Category Archives: Defence
Chief of Army gets up me for commenting on the soldiers being charged for actions in Afhganistan. Well not me exactly but those of us commenting publically.
In an unclassified email to the military he says;
Many will have views about whether or not charges should have been brought. Many may hope that those who have been charged will be cleared. Some, armed with ill-informed opinions and good intentions, have made public comment in response to the media and public interest.
• We must not be party to the pressures being applied by individuals external to our organisation, or by the vocal individuals within our organisation. The Army is simply not above the law.
Full text here
General Gillespie mentions the petition I link to over on the right of this page and it may well be that it’s initiation was ill-formed and that it has no legal basis but I’m not a lawyer and in my humble opinion the petition indicates 20,000 plus votes of support for the diggers. It offers moral support and they may deduce from that the people are thinking of them.
The General is, of course correct but he is playing with the cards he has been dealt and it could be argued that the Howard government dealt him a disparate hand of cards. Removing military command from the legal chain was always going to initiate debate and I for one have always been uneasy giving power to people who understand the rule of law but have little experience in battle.
We do, after all, train our soldiers to deliberately kill others and this is contrary to civilian law.
Being a RAAF lawyer, Kathryn Cochrane might not have read General Gillespsies’ email as she argues for the troops to be charged by their commanders and not by a lawyer.
Troops expect to be charged by those in the military who have field experience and campaign medals; those who know first-hand how military operations are conducted. The troops expect to be charged by “command”; they may not like it but they will respect it.
Command only works through mutual trust. The troops do not expect to be charged by a lawyer – military or otherwise – who has never executed a military mission in a dangerous place, let alone faced live fire in the circumstances such as those of the three diggers. I agree with the troops.
So do I for what it’s worth.
But with lawyers seemingly breeding faster than soldiers I feel sorry for the current diggers as they ply their trade with a legal sword of Damocles hanging over their heads and careers. Officers plan for proportionality; they consider civilians and do their utmost to protect them but it is common knowledge amongst the profession that no plan survives contact with the enemy.
After all the planning, after all the training, when the digger is fired on he commences an “immediate-action” drill. If he sees civilian in that part of a second that leads up to returning fire then he can stop but if there is nothing visible to trigger a caution he is trained to return fire.
But the debate is now turning to who charges and who hears the case. The General is obviously correct and the Director of Military Prosecution is simply doing her job but that is only pertinent while we accept the current regulations as being the best available to maintain military discipline and the rule of law to the satisfaction of Government, the Military and the people.
There are some who suggest that isn’t the case and that can be only a positive in a democracy.
Let the debate run it’s course.
Ms Gillard took a swipe at the media for not focusing on issues of “real concern”, saying there was a “ridiculous” debate about the need for more tanks.
“You may as well send them a submarine,” she said.
Good line PM. I bet we’ll hear about it for a while but it is disingenuous and trivializes the debate.
I’ve heard it all before. Not the submarine bit but people saying tanks are useless in certain theatres. They were never going to work in South Vietnam due to the jungle. You only need to ask an infantryman whose arse was saved by Centurions, including this one, as to how effective the tanks were.
Generals of the arm chair variety are today saying Afghanistan is not tank country and if you look at the mountainous terrain you might tend to agree. However, it isn’t all mountainous as I’ve seen any amount of videos of soldiers patrolling in decidedly flat terrain and if I’ve seen it once then there exists a case for deploying tanks.
The Canadians have deployed their Leopards even though they aren’t air-conditioned likes ours.
This from a US defense site
“The heavily protected direct fire capability of a main battle tank is an invaluable tool in the arsenal of any military. The intensity of recent conflicts in Central Asia and the Middle East has shown western militaries that tanks provide protection that cannot be matched by more lightly armoured wheeled vehicles…. [Canada’s existing Leopard C2/1A5] tanks have also provided the Canadian Forces (CF) with the capability to travel to locations that would otherwise be inaccessible to wheeled light armoured vehicles, including Taliban defensive positions.”
The Dutch had their Leopards there as did the Danes while the US do have Abrahams deployed so maybe it isn’t that simple.
Generals are political creatures as well as soldiers and they will be very well aware that the current government doesn’t want to deploy any more soldiers to Afghanistan. So to say “we would like tanks” could be seen as a bad career move. On the other hand, if the government were to say “we are looking at expanding our Afghanistan force to build it up to a independent group and would you like tanks with that? you might get a different answer.
