Monday, February 23, 2009

Wood Case Means Rudd Must Go

Wood seeks asylum for Iraqi rescuers
Former Iraqi insurgent captive Douglas Wood has made a plea to the federal government to grant asylum to two of the soldiers who rescued him.
Mr Wood, who spent six weeks under threat of death until rescued in April 2005 by Iraqi soldiers led by Colonel Mohammed Al-Samarae, said two of his rescuers had been denied entry into Australia.
In an open letter to the prime minister, Mr Wood said Australia had shabbily treated Colonel Mohammed and his other rescuers.
The colonel has fled Iraq after many attempts on his life and the murder of several family members, including his father and father-in-law.
Of the seven soldiers who gave evidence in the court case against the terrorists, five have been murdered in payback by the terrorists, Mr Wood said.
He said Colonel Mohammed had repeatedly been refused entry to Australia and had now found asylum in a third undisclosed country but wanted his two surviving soldiers to start a new life in Australia.
"Colonel Mohammed ordered them to get out of Iraq, and he is personally providing them with rent and food - they still live in fear," Mr Wood said in his letter to Kevin Rudd.
He said Colonel Mohammed took the two to Malaysia where they applied for a visa to Australia in October last year.
"Copies of documents were left and they received a phone call advising them to return the next day - they were taken inside the embassy but were again given a negative response," Mr Wood said.
"Allowing young men to be killed by terrorists for rescuing an Australian provides the terrorists with a victory.
"It also discourages civilians from cooperating with the forces of freedom and democracy.
"I urge you to help these two young men come to Australia and contribute to our great nation."
The prime minister's office had not responded to Mr Wood's letter by late on Monday.


Anonymous said...

Douglas Wood

Dear Prime Minister,

It was very moving to be in Rod Laver Arena today and feel the support and empathy by our people towards our fellow Australians in their hour of need.

It took me back to June, 2005 when I returned to Australia after being rescued from my ordeal as hostage in Iraq. I was humbled to learn how many people had prayed for me, or wished me luck. I’m obviously extremely grateful for all the efforts by Australia to try and rescue me.

It is not so inspiring to find the shabby way in which we have treated Colonel (now Brigadier General) Mohammed and his brave men who were so instrumental in my rescue.

After rescuing me, Colonel Mohammed received letters from Zakawi (then leader of al Qaeda in Iraq) promising to kill him, cut him into forty pieces and to place the pieces in a circle all around Baghdad. He was also advised by US military that a $2 million reward had been offered for his death. There were about forty attempts on his life, his father was killed, his father in law was killed, and an uncle, an aunt and a nephew were killed. Others were wounded, including his daughter.

Despite being invited to the opening of the Australian Embassy in Baghdad in December, 2005, on the three times he applied for a visa to come to Australia, he was denied. Knowing he was no longer safe in Iraq, he went to Jordan. Three times again he applied for a visa to Australia, but was each time turned away.

He then went to the US Embassy and within 24 hours was on his way to US. (Please note he does not want the terrorists to know he is in US).

When I was rescued, two terrorists were captured. The judge of their case requested that Colonel Mohammed send him the soldiers who were key to my rescue to provide evidence to the court. Colonel Mohammed selected nine of his soldiers. Their identities were kept secret, but of course, the terrorists would get photos of them as they arrived or left the court.

Of the seven who gave evidence against my captors, five are now dead; one of the remaining two was injured. The deaths and attacks were not part of their jobs in the army, but at their homes, taking their children to school, in transit.

Colonel Mohammed ordered them to get out of Iraq, and he is personally providing them with rent and food. They still life in fear.

Again at his own expense, Colonel Mohammed took the two young men to Malaysia a few months ago. Copies of documents were left and they were received a phone call advising them to return the next day. They were taken inside the Embassy but were again given a negative response.

One of the two men, in an undercover role, had learned of hostages (but not the specifics that one was Australian) and had followed a car to the house where I was being held.

Colonel Mohammed then mounted the operation that led directly to my rescue.

Colonel Mohammed has shown me pictures of me at the rescue site with himself and some of his men. They were thrilled to have rescued me. It sent chills down my spine, to have Mohammed point to the soldiers posing so happily with me and have Mohammed say he’s dead, he’s dead, and he’s dead.

Mohammed’s family, and the families of the other dead soldiers are accusing him, saying why he rescued Douglas Wood.

Allowing young men to be killed by terrorists for rescuing an Australian provides the terrorists with a victory. It also discourages civilians from cooperating with the forces of freedom and democracy.

I urge you to help these two young men come to Australia and contribute to our great nation.


Douglas Wood

Anonymous said...

