The AFL and NRL play matches on ANZAC Day Photo: Getty
Keith Miller, champion cricketer and a RAAF fighter-bomber pilot in the big match against Adolf Hitler, knew how to handle stupid questions that equated the pressures and performance of sportsmen, even the best of them, with the experience of anyone who’d ever gone to war.
He snorted in contempt.
“Pressure?” he laughed at Michael Parkinson. “Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your a**e, playing cricket is not.”
There aren’t many Millers left in modern sport, but it was gratifying to see his spirit expressed, if a lot more carefully and with less swearing and drunken two-fisted assaults on the dignity of higher ups and mucky-mucks, by Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt this week.
Pressed on Fox Footy about what the annual weekend of ANZAC Day sport meant to him ahead of Richmond’s AFL clash against Melbourne on Monday night, Riewoldt was cautious and thoughtful, even abashed in his answer.
Invited by the Herald Sun’s Mark Robinson to unpack the ‘parallels’ between the record of the ANZACs and the games which commemorate them, he said: “I think you’ve got to be very careful drawing parallels with the actual game.”
He looked genuinely uncomfortable to be asked to measure running around a footy field against running into enemy fire and said that, if anything, the ANZAC Day matches were best viewed as encouraging people to simply stop and reflect on history for a moment.
Discussion of war and sport never encourages good sense, either separately or together.
Riewoldt, however, covered himself in a modest sort of glory.
He explained, when repeatedly pushed to emote about what ANZAC Day meant to him, that he had no personal connection to it.
No grandpa who saw off Rommel. No grand-aunt who nursed Monash.
“Personally, it’s not… there’s no connection there,” he almost stammered.
And good on him.
Most of us are lucky enough never to have pulled on a slouch hat because we were ordered to.
Our forebears probably didn’t storm the heights at Gallipoli or push Japan’s 144th Infantry Regiment off the bloody slopes of Imita Ridge.
There really weren’t that many of us in the plantation at Long Tan, and even fewer in Afghanistan’s Shah-i-Khot Valley.
Some other blokes did all of that hard work.
Some amazing doctors and nurses put them back together when they literally came apart.
And we should always remember them. All of them.
But it’s taking a bit of a liberty, and nudging right up to egregious disrespect of what they endured and what they achieved, to invoke the ANZAC Legend every time you want to boost your ratings or sell some tickets, or move a bit of war-themed merchandise off the shelves after the Easter sales.
Our veteran forebears would have considered it disrespectful in the extreme for a sporting match to held conducted on ANZAC Day. I retain that opinion.
You would think that after nearly two decades of deployment by the modern ADF that we might be a little more circumspect.
The toll levied on thousands of young veterans, the damage done to their bodies and minds, might curdle the enthusiasm of even the worst blowhard. You would think.
With so many of our latest veterans taking their own lives, or living with the spectre of what they have seen and done in our names, the least we could do is stop the ridiculous comparisons between war and footy.
It’s unseemly and disrespectful.
But don’t imagine the sporting contest you enjoy on ANZAC Day in any way recalls the reality of their experience.
As US President Donald Trump boasted of a naval “armada” headed to Korea, it has emerged that the ships involved were in fact en route to military exercises with Australia more than 5,800 kilometres miles in the opposite direction.
Admiral Harry Harris on April 8 made the dramatic announcement that an aircraft carrier had been ordered to sail north from Singapore toward the Western Pacific.
Following Admiral Harris’s announcement, President Donald Trump and some of his top aides highlighted the deployment as part of the administration’s response to North Korea’s persistent missile tests.
WW2 Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto observed that he was “waking the sleeping giant” by provoking the US. Is Trump doing the same with Kim Jung-Un and North Korea?
As The New York Times reported: “Its imminent arrival had been emblazoned on front pages across East Asia, fanning fears that Mr. Trump was considering a pre-emptive military strike.”
The USS Carl Vinson and its accompanying strike force was in fact on its way to join Australian forces for exercises in the Indian Ocean.
A senior Trump administration official blamed a miscommunication between the Pentagon and the White House over reports that the Carl Vinson has not made its way to the Sea of Japan as an expected show of force to North Korea.
The official, quoted by CNN, blamed the mixup on a lack of follow-up with commanders overseeing the movements of the Carl Vinson.
The admission comes despite President Trump telling Fox Business Network on April 12 that: “We are sending an armada, very powerful.”
Defence Secretary James Mattis on April 11 told reporters that the Carl Vinson was “on her way up there”, referring to the Sea of Japan.
But the US Navy posted a photo online Monday of the Carl Vinson sailing south through the Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra.
It was taken on Saturday, four days after White House press secretary Sean Spicer described its mission in the Sea of Japan.
CNN reported that further confusion was added Mr Mattis told reporters last week that the military exercises with Australia had been canceled.
The network cited multiple US defence as saying that Mr Mattis had inadvertently misspoke and that it was a port visit in Australia that was canceled to allow for the group’s redeployment to the waters near the Korean Peninsula.
The strike group, including the 97,000-ton carrier and its 60-plus aircraft, the guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain, is now expected to arrive off the Korean Peninsula by next week.
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia must boost its combat readiness in response to NATO’s “aggressive actions” near its borders.
Addressing the Russian parliament Putin also criticised the West for its reluctance to build a collective security system with Russia.
‘‘NATO is strengthening its aggressive rhetoric and its aggressive actions near our borders. In these conditions, we are duty-bound to pay special attention to solving the task of strengthening the combat defences of our country,” he declared.
Last month, Moscow announced plans to create three new divisions to meet what it described as a dangerous military build-up on its borders.
