 2007
by Sasha Uzunov

OPPOSITION Leader Kevin Rudd has been flexing his political muscles over the Howard Government's involvement in Iraq War No 2.

But he seems to have forgotten that the Labor Party has unfinished business from Iraq War No. 1.Labor wants to pull out the Diggers from Iraq War No. 2, but it has not taken care of its responsibilities from the first war with Saddam Hussein.

Iraq War No. 1 started after the Iraqi dictator invaded Kuwait in 1990.

George Bush Sr was president of the United States and was quick to respond to the Iraq takeover.

So, too, was Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, who offered ships and sailors. Behind this decision was an ALP government wanting to score international recognition.

In his 1992 book The Gulf Commitment: The Australian Defence Force's First War, respected academic David M. Horner gives a behind-the-scenes look at the political scramble to get our sailors and a small contingent of Diggers into the Gulf.

The key players listed were prime minister Hawke, defence minister Robert Ray, foreign affairs minister Gareth Evans and two key advisers.

Professor Paul Dibb was deputy secretary of Defence and Hugh White was an international adviser to the prime minister.

Iraq War No. 1 was mercifully short. It was over by the next year, but the legacy is Gulf War Syndrome, which is a term used to cover a wide range of illnesses or conditions suffered by ADF personnel.

Illnesses include chronic fatigue, migraines, nerve damage, dizziness, nausea, skin rashes and ulcers.

American and British inquiries have found evidence to suggest Gulf War Syndrome has affected a substantial number of veterans.

But Australian authorities have refused to accept these findings.

A study headed by Associate Professor Malcolm Sim of Monash University in March, 2003, found veterans were likely to suffer from mental health and respiratory problems.

However, it could not positively link these conditions to Gulf War Syndrome.

The three-year study of 1400 veterans found they faced increased risks of nerve damage.
Australian governments of both political persuasions are reluctant to accept liability.

It took decades for (US) Vietnam War veterans to prove their case in the Agent Orange controversy. This was the name given to the defoliants sprayed over Vietnamese jungles in the 1960s. Agent Orange resulted in illnesses in American and Australian servicemen.

LABOR has been as eager as conservative governments to send Australians into conflict to gain international kudos.

When Paul Keating became prime minister after Bob Hawke, he and foreign affairs minister Gareth Evans were keen to gain international clout.

They sent a small number of Australian peacekeepers into the African hell of Rwanda.
Inadequate rules of engagement meant Australian soldiers were powerless to stop ethnic massacres.

Former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan admitted Rwanda was a humanitarian disaster.

But the Australian Labor Party is still to admit its responsibility over Iraq War No. 1 and needs to do so before it can be taken seriously in its claims to have a responsible foreign policy over Iraq War No. 2.

The issue of Gulf War Syndrome remains a stain on ALP policy.

None of the key players has publicly expressed concern for veterans who might be suffering from it.

Nor, for that matter, have other senior Labor figures of the time, such as Brian Howe and Dr Neal Blewett.

They, too, remain silent on what was a major issue while they were federal MPs.

Yet Blewett was a vocal anti-Vietnam war activist in his youth and Howe has returned to his calling as a minister of religion.

Kevin Rudd, who professes to be a man of faith, needs to heal the wounds caused by Gulf War No. 1.

The Opposition Leader needs to clarify his position on sick Australian veterans from an earlier Iraq conflict.

SASHA UZUNOV is a freelance journalist who covered the second war in Iraq and served as an Australian soldier in East Timor

Link: Forum (Mr Keith Tennent)

“The extensive body of scientific research now available consistently indicates that ’Gulf War illness’ is real, that it is the result of neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment, and that few veterans have recovered or substantially improved with time,” said the report, being released Monday by a panel of scientists and veterans. A copy was obtained by Cox Newspapers.

Webmaster's Commentary:

The chemical poisoning of our own troops by the government and military supposed to protect them is nothing new (remember the enduring legacy of the defoliant Agent Orange to both the Vietnamese People and our Vets?)

But what we have here, through this definitive research, is the sure and certain reality that we've done it yet again.

The question is, what is the VA and the Federal Government going to do about it this time, to take care of these Vets and the families which love them?

Every Vet who has gone out there and put their life on the line, particularly those who have been injured (or chemically poisoned, as has happened here), should receive the same level of medical care that (US Vice President Dick) Cheney gets.

That they do not speaks volumes about our national priorities, and about the degree these people become disposable, once they have done their jobs on the battlefield.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008



IN STEP: Victorian State Premier John Brumby (without hat) gives an eyes right salute to the eternal flame as he marches up the steps to the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, 11 November 2008...

The Premier has gone out of his way to make himself known as the Veterans' Premier...


CROSSES: Shrine of Remembrance forecourt. A newspaper photographer lines up a shot of a small child and its mother amongst the poppies and crosses, symbolising those who died in war.

STANDING TALL: An Army Chaplain stands tall, despite the heat and his age, probably in his 80s, to show the flag of the United States, Australia's ally in World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq and Afghanistan. He was offered a chair to sit down but wanted to stand to remember the fallen.

COSTLY PRICE: A plaque in St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, Swanston Street, Melbourne, shows the great cost of war. Three members from the Steele family were killed during World War I.


Photos by Sasha Uzunov, copyright 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008


Vietnam is part of the Anzac legend forged on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915.