OPEN LETTER TO: Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd, Mr Anthony Byrne, in his capacity as Chief of the Co-ordination of Counter Terrorism Science and Technology Unit and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
Monday, February 23, 2009


cc/ Mr Malcolm Turnbull, Leader of the Opposition
cc/ Senator Bob Brown, Leader of the Greens
cc/ Amnesty International

Dear Anthony, yesterday I went with Douglas and Mohammed to the extremely moving National Day of Mourning Service at Rod Laver Arena. I enquired if you were there in the official party, in the hope of introducing both gentlemen to you but was told you were attending a similar service in your own electorate.

The Bushfires Tragedy has turned a nation into a family.

They have scorched our hearts but not blackened our collective resolve. It is the Australia I know best. Especially since my own family has been burnt out twice - once in political riots in the Middle East - and again in the Black Tuesday 1967 fires in Tassie - where the kindness of both friend and stranger sustained us.

On Saturday we filmed a gruelling, gut-wrenching in-depth interview with Mohammed and Douglas. We filmed and interviewed from the moment Mohammed came out of the automatic doors at the airport and spotted the Australian he rescued, the man he calls his brother, Douglas Wood - and continued filming and interviewing on the airport's pavement, in the car, and at Wood's home.

Now that we have a greater grasp of the horrifying extent of the systematic assassination attempts, murder and mutilation that have befallen Mohammed, his immediate and wider family - and the systematic murders of seven (7) out of the nine (9) - soldier team under then Colonel Al-Samarae - all as payback he is adamant, for their rescue of Douglas Wood, I am disturbed at the heartless attitude of not only the previous Government - but the current Government.

In discussing the possibility of an award/presentation being made to Mohammed whilst he's here, I have catagorically stated I have no brief for either ( main ) political party. What I do assume a brief for - are people - Australians and non-Australians alike - and not least, non-Australians who work on our behalf and for whom we unquestionably have a duty of care and responsibility.

Everytime there's a bombing in Iraq, we here understandably hold our breath lest an Australian soldier is killed or injured. And yet we appear utterly indifferent to the killings of Iraqi soldiers ( and their family members ) who work with us in the Coalition. Are they somehow sub-human ? Lesser among equals ? What's the story here Prime Minister ?

One of the many torrid, tragic acts of barbarism Mohammed cites on camera, is that of his little 7 year old son Omar picking up by the hair, the severed head of his Grandad, whose body had been chopped up into five parts and dropped back on the doorstep as payback for Wood's rescue. Little Omar took the head out of the box to show his Grandma and his Mum.

If you find this offensive to read. To hear. What do you think it would have been like to actually see ? Tell me how you think you might feel if Omar was your son - and the severed head your child was holding was your father-in-law ?

But forget about how you or I might feel. How do we think little Omar was feeling ? What was this child thinking at this very moment ? Do you not think that his response in opening the box to find his grandfather's severed head, and then to pick it up by the hair - was the response of a traumatised child in severe shock ?
A forensic psychologist I consulted was certainly concerned for this child's psychological welfare.

Long after that child grows into an adult - if he lives that long - that image will be forever branded into his psyche.

Omar's Grandad was murdered because Omar's Dad rescued the Australian hostage Douglas Wood. How do you think Mohammed feels as a Father, as a Husband, as a Son, as a Brother, as a Colonel, knowing full well that it was his rescue of Douglas Wood that has led to this nightmare of his wife Gaeda's Dad being murdered and the various other and subsequent murders of so many other people. I asked him this on camera.

The tears that streamed down this father's face, seemed to me to be similar in content and form to the tears of fathers everywhere - fathers who survived bushfires - but whose children didn't; fathers whose children didn't survive bombings in Bali. There should be no grief metre on any of it. Humanity has a single embrace.
It is incumbent upon us to care for our own first. But we surely should give safe harbour to those to whom we owe a great humanitarian debt - and a seat at our part charred but still bountiful table.

( NB: You will be aware of the significance of the beheading of Mohammed's father-in-law. Not always, but generally, the brutal reality is that whilst Iraqi hostages are usually shot ' foreigners ' are usually beheaded ).

It is offensive and intolerable that we continue to slam Australia's door on Mohammed ( who now has a Green card and lives in the States) and on the two surviving soldiers - one of whom was virtually disembowelled through an assassination attempt and both are now in hiding and live in fear for their lives - and who also have had family members murdered. One of these soldiers was an undercover operative ( in civilian dress ) for Col. Mohammed and it was this operative's intelligence data that led to the particular group of houses being searched, and Douglas being found.

How dare we subject Mohammed to the shame, humiliation and indignity of being turned away by our Embassies not only in Baghdad - but four (4) times he was turned away in Jordan. This man whose reputation as a soldier and as a leader, is legendary and well-documented - he was made to feel as if he was a terrorist himself. Is he ? Am I missing something here ?

He tells me of the shame and despair he felt, when ' our man ' on the reception desk in Jordan, asked the Jordanian guard at the Embassy to go and tell Colonel Mohammed Al-Samarae to leave the Embassy grounds - and not to come back again. Was 'our man ' acting on instructions from back in Oz ? What's the answer Minister ?

