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04 June 2005

redback kilo three ..... 

The Editor
Sydney Morning Herald June 4, 2005


So General Cosgrove feels ‘fiercely protective’ of the people under his command (‘Operation protect, as SAS comes under fire’, Herald, June 4)?

But in losing his cool this week whilst defending the SAS against allegations of bungling & misconduct, the good General confirmed that outmoded & misguided concepts of leadership & governance still hold sway in the ADF, just as they do in the broader reaches of the defence & intelligence establishments & in the highest ranks of government.

The ADF, more than most organizations, needs a culture built around the values of trust, integrity, responsibility & accountability, in order to thrive & remain strong. Such values bind the members of any organization & underpin their common purpose, particularly when they are in harm’s way.

When it is suggested that members of an organization have acted contrary to its values, its reaction & that of its leadership are crucial. A failure to investigate allegations of misconduct quickly, scrupulously & transparently, with appropriate disciplinary action being taken if warranted, suggests that its value system is flawed & will ultimately result in the organization & its effectiveness being weakened.

Without suggesting that there is any basis to the current allegations against members of the SAS, or that General Cosgrove & the ADF are engaged in a cover-up, the absence of a full & transparent investigation puts not only the reputation of the SAS at risk, but that of the entire ADF.

To make the point: the ADF is still investigating undisclosed ‘allegations’ of torture & murder against members of the SAS dating back to its activities in East Timor in 1999. The original investigation lasted 31/2 years before the ADF finally ‘exonerated’ itself. The current investigation has been in progress for 18 months & still no progress or timeline for its conclusion has been announced.

General Cosgrove is right to be proud of the ADF, as we all are, & he is understandably ‘protective’ of his organization however, unless its members & leaders are held accountable & are seen to be held accountable for their actions, he is doing the organization a disservice.

Australians have witnessed a trail of cover-ups, dissembling & deceit over the past decade, ranging from the children overboard affair, Iraq, our Intelligence services & more recently the antics of DIMIA. And sadly, we’ve come to expect little else from our political leaders.

General Cosgrove has the opportunity to leave the ADF in a better state than he found it & in the interests of all its stakeholders, including the taxpayers, he should show true leadership & insist on higher standards than those observed by his political masters.

Surely such leadership would be a fitting legacy of General Cosgrove’s 40 years of service: a standard of leadership that he, the members of the ADF & all Australians could rightly be proud of.

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beyond words ..... 

‘The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine & barbarism.

We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the Deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilise savage & senile & paranoid peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells.’

John Flynn, 1944

Beyond Words

A Photo Poem by Richard Neville

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02 June 2005

on flying Bagaric ..... 

Recently, the Victorian academic, Professor Mirko Bagaric, argued the moral case in support of torture, through his paper “Not enough (official) torture in the world?: The circumstances in which torture is morally justifiable”, to be published in the University of San Francisco’s Law Review in July.

In responding to public criticism of his thesis, the good Professor, head of the Deakin Law School & a member of the Refugee Review Tribunal, hastily suggested that the use of torture would only be defensible in ‘very rare, very extreme circumstances’ & ‘only in life & death situations’ where ‘it’s the only means possible to save a large number of innocent lives’.

Whilst Bagaric’s superficial thesis sparked a storm of moral debate, the fact is that the genie is already well & truly out of the bottle: not in the ‘very rare, very extreme circumstances’ that he professed to support, but as part of specific policy embraced by the Bush administration post September 11, which enunciates the systemic torture & abuse of ‘detainees’ as routine treatment.

In August 2003, only a few months after George Bush’s self-congratulatory ‘Mission Accomplished’ appearance, a chilling Pentagon report cited the authority for US forces to commit torture as: ‘in order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign, the US law prohibiting torture must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority.’

Another Pentagon report published in 2004 used words designed to allow interrogators to use cruelty without fear of retribution.

‘Even if the defendant (the torturer) knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent to be guilty of torture even though the defendant did not act in good faith.’

