Thursday, September 21, 2006

As war crimes go this is less than jaywalking

jaywalking chicken
Originally uploaded by Sydney Weasel.
By Piers Akerman
AUSTRALIAN defence chief Angus Houston and chief of the army Peter Leahy need to get out of Canberra.

Their over-the-top responses to a series of harmless home videos made by a bunch of young Australian soldiers and sailors would make an Anzac blush.

Air Chief Marshal Houston and Lieutenant-General Leahy came on like graduates from the Bob Brown university of political correctness and sensitivity training.
The over reaction to the videos had many parallels to Tom Sharpes Wilt character who was English Department Head at a TAFE. He was informed one of his staff had been caught filming himself having sex with a crocodile .. It later transpired, from careful questioning, that the communist staff member had been illustrating a point on capitalism on a rubber croc ..

I don’t know what Leahy and Houston were told when they were told. However, I know that the hyperventilating press can inflate the issue to get people killed, as happened when the Pope was verballed recently, or the comic affair, or post abu ghraib. Leahy and Houston may be laughed at for being overcritical, but no one will die if the press can’t inflate the issue. Imagine if they’d gone in conciliatory?

However, there is a credibility cost. Our rank and file know that come what may, they won’t be supported.


Anonymous said...

The videos would be put in the shade by any episode of the tasteless Big Brother program and would be undistinguished were it not for the fact firearms are sometimes displayed and in one a soldier has donned an obviously fake Arab headdress.

Shock! Horror! But largely within the Defence HQ and at our ethically challenged ABC, which inevitably errs towards the view a terrorist is probably fighting for a better cause than any uniformed serviceman.

The claim by flyboy Houston that the image of a man dressed in Arab gear ``grossly offends me’’ would indicate that he should spend less time cruising at 30,000 feet and more time on the ground or at sea with the men and women who literally come to grips with the enemy.

If he came down to their level in Afghanistan or Iraq he would rapidly learn that those trying to kill our forces actually do get about in Arab robes or tribal rig.

Leahy says he wants to know why these videoed soldiers should remain in the army. Surely, the answer must have more to do with their proficiency as members of the defence forces than with their amateur repertory performances.

Not to be outdone, Robert McClelland, the Labor genius whose caucus vote is credited with saddling the ALP with misfit Mark Latham’s leadership, claimed the videos were highly damaging to Australia’s reputation and deserving of the strongest disciplinary action.

Labor’s defence spokesman took it upon himself to speak for the bulk of serving men and women, saying they ``would regard this conduct as completely reprehensible and expect that these people play no further part in our defence forces’’.

“They’re entitled to have their case heard but I think insofar as the allegations are that the weapon has been misused and human bodies have been misused ... a very serious penalty be imposed’’, he said.

Blah, blah, blah.

Another who found herself frothing at the mouth was The Age newspaper’s military expert, Michelle Grattan, who found the ``Arab’’ picture ``an appalling advertisement for the Australian military’’ which could cause extra dangers for Australian soldiers.

Well, only if the enemy tunes into the ABC and reads The Age before selecting its targets.

Forces from Australia fought in the Sudan War, the Boer War, the Boxer Rebellion, World War I and World War II, the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, in the Indonesian Confrontation, Vietnam, and in peace-keeping operations, some of which continue to this day in the Solomons, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Though little material remains from the Sudan expedition, there is historical data, anecdotal and otherwise, to demonstrate the larrikin Australian sense of humour flourished wherever our forces served and no one gave a fig for political correctness.

McClelland and Grattan’s response to the videos is entirely predictable. Such people, like the ABC’s institutionalised commentariat, naturally presume to occupy the high moral ground.

Houston and Leahy however should be more concerned with the sensitivities of our troops rather than those of our enemies.

Their outrage is also entirely selective. When defence department official Mike Scrafton was found to have accessed some 1300 pornographic websites through his workplace computer when pulling a little weekend work, he was discreetly transferred, and it’s not surprising that the anti-Howard whistle-blower now has a job within the Victorian Labor Government.

In every war, armed forces need to be directed at the foe and in the past century Aussie Diggers fought people variously demonised as Huns, Nips, Charlies, and a lot worse.

It is a matter of historical record that after each conflict, those we fought came here, found jobs, built homes, established families and integrated into our society remarkably effortlessly (and with no need for government-funded remedial cultural sensitivity training).