I invited you to check out Mohammed's bona fide yourself - do your own investigations. Of course you would; you surely have files and documents before you.
I mentioned that former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer made a presentation to Col. Mohammed in Iraq. This stuff is all on file. But you have surely checked out his assertions and also cross-referenced matters with the Americans, haven't you ?

For three years this man has been applying to come to Australia - and trying to help his only two surviving soldiers and their families flee to Australia. For three years he has been knocked back. Why Sir ? I know for a fact that during that time Australia has granted Visas to people whose background was spurious in the extreme, regardless if they knew how many ruddy runs Bradman scored in 1842.

If we are not technically guilty of crimes against humanity by constantly refusing these applications, we are dangerously close to being complicit accomplices and aiding and abetting avenging terrorists to carry out systematic serial killings by remain diffident to these families who should be granted immediate asylum.
We know we've sent back people to their original homeland - and heartlessly sent them back to their impending death.

In October last year, Mohammed says he took the two surviving soldiers to our Embassy in Malaysia, to apply to come to Australia. They spoke with someone who I won't identify by name here - and again upon hearing of the role the men had played in the direct rescue of Douglas Wood - and the subsequent atrocities - the response seemed initially favourable, but then, after a few days the response differed markedly and they were told to not bother with even filling out any application forms.

What's going on here ? Do you know something that we don't ?

I hope that in Mohammed's case, the fact that his wife has cancer, has not been a deterrent to allowing them asylum in Australia. I know we try to chuck out kids in ill health.

I think we owe all these people. Big time. Look, you most likely wouldn't have let the Iraqi interpreters in, if the whole unethical mess hadn't been exposed publicly.

Mohammed is no longer trying to come to Australia to live, so rest easy there. But he has pledged to do his best to get asylum for his brother soldiers and their families.

The Americans have attested he was at risk if he and his family remained in Iraq - they received information that he was to be assassinated - within hours they got him out of Iraq. His own Mother wouldn't allow him into her home, because of what happened to her husband - Mohammed's Dad.

I would like to direct the above questions in a filmed interview to one or all of you and will call you to discuss times today - and also respectfully ask that Mohammed Al-Samarae, Douglas Wood and myself be granted an appointment with you as soon as possible where Mohammed can bring his files, dossiers and evidence - and you can interrogate him yourself and test his veracity.

And if he's lying to us - and concocted evidence and photoshopped the photos of he and his loyal men with Doug at the scene of the rescue - and fabricated evidence they all gave in Court leading to the conviction of some of Wood's captors, then please expose him for being a fraud. And I undertake to film that too.
If you do have any evidence that Mohammed is fabricating evidence - then shouldn't you alert his American hosts ? Given that his security clearances are such that he delivers various talks, lectures and workshops with US Defence personnel, I would have thought the grand sweep on his background would already have been made.

Douglas Wood, with whom Mohammed is staying, is completely supportive of Mohammed and his endeavours.

He feels terrible at what has happened to Mohammed and the soldiers who rescued him - and their families. I enclose in a separate email Mr Wood's supportive letter. You will note that Douglas mentions his understanding that seven soldiers rather than nine consisted of the original rescue team. My understanding is that seven of the team of nine are now dead. And not killed directly in the line of duty - but in another way, of course, they were. I note that the Wood letter also says that Mohammed doesn't want it mentioned that he now lives in the States. In my television interviews with Mohammed, he discusses this aspect.

I unashamedly believe in advocacy journalism. Much journalism is just that. But I also believe in advocacy government. I believe in transparent government and hearing our Prime Minister and others talk yesterday of our shared humanity simply affirms my belief we should be neither coy nor apologetic for asking questions of our leaders.

Yours Sincerely,

Tess Lawrence

Anonymous said...

thank you for publishing data in toto

Anonymous said...

what do other australians think about this ?

Anonymous said...

do you think we get enough real coverage about what is happening to 'ordinary' Iraqi people, 'ordinary ' Afghanistani people, etc. etc

The Weasel said...

I note there was an article today on a bomb attack in Iraq. I think the press have worked overtime to present the image of Iraq as a lost cause and Afghanistan as a righteous one. The insidious nature of the reporting has even had the Lancet Science journal wilfully misreporting facts prior to US elections.
My belief is that Iraq will be a great independent state again, which it would never have been with Saddam and his crowd. It concerns me that it seems to be Obama's political interest to have Iraq appear to fail.
I recall Golda Meiers words on the solution to the Palestinian conflict. Islamic peoples will never have peace until they learn to love their children. The frequent atrocities being committed by AlQuaeda seem to be to promote the idea of eternal war to children. In some ways, the recent attack of Sri Lankan cricketers gives me a little hope (like the election of Hamas) in that it shows the terrorists for who they are, wilful and destructive with nothing to offer anyone of any faith.