Monday, December 21, 2009


Photos: Top-Scottish flag of Saint Andrew. Bottom-Scottish soldier stands guard at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland's capital city (photo by Philip Allfrey 2006).

After centuries of British rule, is it finally 'freedom for Scotland?' And what of Ulster and Wales?

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

Scotland the brave, Ulster the unsure?
By Sasha Uzunov - Wednesday, 23 December 2009

There are moves afoot in Scotland for a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom to be held next year. The likelihood of the UK falling apart into ethnic warfare à la Yugoslavia or Soviet Union is unlikely should the Scots reclaim their freedom from London.

However, in the event the referendum is successful (there are signs it may have difficulty getting over the line) then what of the future of the UK, including for Wales and the highly explosive Northern Ireland, also known as Ulster? In addition, there will also be other European Union members, such as Spain with its own restless Basque and Catalan ethnic groups, watching nervously from the sidelines.

The whole concept of “Britishness” is now being called into question. Can you be British and Scottish at the same time?

Hollywood has in recent times played a major part in popularising Scottish independence. High profile Oscar winning actor Sir Sean Connery has thrown his political weight behind it. Mel Gibson’s 1995 blockbuster film Braveheart, full on romance and action and light on historical accuracy, about Scottish hero Sir William Wallace’s brave fight for freedom from the nasty English king, Edward I (The Longshanks) in the late 13th century no doubt has raised public consciousness.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) emerged in the early 18th century with Northern Ireland a later addition. It consists of four major ethnic groups: the English, descendants of northern German tribes known as Angles and Saxons, also related to the Vikings, who arrived in the 5th century AD; and the indigenous Celts: Scottish, Welsh and Irish. The Germanic and Celtic languages are not related to each other. Prior to the Anglo-Saxon invasion, the Romans ruled Britain for three centuries.

The term Britannia and British originally refers to the Celtic inhabitants of the UK and the Celtic Bretons in modern day France. England evolved from the term Angle-land.

By 1066 “francofied” German tribes, the Normans, invaded England and spread a light French veneer over the Angles and Saxons. By the 17th century English dominance spread to most of the “British Isles” including the adjoining island of the largely Catholic Celtic Ireland.

English and Anglicised Scottish Protestants, later dubbed Scots-Irish, were sent as colonisers of Ireland. A fact largely ignored by both modern Irish and Ulster Union nationalists is that some of these Scots-Irish joined the native Irish Catholics in the 1798 Irish Rebellion against the British Crown, which was brutally suppressed with the assistance of the native Irish Catholic Church.

By 1921, the War of Irish Independence led by Eamon De Valera and Michael Collins successfully resulted in an Irish Free State and later, the Republic of Ireland (Eire) in the south largely populated by Catholics and a Northern Ireland tied directly to Great Britain. Some of the early Irish Nationalists were neither Irish nor Catholic but passionately believed in the cause. Robert Erskine Childers, a British Naval Intelligence officer decorated for bravery during World War I, comes to mind.

Since that time, political violence has inflicted Ulster as Irish Nationalists have fought for a United Ireland and the Ulster nationalists to maintain the status quo and their privileges. In 1969 the British government intervened by sending in the army to diffuse tensions between the long suffering Irish Catholic minority at the hands of the Protestant majority. Later the Provisional Irish Republic Army (PIRA), an organisation branded as terrorist by London, took up the fight for a united Ireland. The conflict has largely been viewed as a sectarian one, despite the ethnic dimension to it. Various ceasefires and peace plans have come into effect and at the moment the province is relatively quiet with former enemies sharing power.

One of the underlying fears of the Ulster Protestants has been the thought of becoming a “persecuted” minority in a united Ireland, should it ever take place. But others point out that the Republic of Ireland is a modern democratic state and member of the European Union along with the United Kingdom.

Scotland, Wales (its proper Welsh name is Cymru) and Northern Ireland have their own parliaments but Westminster in London retains control over the purse strings, foreign policy and the armed forces. The Queen, Elizabeth II, is the monarch for all four countries. At the Olympic Games, Great Britain marches as one team. In the FIFA soccer world cup competition the four have their own teams. Watching the Scottish national team play at a World Cup is an incredible spectacle. Instead of hearing the British national anthem of God Save the Queen, usually a lone bagpiper plays the stirring tune, Scotland the Brave.

If the United Kingdom was to unravel would it follow in the tragic path of the former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, two multi-ethnic federations which spent nearly 70 years in one political form or another before imploding and transforming into many new nation-states? Probably not, but what effect would it have on the peace process in Northern Ireland?