That’s right, we can be proud of our record of embracing the enemy _ at war’s end.

The muddled signal from the Houstons, Leahys, McClellands and Grattans and their ilk is that they don’t seem to sure whether we are now at war or not.

The videos aren’t evidence of any war crime, they don’t show any Abu Ghraib activity, bastardisation, or even serious mishandling of firearms. If anything, they depict some bored blokes trying to have fun in places where fun is hard to find, as Diggers have done since the brim was rolled up on the first slouch hat.

That irreverent streak of humour has helped carry Aussies through wars around the world.

It may not be the humour of the officers’ mess and it may not appeal to the self-centred individuals who are always opposed to those who risk their lives fighting to protect the freedoms we take for granted.

This is not the time for a silly diversion such as a politically correct witch-hunt. We are at war with a real enemy and there are truly serious questions about arms and equipment which need addressing.

Houston and Leahy need to focus on what’s important and not what plays well to the hand-wringing media sob-sisters

Anonymous said...

Are some kinds of police misconduct – what’s referred to as “noble cause corruption” – justified if it supposedly serves the greater public good? Is it okay to beat a confession out of a known criminal or fabricate evidence to get him behind bars where he can do no more harm? Did “Dirty Harry” get it right? This dilemma is at the heart of the controversial over public hearings into allegations that Victoria Police detectives assaulted suspected armed robbers. Video secretly recorded by the Office of Police Integrity showing Armed Offenders Squad detectives assaulting suspects to get confessions has had little impact on public opinion, which appears to support the argument that the means justifies the end. A radio telephone poll yesterday found that 80 per cent of respondents said they did not care if squad detectives bashed suspects.

The OPI’s decision to investigate the Armed Offenders Squad and hold open hearings into the assault investigations is its most public stand on police misconduct in the state since it was established almost two years ago. But it appears to have chosen shaky ground on which to make that stand as far as public attitudes are concerned. Radio 3AW’s poll yesterday showed the public prefer the Armed Offenders Squad’s approach to that of the OPI.

And the battle for public opinion wasn’t helped by revelations that one of the suspects allegedly bashed by detectives during an interview had 65 prior convictions dating back more than a decade, including armed robbery, and 14 aliases.

The OPI hearings are also set to become a political issue in the lead up to Victoria’s November state election, with the police union arguing they are a “Spanish Inquisition” aimed at countering the anti-corruption watchdog’s poor track record. The Liberal Opposition has already promised to scrap the OPI, which is headed by a former public servant with close Bracks Labor government ties, and replace it with an independent body headed by a former judge.

The Victorian Police Association and other commentators have made the point that the Armed Offenders’ Squad deals with some of the worst, most violent criminals. The inference being that occasionally they have to cut corners to get the job done.

The concept of “noble cause corruption”, where the rules are bent or broken to get the job done, was addressed by James Wood during the NSW Royal Commission into police corruption, although he preferred to use the term “process corruption”.

“It is often directed at those members of the community who are least likely or least able to complain, and is justified by police on the basis of procuring the conviction of persons suspected of criminal or anti-social conduct, or in order to exercise control over sections of the community,” he said in Volume One of his final report.

He classified these types of misconducted as “noble cause”:
• perjury;
• planting of evidence;
• verbals in the form of unsigned records of interview and note book confessions;
• denial of basic rights in respect of matters such as the use of a caution, or detention for the
purpose of interview;
• assaults and pressure to induce confessions;
• gilding the evidence to present a better case;
• posing as a solicitor to advise suspects to co-operate with police;
• tampering with the product of electronic interception to remove any matter that might prove
• unofficial and unauthorised practices such as putting suspected street drug dealers onto a
train and ‘banning’ them from an area; and
• ‘taxing’ of criminals who are seen to be beyond the law.

Such behaviour was partly driven by the pressures on police to solve crime and to lock up criminals, their frustration with the justice system and the consequent perceived need to “even the odds”, and their belief that they are doing only what was expected of them.

Justice Wood conceded that “noble cause corruption” was in most cases considered to be less serious than traditional types of corruption designed to make an officer rich. But he warned that “in practice it commonly becomes linked with extortion, theft and other forms of corruption”.