DO we need tanks in Afghanistan or do we want them there? I don’t really know as I don’t know all of the considerations but I do know we are not going to have an open debate about the issue.
In case you wonder what us retired soldiers think of the recent decision to court martial three soldiers due to their actions in Afghanistan then here is a letter doing the rounds of the ex-service community with explanatory notes by a Vietnam Veteran.
For those of you who don’t know, Roger Tingley won his Miltary Cross as a 2nd Lieutenant in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The email letter below has been written by Roger as a result of the decision (apparently against the wishes of the Chief of the Defence Force) by one (military) lawyer to court martial 3 young soldiers who made a (split second) decision, tragic as the consequences were, to return fire in a combat situation recently in Afganistan, a situation which it is certain that lawyer has never nor never will have to face, and a situation so dreadful that lawyer could never in her worst nightmares begin to imagine or understand.
Combat soldiers who served during the Vietnam (and any other) war could almost certainly tell of at least one situation that they either knew of, or themselves experienced, where innocent people became casualties. The politicians who send our young men to war know, or should know, without question, that a tragedy such as this is always likely to occur. That these young men now have to face further tragedy in their own lives, regardless of the outcome of their respective courts martial, is a disgrace beyond belief. If someone is to be punished for the tragic deaths of the innocents in this situation, why not the politician(s) who made the decision to send them in the first place or even the electors who chose that (or those) politician(s) to make that decision.
These three young men, privates, the lowest rank in the military hierarchy, are the scapegoats for just another of the tragedies which occur when old men send young men to fight their wars.
former Lieutenant Platoon Commander during the Vietnam War.
One of the young men sent to fight old men’s wars.
I am but a small part of growing and grave concern: not just within the ADF Family and the wider Veteran Community; but of the Australian Electorate at large; that we are seeing the first real nails in the coffin of the ANZAC Military Forces as we knew them.
That the nails are being manufactured from political, delivered by civilians, held by senior civilians in uniform and hammered in, by direction, by mid level military careerists who recognize their masters.
Recruitment is already, although the real facts are obfuscated, becoming a less than cost effective factor and we may be struggling in less than a decade, to find enough service personnel, particularly on the ground and NOT in a barracks base or airfield complex.
Those in power at this time, will by then be well supered….but we will remember them.
So, speaking of Remembrance Day…and the young men (and their poor families) who are about to be dragged through dirty political mud, be publicly pilloried and, whatever the outcome, have their very lives changed forever, may I, in the spirit of fair play, gently ask our current (RAAF) ADF Chief:
Is the Australian Government now going to publicly discriminate: or are they now going to charge any and every single Australian RAAF Ex Serviceman who ever took part in any deliberate bombing (especially Firebombing) of any city or town, anywhere in the world, in World War 2.
I sincerely trust that every addressee will ask the same question of at least one journalist and one elected representative…..well before Remembrance Day.
Roger L Tingley MC
The Gillard government has reintroduced legislation that will allow soldiers to use deadly force in response to terrorist attacks at defence bases.
The original bill was introduced in June but lapsed when the election was called.
The aim of the bill was to to strengthen defence’s capacity to deter, detect and respond to any attack on a base, Defence Minister Stephen Smith said.
The Bill is in response to the Terrorists targeting Holsworthy Army Base.
In light of the recent charging of soldiers for soldiering I trust they have a Lawyer on duty with the sentries at each base.
A soldier pens an email to a mate criticizing the Army generally and his headquarters specifically and we are having a national debate. So far the Minister for Defence and a Lt Gen have made statements and hundreds of would be arm-chair generals have given us the benefit of the erudite and considered opinions.
At the Herald Sun every tenth comment says we shouldn’t be there and then there’s some who shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion.
Houston, Chief of Army, who ever is in charge of “OUR TROOPS” plus the obvious incompetent Major all should be immediately removed.
Houston is actually Chief of the Defence Force. Gen Gillespie is the Chief of the Army and he sure as hell won’t ‘be removed’ He’s doing a sterling job considering all the problems he has. As for the Major who the soldier accused of not doing his job properly, as if he would know, is accused, court martialed, found guilty and dismissed all on the basis of a disgruntled soldiers words.
Every one has an answer. Bring ‘em home – they shouldn’t be there, sack the Generals…sack the Majors…send abraham tanks…send Tiger attack choppers and sack the politicians.