If Scotland were to gain its independence, questions of its economic viability would obviously be raised. Supporters point to the oil rigs in the North Sea, which would fall within Scottish territorial waters. And not forgetting, of course, tourism and its “boutique Scottishness”.

A clever and award winning Australian journalist Alan Attwood has built a niche industry over the years regaling readers with quirky stories about his “Scottishness”.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Attwood as The Age newspaper’s expert tennis writer would clearly distinguish who was English, and Scottish, as in his own case, even though Scotland has not been an independent nation for over two centuries. There is no separate Scottish passport. Attwood should be applauded for being proud of his Scottish heritage and no one would oppose Scotland regaining its independence in a peaceful manner from London.

Then there is Attwood’s angst about being torn between two cultures, Australian and Scottish:

“Born in Dundee, Scotland but raised in Australia Alan Attwood felt torn between two countries. He went back to Scotland to discover his past but discovered he didn't really belong there either.”

We also have him as a working class hero:

“Alan Attwood was born in Scotland and emigrated to Australia with his family when he was four. He has worked as an abalone packer, a dishwasher and mail sorter, but, since 1978, mainly as a journalist. From 1995 to 1998 he was the New York-based correspondent for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, and more recently he has been a columnist for The Age.”

Notice, Scotland is mentioned but not the United Kingdom or Great Britain.

But when it came to tennis players from other disputed regions, such as the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, Attwood would never go into more detail. Surely, as an expert on all things Scottish and tennis, you would think he would be more precise.

Not all who came from the Soviet Union were Russians: don’t forget the Lithuanians, Ukrainians and so on. Likewise, there was no such thing as Yugoslav, only Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, Macedonians, Muslim Bosnians and so on. For many years during the late 1980s and early 90s Attwood refused to listen to those, including myself, who were telling him that Goran Ivanisevic was a Croat, Slobodan Zivojinovic was a Serb; and Monica Seles was an ethnic Hungarian from Serbia.

Regardless of Attwood’s antics, we wish the Scots good luck in their bid for independence and a long term peaceful solution to the troubles in Ulster.

Scotland the Brave (song with lyrics supplied)
Scotland the Brave (bagpipe version)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009



By Sasha Uzunov

Australia’s leading journalists have called upon the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to launch extradition proceedings against an Iraqi Kurd living in Norway and allegedly the mastermind behind the killing of controversial Australian cameraman Paul Moran in Iraq 2003 but strangely the AFP has not been formally asked to investigate.

Mr Chris Warren, the Federal Secretary of the Media Entertainment Alliance of Australia (Australian Journalists Association) has asked the Federal Attorney General to investigate Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, better known as Mullah Krekar, and his links to UN-listed terrorist organisation Ansar al-Islam.

But an AFP spokeswoman told TEAM UZUNOV today:

"The AFP treats all allegations of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity as serious matters. The AFP decides whether to investigate an alleged offence after evaluating a formal referral and supporting evidence.

"At this stage the AFP has not received a formal referral concerning the death of Mr Moran and therefore has not commenced an investigation. Any referral received by the AFP will be assessed in accordance with the AFP's Case Categorisation and Prioritisation Model.

"The AFP does not initiate investigations based on media reports alone. Allegations of war crimes committed overseas give rise to complex legal and factual issues that require careful consideration by law enforcement agencies before deciding to commence an investigation."

Sally Neighbour, a self-appointed security expert and reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, who moonlights for The Australian newspaper ,quotes another ABC colleague Mark Corcoran who said:

"`Why has there been no investigation into the murder?" asks Mark Corcoran, presenter and veteran reporter with ABC TV's Foreign Correspondent program. "As of December 2009, I have still not seen any evidence of an investigation, either formally or informally, by any Australian official."

Corcoran is a highly respected figure, who served in the Australian Navy and the super secret Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) before entering journalism.

Calling for a murder trial may in fact open up a can of worms. It may reveal some uncomfortable truths about Moran’s activities.

Moran, 39, was killed on March 22, 2003 by a car bomb while covering the war in Northern Iraq for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV. He was an Adelaide-raised freelance cameraman who worked on and off for the ABC as well as US public relations firm Rendon, which had ties to the CIA and the Bush Administration.

Walkely Award winning Australian journalist, Mr Colin James, of the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper, was the first to break the story about Moran’s shadowy past when he attended Moran’s wake in Adelaide.

He talked to relatives who revealed that Moran had a James Bond other life.

“For a freelance cameraman, Moran sure had some incredible access to US State Department officials in Washington,” Mr James said. “How many freelancers get to play games of social tennis with US diplomats?”

Moran had worked for Rendon for over a decade in places like the Middle East and Kosovo, pushing US government spin while doing freelance work for the ABC TV as a combat cameraman.