John Kleinig from New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice argued in the International Journal of Police Science and Management
that many officers saw noble cause corruption as a legitimate crime fighting tactic.

“There is little doubt that first line officers sometimes consider themselves justified in bending the rules or even violating the rights of others in the prosecution of their public task,” he said.

But Kleinig warned against police forces imposing more rules and regulations to tackle the problem and so removing the ability of officers to exercise their judgment. “…it is probably better for professionalism and professional development in policing to teach police to ski on slippery slopes than to institute rules that, if rigidly adhered to, would by their very nature fail to address the full complexity of the situations in which they have to be applied,” he said.

“What is needed is some way of distinguishing problematic slippery slope decisions from legitimate accommodations to complexity and scarcity.”

So over to you. Is the “Dirty Harry” approach to policing sometimes justified?

Anonymous said...

In Sick Societies, anthropologist Robert Edgerton tells of tribes like ones on Tasmania that refused even in times of hunger to eat perfectly good food - fish, for example - because of irrational religious taboos.

I’m reminded of that every time I read an opinion piece that discusses our rapidly worsening water shortages without once daring to mention the obvious solution - to build another dam. Dams, you see, are taboo.

This time the article is by Professor Sharon Beder. Her solution? Just buy the water from the farmers.

Melbourne could become a sparkling oasis in the desert, sucking water from the surrounding countryside. Don’t feel sorry for those farmers. They’ve been paid well for their water. Win-win.
I guess I should establish Beder’s qualifications as an academic, water expert and guide to the future. She is the author of works such as Toxic Fish & Sewer Surfing, The Nature of Sustainable Development and Global Spin: The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism. She also lists on her cv at the University of Wollongong that she won a media prize from the Australian Surfers Hall of Fame.

Anonymous said...

JOURNALISM courses run by the University of the Sunshine Coast, the University of Western Sydney and the private Brisbane college Jschool have been judged the best by their students.
JSchool? It’s a private journalism school run by the excellent Professory John Henningham, who you might recall is the man whose famous survey established what your ears and eyes already suspected - that most journalists are far to the Left of the public they are meant to serve.

The question now is why Henningham’s private school is held in higher esteem by its students than are many of the expensively maintained (by taxpayers) journalism schools run by universities such as RMIT and the University of Technology, Sydney (of which more in the next post).

Are private colleges forced to be more responsive to their students? Are they more likely through necessity if nothing else to understand the society from which they draw their students and livelihood? Are they less likely to be the rigid ideological factories that so many media employers now suspect university schools have become?

And do we really need so many taxpayer-funded journalism schools that produce far, far more graduates than will ever get media jobs and aren’t much respected by the students they purport to teach?

Bravo Professor Henningham for shining another light on production of groupthink in the mainstream media.

Weasel said...

Former ABC staffer and author Peter Manning pontificates on September 11 style in the “Yanks deserved it” way that makes the Left seem so malignant:

I FOUND September 11 so shocking. But equally shocking was how quickly it became an iconic event ... But as I thought more deeply in the following weeks, I had some sympathy for boxer Anthony Mundine’s brutal response: “They brought the attacks on themselves.” In my mind was another September 11, and the death in 1973 of the democratically elected left-wing Chilean president Salvador Allende as his palace was bombed by planes from armed forces backed by the US, ushering in the brutal Pinochet era. I remember hearing it live on the radio and his last words before being killed.

I was conscious too of the US backing of dictators around the world when it suited its purposes. If it hadn’t been Osama bin Laden’s men who repaid the US, it would have been others.

Manning is free, of course, to hold such ahistorical and manifestly foolish views, but I think we’re then entitled to assume that in the war against Islamist terror he’s not necessarily on our side.

You won’t be surprised, of course, to know that Manning was made an Adjunct Professor of Journalism at University of Technology, Sydney.

Anonymous said...

Spare us “brave” judges, like the one who decided to hand the native title over Perth to some people who only on the “balance of probabilities” had some ongoing connection to it, despite having mixed ancestry and never having lived in traditional Aboriginal ways.

While acknowledging that the High Court had set the rules on this test in a case concerning the Yorta Yorta people, Justice Wilcox applied those rules in a way that native title lawyers describe as “novel”.

“He is a brave man to be out there on his own,” said Blakiston & Crabb partner Christine Lovitt.