Here’s a new thought….remind the soldier about the chain of command, then sack him and get on with it. Defence will always be reviewing the situation and asking for more troops and equipment and the politicians will, as always, not give them everything they ask for.
News.com say the soldiers email will be investigated and in due course, after a lot of questions the Minister for Defence will announce that all is well.
One drop kick says “It’s Vietnam all over again” Well, yes in a sense, it is. It’s a war and you can never get too many tanks or attack choppers or artillery in a war. There will always be a priority and every patrol cant be guaranteed to have full support every time they clash with the enemy.
Whereas I’m reluctant to give credence to one email from a Private soldier I do listen to Generals and Jim Moylan, ex General, has a lot to say on this subject. If you are really interested and look to forming a considered opinion you would do well to read anything he says.
I have written about Moylan before so maybe you should also check that out so you can see I am really on the side of the soldiers. Just not ones who abuse the chain of command.
AN OFFICER in line for a medal is among a group of Australian soldiers who will face manslaughter and negligence charges over the deaths of five Afghan children in a bungled raid last year.
The soldiers, mostly from the 1st Commando Regiment, are facing an unprecedented court martial over the raid, codenamed Operation Pakula, near the village of Surkh Morghab in February 2009.
Well, thats it then. Soldiers can no longer go into battle for their country without worrying about legal charges. It could force them to be reluctant to return fire when they are in contact.
That could add to our casualty count.
The soldiers were targeting an insurgent leader who was not found at an initial compound. A crucial part of the prosecution argument will rest on the decision to move to a second compound, and whether the intelligence was sufficient for it to be approached with the same level of stealth and tactics.
In the field, particularly in Afghanistan with no clear and recognisable enemy, all places needed to be approached with […]stealth and tactics.
The interpretation of Intelligence in the field is often at odds with the opinions of staff officers in safe rear echelon compounds – particularly when you are being fired on.
It goes like this: I’m being fired on from a second compound…f**k intelligence ….return fire…still being fired on…throw grenade….still being fired on…throw another grenade…thank God! Not being fired on anymore!
Yes, it’s terrible that civilians died but the Taliban do that. They fire on Coalition soldiers from within a group of civilians and then use the resultant civilian casualties to wind up left wing armchair warriors.
What are the Coalition soldiers to do in these circumstances?
Take casualties, maybe die, because there might be civilians in the compound?
The report suggests the Commando weren’t fully trained. Well, if true, that’s another problem but that can’t be sheeted home to the soldiers themselves.
I have to back the Diggers on this one.
What a week!
Tuesday I went down to Sydney to hand out swags to the homeless at Homeless Connect as part of my duties as a Director on the Street Swags board. If you don’t know about them you should – go visit their website
My lasting impression of the homeless I met at the Sydney Town Hall is that they were mostly mentally impaired. Years ago, they lived in institutions called Mental Asylums but that term become politically incorrect. As a result they were mostly closed and the inmates transferred to hospitals.
The bean counters who run hospitals said, in unison, “these people aren’t sick, we can’t help them and they are taking up too many beds. We can rotate paying physically sick people through at a far greater rate giving us a far greater income, so they need to to go”.
And they kicked them out.
From mental patients to the worlds condemnation of Israel isn’t too far a stretch. Those who always condemn Israel no matter what she does, claims the blockade is illegal.
More reasoned commentators argue that Israel has a point.
Whatever the case, from my perspective, if I was head honcho in Tel Aviv and had endured thousands of rockets fired at my citizens I would reserve the right to blockade supplies to minimize weapons entering Gaza no matter what the world said. Western media are still referring to the people in the convoy as peace activists and ignoring all evidence to the contrary.
Abraham Rabinovich from Jerusalem files a report in today’s Australian indicating how the Turkish PM was involved in the planning of the operation and how the Terrorists aboard the IHH vessel Mavi Marmara had a clear mission “to expose Israel’s true face to the world”.
The mission given the group, according to Malam, was to prevent the Israelis from seizing control of the ship before it reached Gaza.
The militants used small, hand-held saws to cut metal bars from the ship’s railings and to shape knives. They also gathered knives from the ship’s cafeterias and armed themselves with fire axes.
We know IHH has terrorist links and we know how terrorist act. Israel was sucker punched but it was surely reasonable to think it was a peaceful protest and that their troops weren’t in danger. After all, everyone said that was the case.