On November 17, 2005 prominent American journalist, academic and former US Navy intelligence analyst James Bamford wrote in the influential American magazine Rolling Stone a detailed account of Moran’s work with Rendon and its link to the CIA and its selling of the Iraq

The controversy surrounding Moran stems from his exclusive story about an Iraqi defector who had knowledge about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program. A Rendon colleague gave him the scoop which turned out to be false, but was a pretext for the US invasion of Iraq, according to Bamford.

The Australian cameraman also helped to set up a television station for the Iraqi National Congress (INC). The INC was established by the US as an opposition group to the Saddam Hussein regime.

In January 2003 I was hired as a photographer for Canadian war reporter Scott Taylor ( and we tracked down Mr Gaan Latis, who was recruited by the INC to become a member of a US trained exile army à la Bay of Pigs.

US advisors had set up a training camp at the Taszar Army base in Kaposvar, Hungary. Each new recruit was paid US$3,000. But the plan failed when there were not enough suitable candidates. We went to the army base in Kaposvar and were stopped at the front gate and were threatened with having our cameras confiscated.

I had a front page photo of the Taszar base published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Ottawa Citizen (January 24, 2003), and Esprit de Corp Magazine (February 2003) along with Taylor’s revelations of the exile Iraqi Army in training.

For six years I have been following the Moran story and attempted to gain access to information from the ABC.

Ms Joan McKain, the ABC’s Freedon Of Information Coordinator, in a letter dated July 10, 2007, rejected my request for Moran’s personnel file under Section 41 (1) of the Freedom Of Information Act.

The Act spells out that any documents affecting personal privacy are considered exempt if their disclosure under this Act would involve the unreasonable disclosure of personal information about any person (including a deceased person).

Instead, Ms McKain released a different document, a draft reply from then ABC TV News boss, Mr Max Uechtritz, given to ABC program Media Watch, dated April 14, 2003, about Paul Moran.

Mr Uechtritz, in his reply to ABC program Media Watch aired on April 14, 2003, wrote: “The ABC is not in the habit of following up Adelaide Advertiser stories.”

The Media Watch program had chastised the ABC and Uechtritz: “The story was followed up by some parts of the media, but not by the ABC. It should have been.” (Death in Bagdad, April 14, 2003 episode).

The irony of all this is Mr Uechtritz complained to The Age newspaper on June 30, 2003 about freedom of speech after coming under attack from the then Australian Federal Communications Minister, Senator Richard Alston, for alleged biased reporting by the ABC over the Iraq war.

“It is the duty of independent journalists in a robust democracy to question everything, “Mr Uechtritz wrote. “The senator seems to think the media's duty in time of war is to fall meekly into line with the government of the day.”

But it appears this does not apply to journalists scrutinising Paul Moran! Mr Uechtritz is now a news editor with Al Jazeera, Arabic news network.

In 2006 the ABC’s then Managing Director, Mr Russell Balding, was approached and asked if he would launch an internal inquiry into the Moran allegations. Mr Shane Wells, his spokesman, said there would be no comment.

Moran's covert behaviour had placed all western journalists under suspicion and under danger in war zones. However, I do not condone violence aimed at someone if they are a journalist or an intelligence operative.

I was working in the Balkans in 2002-03 when I was falsely accused by a local Macedonian reporter of being a CIA spy. Later I was pulled off a bus by Macedonian guards and held at gunpoint on the border with Serbia and kicked out of the country. I had to convince the authorities I was not a spy before I was allowed to return to Macedonia.

I know first hand of the danger that journalists face because of the paranoia caused by people such as Moran and others. The cold hard reality is war journalism is a cuththroat business; there is no universal fraternity with members helping each other.

Perhaps a murder trial would finally allow a proper examination of the colourful life and death of Paul Moran.


The Australian newspaper, Terror Kingpin Escapes retribution
James Bamford, Rolling Stone magazine
James Bamford, Rolling Stone magazine
On Line Opinion - James Bond other life
Yet more on Paul Moran,by Christopher Allbritton
The First Casualty
by Paul Rouse on November 30, 2006

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Exclusive - An Australian Army Reserve Special Forces commando unit has been accused of killing 5 Afghan children in an alleged botched raid...But could political cutbacks, and a short sighted defence policy be the real problems?

“Chocko’s” and coppers hung out to dry?

By Sasha Uzunov

The Australian Army’s elite reservist unit, 1 Commando Regiment, is being made a scapegoat over allegations of misconduct in Afghanistan, a former unit member has told TEAM UZUNOV.