“Brave” in this context clearly doesn’t mean physically brave. It instead is more likely to be a synonym for “creative” or “activist”, as in perhaps even letting personal politics trump the law.

It could even arguably mean “racist” - as in holding a view that a person’s race, however imagined, gives him very special rights. But I’m sure the judge in this respect was only following the law, or the dictates of a culture that’s amking some bad mistakes.

Weasel said...

The news started promisingly:

IF you have problems reading and spelling, blame your parents.

Research has found that key skills in learning to read and spell – the ability to sound out words and read unusually spelt words – are affected by your genes.

Let’s try that again, shall we?

If you have problems reading and spelling, blame your parents. Other research tells us something far more useful: that key skills in learning to read and spell can be taught by parents who simply put in the time and effort.

Get to it, and stop looking to nature for an excuse.

Weasel said...

Even the best of them don’t know how to leave, and probably don’t mean it when they promise they will:

Tony Blair briefed a special “political” cabinet on his policy plans for the best part of the next decade today, ahead of next week’s epochal Labour party conference.

Although the prime minister has promised to step down within the next 12 months, he has also commissioned review groups on four areas of government policy taking Labour up to and beyond a fourth general election.

Anonymous said...

It’s unfortunate that when Indonesia finally gets around to shooting dead some mass-murdering terrorists that the ones it makes an example of are Christians:

Barring a last minute reprieve, Tibo, Dominggus and Marinus will be executed this Thursday. The three Catholic men have now been on death row for five years, after being sentenced to death in 2001 for inciting others to commit murder during the communal conflict in Poso.
Maybe its less scary to kill Christians today.

Anonymous said...

Senator Robert Ray is former Labor factional leader who once twinned with Graham “Whatever it takes” Richardson. He has for many years now enjoyed a long and leisurely retirement in the Senate, but yesterday he spoke ... and what’s more spoke of doing productive work:

The confessed factional warrior of 32 years, who rarely speaks publicly, singled out his factional successor in Victoria, senator Stephen Conroy, and his left-wing counterpart, senator Kim Carr, as “factional Daleks”.

“The final trend is what I call the Stasi element. A whole production line of soulless apparatchiks has emerged: highly proficient and professional, but with no Labor soul; control freaks with tunnel vision; ruthless leakers in their self-interest; individuals who would rather the party lose an election than that they lose their place in the pecking order,” Senator Ray said.

Weasel said...

Gosh, next they’ll tell us that other fashionable victim stories, like those by Rigoberto Menchu and Sally Morgan, aren’t completely true either:

The family of a bestselling author whose vivid memoir claims to document a “hell” of sexual abuse inside a Catholic institution for fallen women denounced the book as a work of fiction yesterday.
At a press conference, seven of Kathy O’Beirne’s brothers and sisters read out statements rebutting allegations against their father, who was accused in the book of beating and abusing his daughter.

Ms O’Beirne’s bestselling account of her childhood after being placed in the care of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity is a grim catalogue of sexual abuse, beatings and rape. Sold as Don’t Ever Tell in Britain and as Kathy’s Story in her native Ireland, it appeared two years ago at a time when trust in the Catholic church’s clergy and institutions had been shattered after the prosecution of priests for child abuse.

Her description of being handed over to the notorious “Magdalene laundries” - where difficult children were sent - by an abusive father at the age of eight fed public curiosity about life under the punitive regimes supposedly operating behind the walls of so many convents. To date, it has sold 350,000 copies.

But as with the movie Rabbit Proof Fence, do any of its fans care if the allegations are really true? Surely all that a certain set want is that the story should be true. The choice of the villain is important here, and in this case you can’t go wrong with a Catholic nun.

I cannot wait for the Lane review of this. I would like to know what it should be about. A prominant insurer advertises with the words “We just don’t listen.”

Rabbit proof fence might have been such a good movie. I understand this book to be a travesty of the truth. However, truth can be more powerful than fiction. Redemption, in truth, exists, whereas a writer might leave it out entirely.

I faced such a struggle when I wrote my autobiography. There are good things I would never tell in favor of righting wrongs, but that would be boring. Much more fascinating is the struggle, the glimpse of daylight, the stolen joy and the bitter solace of a partially met achievement.