As we approach the 4th anniversary of the Bush administration’s declaration of ‘war on terror’, a vast quantity of evidence has come to light, detailing the torture, abuse & murder meted-out on ‘detainees’ by US forces from Abu Ghraib, to Bagram & Guantanamo Bay, as well by their ‘surrogates’ in Egypt, Pakistan & Uzbekistan, amongst others.

In its April, 2005 report United States: Getting Away with Torture? Human Rights Watch observed

‘As this report shows, evidence is mounting that high-ranking U.S. civilian and military leaders - including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, formerly the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Major General Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba - made decisions and issued policies that facilitated serious and widespread violations of the law. The circumstances strongly suggest that they either knew or should have known that such violations took place as a result of their actions. There is also mounting data that, when presented with evidence that abuse was in fact taking place, they failed to act to stem the abuse.’

And it’s not just physical torture & abuse.

Physicians For Human Rights have now released a comprehensive report detailing the regime of psychological torture used by US forces in Afghanistan, Iraq & at Guantanamo Bay & deliberately ignored by allied governments, including our own Break Them Down: The Systemic Use of Psychological Torture by US Forces

’What the now infamous images from Abu Ghraib do not show is that psychological torture has been at the center of treatment and interrogation of detainees,’ said Leonard Rubenstein, PHR's Executive Director. ‘The Bush Administration decided to 'take the gloves off' in interrogations and 'break' prisoners.’

Techniques of psychological torture used have included sensory deprivation, isolation, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, the use of military working dogs to instil fear, cultural & sexual humiliation, mock executions & the threat of violence or death toward detainees or their loved ones.

The report states: ‘Yet this physical abuse took place in the context of an ongoing regime of psychological torture of detainees, one made possible by new interpretations of laws governing psychological torture by the Departments of Justice and defense and put into place in directions on authorized interrogation techniques.

These interpretations, in truly Orwellian fashion, turned laws meant to protect people from torture into means of authorizing it. As recently as December, 2004, the Office of Legal Counsel of the Justice Department reaffirmed an interpretation of psychological torture that gives a green light to the very practices the law was designed to prevent.’


A trail of prisons now lies across Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan & Cuba, acting as a shameful symbol of US cruelty & making a mockery of claims by the Bush administration & its ‘coalition allies’ that they are acting to spread ‘freedom & democracy’.

In its most recent annual report on the state of human rights in the world, USA: Guantánamo And Beyond, Amnesty International condemned the US government for failing to implement the Geneva Conventions & for trying to justify the use of harsh interrogation techniques, the practice of holding ’ghost detainees’ & the ’rendering’ of detainees to third countries where torture is not outlawed.

The report also cited the Bush administration & the US Congress for failing to call for a complete & independent probe into abuses against prisoners in US custody in Iraq, Afghanistan & Guantanamo Bay.

Predictably, Bush, Cheney, Rice & Rumsfeld contemptuously dismissed the Amnesty report, citing their record at bringing ‘freedom & democracy’ to the middle-east.

These proud ‘war leaders’ make much of the ‘elections’ held in Iraq but, whilst elections might create governments, the entire meaning of democracy is debased by the methods employed to secure them.

The ‘new’ Iraq has already learned how to treat prisoners & now, in the best traditions of Saddam, proudly televises each night the latest ‘confessions’ extracted from visibly bruised & battered ‘detainees’.

So, whilst academics like Mirko Bagaric try to set new moral parameters for determining who should get the parachute in the event of a crash, we would do well to remember that we’re all on the same plane.


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30 May 2005

The War Prayer 

by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation



*God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!*

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(*After a pause.*) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.


Twain apparently dictated it around 1904-05; it was rejected by his publisher, and was found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts. It was first published in 1923 in Albert Bigelow Paine's anthology, Europe and Elsewhere.

The story is in response to a particular war, namely the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902, which Twain opposed. See Jim Zwick's page "Mark Twain on the Philippines" for more of Twain's writings on the subject.