The experienced ex-Commando said that he was deeply concerned over claims that poorly trained and led members had breached rules of engagement during a raid on house in Afghanistan which resulted in the deaths of 5 local children after grenades had been thrown last February.

“My concern is the unit has been left out to dry by the Defence Department even before judgement has been passed. Let due process of law take place,” he said. “If people were innocent then that should be shouted from the rooftops but if people were guilty then throw the book at them.”

“Whatever the outcome of the investigation, the responsibility is with the government of the day as well Defence Department bureaucrats. It is they who send troops to war.”

The ex-Commando spent over 20 years with the Sydney based 1 Commando Regiment (1 Cdo Regt) and served in Papua New Guinea, East Timor and the Middle-East.

The unit, he says, consists of a core full time staff, complimented by highly trained reservists from all walks of life. He revealed that there was a high percentage of New South Wales and Victorian Police officers within the ranks.

“The coppers are little group of their own and unfortunately some people see them as a law unto themselves. But that’s not their fault as these guys work together in civilian life as well,” he said.

The ex-Commando laughed at a report in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers by “defence reporter” Jonathan Pearlman who wrote :


“The Herald/Age understands that some of the soldiers in the sub-unit were reservists who worked as police in Australia and that questions have been raised about the possibility they were not properly trained in military procedures for entering houses.”

The ex-1 Cdo Regt soldier said there was no great major difference between a military and a police procedure for a room clearance. “I’m sure the coppers would’ve picked it within a few seconds of training.”

Traditionally a fierce rivalry has existed between the Australian Regular Army (ARA) and the Army Reserve (Ares). Reservists are known as “chocolate soldiers” or “chockos” for allegedly not being able to withstand combat and melt under pressure.

Some Regular soldiers and officers see the reservists as allegedly incompetent or as “weekend warriors.” Some reservists regard their full time colleagues as “lifers” unable to think outside the box.

1 Cdo Regt has its headquarters in Randwick, Sydney and consists of 1 Commando Company in Sydney and 2 Commando Company, in Williamstown, Melbourne, Victoria.

The unit belongs to the Australian Army’s Special Operations Command together with the Perth based regular army Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) and Sydney-based regular army 2nd Commando Regiment (formerly 4 RAR – Commando).

The ex-Commando said if the politicians and media were not happy with reservists in Afghanistan “then don’t send them.”

As revealed in an earlier TEAM UZUNOV story in 2008:


The legacy of the Nelson-Howard military doctrine has the Special Forces doing most of the fighting, because of the fear of casualties to our regular infantry units. The long term effect could be burn out of our full time Special Forces.


"Twice now we have had to deploy special forces in Afghanistan and twice now we have had to withdraw them because they are too tired," said Neil James, of think tank the Australian Defence Association in October 2006.

The highly respected Brigadier Jeff Sengelman DSC CSC, deputy commander of Special Operations, revealed the SAS had faced problems with recruiting and retaining soldiers but put a positive spin by also saying that it did not affect its operational capability.

In fact Australian Defence policy over the past 20 years, including that of the current Rudd Federal government, has been to fight wars by the seat of our pants by listening to desk-bound defence theorists and their crazy ideas.


The farsighted actions of an unheralded Australian Army General saved the lives of Australian soldiers in East Timor.

There is enormous respect for the popular commander of the successful Timor mission (INTERFET) Australian Army General Peter Cosgrove and he deserved to be recognized.
But we must also acknowledge the actions of then Chief of the Australian Army Lieutenant General Frank Hickling.

The Interfet Mission led by Australia intervened in East Timor to avert a catastrophe after the tiny Southeast Asian land had declared its independence from Indonesia in August 1999.

Pro-Indonesian Timorese militia groups supported by Indonesian Special Forces, Kopassus, went on a murderous rampage against independence supporters and later international peacekeepers.

Interfet then handed over control to the United Nations Transitional Administration for East Timor (UNTAET) in January 2000, and the Australian media believed the militia had been defeated. But the militia was simply biding its time and waiting to strike at what it thought was a soft target, Australian Army reservists.

Legendary infantry battalion 6RAR from Brisbane would be the next to go to Timor. It had, over the past decade, been gutted by cost cutting by defence experts. 6RAR had to be rebuilt with reservists grabbed from other units around Australia.

When 6RAR arrived in East Timor in early 2000 it came under ferocious militia attack but held its own.

In 1998, a year before East Timor erupted, the far-sighted Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General Frank Hickling, a combat engineer who saw action in Vietnam, went from unit to unit ordering his senior commanders that he wanted all full time and reserve soldiers to sharpen up their war fighting skills.