It could be said that a man named Abraham Rabinovich has a conflict of interest when commenting on the matter but when the only opposite point of view has a base premise of denying Israel’s right to exist, let alone defend herself, then he should be heard.
For another view that accepts Israel’s right to exist go here
Back home, by the end of the week, Kevin Rudd was having a bad time of it as he negotiated with the Mining mob. Well, Kevin says negotiating but the mining mob reported Kevin’s idea of negotiating was “If you want to change the tax you will have to change the government”
Bad call Kevin because a lot of people are now thinking “Yep! thats a good idea”
Maybe a case exists for Mining to pay more tax but one of those reasons shouldn’t be to simply get the ALP out of a fiscal hole.
Can the tax be fixed? asks Dennis Shanahan; Cabinet cracks emerge on tax says Matthew Franklin; Gerry Harvey says Rudd couldn’t sell a fridge let alone a mining tax, and John Singleton says I’ll sell anything but Kevin Rudd
My week started bad with having to move my lazy arse to Sydney and actually do something worthwhile and then the loss of two diggers always hurts. However it finished on a high note with plenty of signs that the punters are starting to get Rudd’s measure and it’s very small indeed.
‘Av’ a good weekend and I for one, look forward to the Weekend Australian’s continuing litany of ALP stuff ups.
“These new weapons provide an increased direct fire support capability and will be employed by the Infantry, Special Forces and RAAF Airfield Defence Guards.
Soldiers will appreciate the weight savings afforded by the M3 Carl Gustaf anti-armour weapon”.
Many years ago, last century, in the mid 60s, I was attending an Anti Tank course at the old Infantry Centre at Ingleburn, NSW and being instructed in the handling, maintenance and firing of the 106mm Recoilless Rifle.
Near the end of the course, the Senior Instructor, Major Name Forgotten called us together and told us we were the chosen few. The Army were looking at the Carl Gustaf anti tank weapon (M1, I presume) and had literally borrowed one from the Swedish Ambassador. Along with the weapon came two rounds; a High Explosive Ant-Tank (HEAT) round and a flare (from memory of 200,000 candlepower) We were to fire these rounds with high ranking officers witnessing the event as a pre-cursor to actually conducting a user trial.
I was elated, I drew one of the straws but elation turned to dismay when I then drew the flare! “I’m an infantryman, not a light technician”, I muttered to my mates, who couldn’t care less. I toyed with the idea of using it aggressively as in a 200,000 candlepower missile aimed directly at a target would light up my life and ruin the enemy’s day. At least he wouldn’t be able too see clearly for a while!
The Sergeant was onto me though and I did what any smart soldier would do in the circumstances and fired the star shell into the heavens.
Better blind obedience than stoppage of leave, particularly when I was in love with one of the Railway Hotel ladies and Friday night was leave night!
From day one we called it the Charlie Gutsache and noted with cynicism, some years later, that even after a successful user-trial we couldn’t use the weapon in South Vietnam because the Swedes were against the war.
Now, I note, that major Western armies are all buying it – yanks included.
I wonder if the flare round ever got to be used aggressively – hope so!
All those old soldiers with bad backs caused by carrying 100lb packs should check the video on the right.
THE decision to upgrade honours to Vietnam veterans who fought at Long Tan was the culmination of “a long, hard struggle” for greater recognition, according to Bob Buick, who served as a sergeant in one of Australia’s most famous battles.
Forty-three years after the battle, in which 18 Australian soldiers died, the men of D Company 6 Royal Australian Regiment will receive the nation’s highest unit award — the Unit Citation for Gallantry — with the backing of the Honours and Awards Tribunal.
They have already been awarded the Presidential Unit Citation as were there earlier mates who fought in the battle of Kapyong in Korea but that is an American award so it’s reasonable to give them an Australian one.
Now stand by for the Kapyong vets to put their hands up and say “what about us?”
There still exists anomalies re bravery awards for this battle. Individual cases of bravery are still to be recognized and most probably never will.
Still something is better than nothing.
Just a small point, pedantic as it may be, D Company 6 Royal Australian Regiment should read as D Company 6th Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment The Australian’s version would suggest that we have at least 6 Regular Infantry Regiments which of course we don’t. You’d expect the journalists to at least be able to designate our Army units correctly. Wouldn’t you?