Transcribed by Steven Orso (snorso@facstaff.wisc.edu)

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29 May 2005

human rights detained ..... 

When US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, released the US State Department’s annual report on human rights back in March, she proudly proclaimed that:

“our nation will continue to clarify for other nations the moral choice between oppression & freedom.”

The staggering, self-righteous hypocrisy reflected in Rice’s statement was glaringly evidenced by the report’s deafening silence on the disgraceful & criminal record of the US itself.

Amnesty International spokesperson, Alexandra Arriaga, responded to Rice’s remarks & the US report by saying:

“The US authority to promote human rights abroad diminishes every time it sanctions rendition, refuses to thoroughly investigate detainee abuse, denies its citizens access to an attorney or habeus corpus” ……”[the] US loses its moral voice on human rights every day it continues to detain without charge or trial the hundreds of individuals held at Guantanamo Bay” …… thereby rendering on the report a status “tantamount to a business ethics manual published by Enron.”

Last week, Amnesty International sought to set the record straight through the publication of its Human Rights report, including an analysis of the deplorable human rights record of the US.

And yes, the US does set an example for the rest of the world, particularly when, as the report observes:

“….. the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law & human rights, it grants a license to others to commit abuse with impunity & audacity."

The blatant disregard for international human rights & humanitarian law in the “war on terror” continued to make a mockery of President George Bush’s claims that the USA was the global champion of human rights. Images of detainees in US custody tortured in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq shocked the world.

War crimes in Iraq & mounting evidence of the torture & ill-treatment of detainees in US custody in other countries, sent an unequivocal message to the world that human rights may be sacrificed ostensibly in the name of security.
Amnesty also condemned the U.S. government for failing to implement the Geneva Conventions & for trying to justify the use of harsh interrogation techniques, the practice of holding ’ghost detainees’ & the ’rendering’ of detainees to third countries where torture is not outlawed.

And the report also cited the Bush administration & the U.S. Congress for failing to call for a complete & independent probe into abuses against prisoners in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan & Guantanamo Bay.

Amnesty provides damning details on how the behaviour of the US administration reflects its continuing pursuit of ‘unchecked executive power’ Guantánamo & Beyond

And down-under, as we watched, seemingly spellbound, the climax of the Schapelle Corby drugs trial in Indonesia, Amnesty accused the Australian government of betraying international standards on human rights, in particular by not seeking to secure & protect the legal & human rights of Mamdouh Habib & David Hicks, illegally detained & tortured at Guantanamo Bay.

Amnesty’s Australian director, Mara Moustafinem, said: “The Australian government should using its influence to a much greater extent to make sure that human rights are both promoted & protected, both in relation to Australian citizens but more broadly, that the US uphold human rights & the rule of law.”

But Amnesty hadn’t finished with Australia.

As Veranda Sandstone sat beached in the public spotlight on DMIA’s criminal, arrogant & incompetent behaviour in detaining & deporting Australian citizens, the human rights agency focused further attention on Australia’s policy of ‘mandatory & indefinite detention for refugees & asylum seekers’, including children.

Ms Moustafine said Australia’s policy ‘is a stark reminder of how the Federal government is breaching its human rights obligations’ & called on the government to ‘support the rights of refugees to seek asylum, rather than punish them for it’.

And finally, we saw just a glimmer of hope that Australia’s morally bankrupt policy towards the treatment of refugees over the past decade might be softened, as some government MPs announced their intention to introduce private members’ bills to the parliament, seeking to abolish indefinite detention & the detention of children.

Sadly however, with both our prime minister for life & the leader of the opposition refusing to allow their parliamentary colleagues the right to exercise a ‘conscience vote’ on the issue, the likelihood of any significant adjustment being made to current policy in the short term must be considered remote: unless there is a significant shift in public opinion.

Perhaps the drought has parched our nation’s capacity for compassion, along with everything-else?

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