He was concerned that the army’s combat troops had gone soft because of the focus on peacekeeping missions. It was his foresight that kept Australian soldiers, both regular and reservist, alive on the battlefield in Timor despite the cutbacks from the bureaucrats.

The brutal murder and later mutilation of New Zealand soldier Private Leonard Manning by militia in July 2000 was a signal of what the militia had in store for Australian and international soldiers.


The Greens win war but lose defence

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

Greens win the war but lose defence
by Sasha Uzunov - November 24, 2009

When prominent Australian youth worker Les Twentyman throws his political weight behind the re-introduction of national service or conscription, you sit up and take notice.

Twentyman told the Herald Sun newspaper that a return to national service would help to combat street violence and unemployment.

Whatever the merits are of conscription in terms of taming wayward youth, there may be another benefit.

In recent months we have seen a high profile sacking and a resignation over the direction of the Afghanistan War but without any immediate effect upon American foreign or defence policy. This has enormous repercussions for Australia’s involvement in that conflict.

First, United Nations diplomat the American Peter Galbraith was sacked by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon over refusing to take part in what he claimed was a “cover up” of election rigging during the Afghan Presidential poll. Now we have the resignation of US diplomat in Afghanistan Matthew Hoh, a former US Marine Corps captain.

"I'm not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love," he said. "I want people in Iowa, people in Arkansas, people in Arizona, to call their congressman and say, 'Listen, I don't think this is right'."

In Australia, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has, in a thought-provoking article, called for a proper discussion on Afghanistan:

In Australia, while opposition to the war is strong, public debate about this country's military presence in Afghanistan and our tactics in fighting terrorism is muted in mainstream political circles.

She adds:

This is an issue our Government can't ignore any longer, and it's one that I will certainly be taking up in Canberra if my run for a NSW Senator seat at the next federal election is successful. The silence within our own political conversation on this issue means that no longer is it just the Taliban who show contempt for democracy. When the regime that we are supporting passes such demeaning laws, we join them in making a farce of any attempt to portray our military involvement as a commitment to promoting democracy and humane values.

Senator Rhiannon may be right about the level of public opposition to the Afghan War but that is irrelevant. Her beef is that the Rudd Government is not responding to opposition to the war. The irony is that the Greens, and their predecessors and fellow travelers the anti-Vietnam War movement protestors, were so successful that they have in fact lost leverage over governments in power when it comes to defence and national security issues.

How on earth can you come to that conclusion, you might rightly ask? The answer is quite obvious but too sensitive or taboo to mention! During the late 1960s and early 1970s the anti-Vietnam War movement only gained ground at the tail end of that conflict. In 1966 and in 1969 federal elections the sitting conservative government which supported the war was returned.

Respected authors on the Vietnam War, Paul Ham and Michael Caulfield, have argued that the impetus for the anti-war movement came about because of conscription. That is when you force members of the general public, namely young men, into a war; then the public becomes interested in the debate. Mortgages and the economy take a back seat when your own life could be threatened by going to war.

Since the ending of National Service in late 1972 by the incoming Whitlam Labor government, the average person in the street has lost whatever leverage he or she had over defence experts and the professional volunteer defence force.

The reality is that professional military forces and politicians do not like conscription, because of the intense public scrutiny it brings. Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard was willing to bleed our special forces, the SASR and Commandos, dry fighting conflicts in East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq rather than have our regular infantry battalions do the fighting or for that matter using conscripts.
From a political strategic point of view it would be in the interests of the Greens to support the re-introduction of conscription, to act as a break against military adventurism. The question remains, will the Australian Greens be brave enough to support such a controversial issue?

History is full of political-ideological u-turns.

Joschka Fischer began his political career as a radical, left-wing, brawling taxi driver in the then West Germany in the 1970s. During a riot he beat to a pulp a German Police officer and almost blinded him. On becoming a Greens politician and later Germany’s Foreign Minister, Fischer apologised to the policeman and also supported the war in Afghanistan.

In 1972 South Australian Premier Mike Rann was a Greenpeace activist in New Zealand who actively worked against the French Security forces in the South Pacific by sending boats to disrupt nuclear testing by encroaching upon French territory. Rann has now moved to the right within the Labor party.

Conscription remains one of the last taboos in an Australian society where drug use, sexual orientation, rape, incest, mental health are now talked about freely.

About the Author

Sasha Uzunov graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, in 1991. He enlisted in the Australian Regular Army as a soldier in 1995 and was allocated to infantry. He served two peacekeeping tours in East Timor (1999 and 2001). In 2002 he returned to civilian life as a photo journalist and film maker and has worked in The Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His documentary film Timor Tour of Duty made its international debut in New York in October 2009. He blogs at Team Uzunov.