Vietnam part of the ANZAC Legend forged at Gallipoli

ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

By Sasha Uzunov - posted Monday, 10 November 2008

Recent road works in Gallipoli have uncovered the remains of soldiers killed there in 1915 during World War I. Australians from all walks of life have expressed concern about our diggers’ last resting place being disturbed.

All of this tells us that the ANZAC legend has been embraced by nearly all of the community and is alive and well. But with Remembrance Day (November 11) tomorrow we need to include those from the Vietnam War as part of this legend, this ethos. It seems there are those who still make a “distinction” between Gallipoli and Vietnam, even though there are similarities.

The Gallipoli campaign, fought on the shores of Turkey and starting on April 25, 1915, involved Australian soldiers being sent to invade a foreign state, the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and ease the pressure on our then ally Russia.

The Vietnam War (1962-72), once again, saw Australia send troops to a foreign country to aid our allies, the United States and South Vietnam, then fighting off communist takeover from its northern counterpart.

However, prominent journalist Ray Martin, who veterans over the years have thanked for his enthusiasm and passion for keeping the ANZAC legend alive in the media, views the Vietnam conflict differently:

"Being a patriot, eulogising 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.

"I support every one 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."

Now compare this to the introduction to Ray’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 this disconnect? The circumstances are almost the same except that Vietnam was a counter-insurgency war and shown on television.

If commentators praise Gallipoli but condemn Vietnam is that not a contradiction? If you condemn Vietnam should you not criticise Gallipoli?

The Gallipoli campaign was fought more than 93 years ago and there are no more veterans still alive. Vietnam, on the other hand, is still a tangible, living memory for the men of Ray Martin’s generation who came to young adulthood in the mid 1960s.

The way I see it, if you support the ANZAC legend and Gallipoli, you need to support the Vietnam War. The two are connected.

Victorian Premier John Premier said on Vietnam Veteran Day (August 18, 2008) at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance that it was time that Vietnam was accepted as part of the ANZAC legend.

Perhaps Ray should pay attention to Premier Brumby’s sentiments on Remembrance Day, November 11.

Another politician in the news over Gallipoli is Paul John Keating, Australia’s Prime Minister from 1991-96. He has been at it again. Letting go with recent comments at a book launch that would guarantee media exposure. His latest outburst is about the relevance of visiting Gallipoli.

Funny that during Keating’s prime ministership his criticism of Gallipoli was mute.

How could we forget Keating’s moving comments about the Unknown Soldier, brought back from the World War I French battlefield to finally rest in Canberra, in 1993?

"We do not know this Australian's name and we never will. We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, or precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances - whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children we do not know who they are. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian was."

Then again during his time in office he sent Australian troops to Somalia, Cambodia and Rwanda in an attempt to act tough on the international stage.

Since leaving politics not once has he expressed any concern for the soldiers he sent into combat. We know that the Rwanda mission in 1994 was flawed from the beginning, with inadequate rules of engagement for our troops caught in the genocide between two rival ethnic groups in the heart of Africa. No wonder that some who returned from that hell hole suffer from PTSD, having been forced to witness massacres.

Nor can we forget Keating’s cynical political use of the Kokoda Track battle from World War II. However, Keating did lose a relative during World War II, as did a large number of Australians.
Keating, who was born in 1944, did not volunteer to fight in Vietnam but using the ANZAC legend or for that matter sending others into combat for political gain is nothing new. The unfortunate thing is that there are many in the Australian media who refuse to scrutinise our leaders and experts.

They are, in effect, letting these people off the hook. This will continue because some commentators see themselves as future government advisors or spin doctors on big fat salaries. It is not in their interests to rock the boat.


Sunday, November 09, 2008



By Sasha Uzunov

Channel 9 television personality and Collingwood Football club president, Eddie McGuire, has come up with an idea to solve youth violence on our streets--send the young offenders into the Australian Army.

In theory it sounds like a good idea but it would help to promote the idea in the media if Eddie joined the Australian Army as well.

Eddie could be commissioned as a Captain or Major in the Australian Army Public Relations Service (AAPRS); he could do a 6 month tour of duty in Afghanistan in the field running a defence media crew. AAPRS recruits media professionals, many aged in their 40s and 50s, straight from civilian life. They are given an 8 week, officers “knife and fork” course in military etiquette at the Royal Military College in Duntroon, Canberra.

One of Eddie’s former Channel 9 colleagues, news reporter Chris Hill, did a stint in APPRS.

We will be putting this proposal to Eddie to see what his response is?

However, some veterans groups do not like the idea. Mr Keith Tennent, who runs the influential veterans news website, wrote:

“The Australian Defence Force is not a day care centre, it is not as child minding centre it is not a juvenile delinquent centre and it is not a nursery.

“The ADF is a very large group of men and women, enlisted to defend the Nation. They don't have the time or the inclination to sort out drug infested criminals, thugs, ratbags and idiots. Everybody knows most criminals [70% or higher] commit their offences because of their drug and/or alcohol habits. In fact a Police Officer friend said to me last month that she would be out of a job if drugs and alcohol were outlawed.

“It is the responsibility of parents to raise their children and inculcate in them high principle, manners [yes manners] and ethics. This responsibility also falls in part to school teachers, who are either hamstrung in how they can discipline children by a politically correct, silly system OR the school teachers simply don't care or don't know about discipline because they had their irresponsible characters former in the same mad system.

“Let parents take full responsibility for their children and let the ADF get on with training to defend the Nation.”