NATO chief, Jens Stoltenberg urged dialogue.
“The important thing is that we need the NATO/Russia Council to have a chance of political dialogue open with Russia and especially when tensions are high. It is important that we talk, that we meet and that we do whatever we can to prevent misunderstandings, miscalculations, and try to reduce tensions,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO is also set to send four battalions to Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in an attempt to prevent a repeat of Russian actions, such as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Russia has openly stated that it wishes to regain those states or territories lost after the break-up of the former Soviet Union. The simple solution to this problem is for Russia not to covet those now independent states and to clearly and unequivocally denounce any intention to attempt to annex them.
The 25th of April 2016, will be the 101st anniversary of ANZAC here in Australia and New Zealand.
Today we remember the sacrifices given by our servicemen in many and varied conflicts, many who made the supreme sacrifice and laid down their lives so that who are left can enjoy the freedom and liberty so hard-won.
We especially remember those gallant men who stormed the beaches of Anzac Cove at Gallipoli in 1915, and gave their all against a formidable Turkish foe. We remember their endurance and their perseverance to get the job done. And ultimately, we remember the tragic failure of the whole Gallipoli campaign.
It was a turning point as a nation for both Australia and New Zealand, a baptism of fire, a loss of innocence for a young country. Many heroes arose out of this battle, many names becoming those of legend.
ANZAC is synonymous with bravery, stoicism, dogged determination and a drive to succeed. This became a characteristic of all servicemen to follow and is the measure of every “Digger.”
We bow our heads and reflect on their service and their sacrifice.
Who Are These Men
Who are these men that march so proud,
Who quietly weep, eyes closed, head bowed?
These are the men who once were boys,
Who missed out on youth and all of its joys.
Who are these men with aged faces,
Who silently count the empty spaces?
There are the men who gave their all,
Who fought for their country for freedom for all.
Who are these men with sorrowful look
Who can still remember the lives that were took?
These are the men that saw young men die,
The price of peace is always high.
Who are these men who in the midst of pain,
Whispered comfort to those they would not see again?
These are the men whose hands held tomorrow,
Who brought back our future with blood tears and sorrow.
Who are these men who promise to keep
Alive in their hearts the ones God holds asleep?
These are the men to whom I promise again:
“Veterens”, my friends – I will remember them!
This poem was written in 1966 by Jodie Johnson who was 11 years old at the time. The depth of her feeling and understanding for the thoughts of the veterans is unusual for someone so young. I know when I see this sort of understanding by young people, that our future is in good hands.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lest We Forget
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Post traumatic stress disorder affects many who have served this country but little is being done to meet their needs.
As a kid during school holidays, I would be sent off to a country town to stay with elderly friends of the family, who I called Nan and Pop. There, I would roam the streets unsupervised from morning to dusk, saying hi to neighbours and patting their dogs.
There was one particular man I was scared of, however, who would sit on his front porch all day, several doors down from Nan’s. He had only one leg and would stare blankly for hours on end. He looked so sad, it seemed as if he was perpetually crying.
Off to war: It’s time our nation’s government provided better services to our veterans, many of whom suffer ongoing conditions such as depression and PTSD upon their return.
Photo: ABC Publicity
Generally there was a respected truce between us. He would see me and I him but neither would acknowledge the other. One day I asked Nan what had happened to the man’s leg and why he was so sad.
“He lost his leg in the war,” she answered. “Don’t be scared of him. Reg is a lovely, gentle man. I’ve known him since he was a kid. He’s just not been right since he came home from the war. A lot of the boys who went from here aren’t.”
I took this on board as well as a seven or eight-year-old can, and the next day I decided to wave to Reg. To my delight, he waved back.
That afternoon I took the 20 cents I had earned cleaning out Nan’s chook pen and bought two Paddle Pops, one for me and one for Reg. I was tenuous climbing those stairs to his porch but Reg’s reaction was worth my tiny terror. The soldier’s face lit up and a tear trickled down his bristly cheek.
Reg didn’t say much but I visited him every day during that stay, telling him how Nan’s chooks kept escaping and how she swore as she tried to catch them. Sometimes Reg would have a Mintie or a biscuit for me. I believe we became firm friends.
It was a year before I returned to the town and the first thing I noticed was Reg wasn’t at his porch, so I ran to ask Nan why. She looked distressed and put me on her knee and told me Reg was “gone”.
“He just couldn’t take it anymore,” she said. “We can only hope he is in a happier place.”
I couldn’t comprehend suicide at the time, but hell – I do now. I’ve had several friends and many more acquaintances take their own lives over the years, and today I have one dear friend I worry about daily, who I fear may do the same.
It’s because my friend today has the same blank look as Reg, half here and half somewhere else he doesn’t want to be. My friend was a policeman and now suffers acute post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If it wasn’t for his loving family and their constant care, I have no idea how he would survive. The fact that the very force he suffered for has all but abandoned him to deal with an aggressive and cruel insurance company for compensation is beyond me. It disgusts and angers me to my marrow. And the police force is only the tip of an insidious iceberg of neglect in this country.
Tomorrow I will be attending a rally in Melbourne, on the steps of Parliament House, joining veterans, families and supporters calling for a royal commission into the Department of Veteran Affairs.
From 1999 to the start of February 2016, some 249 soldiers returned from wars in the Middle East have committed suicide, more than 30 in 2015 alone. This is only a roughly accrued estimate – the actual number is probably far more. Compare this to how many soldiers died in war in Afghanistan – 41 dead and 261 injured – and it becomes clear the real battle these soldiers face is not at war but home, in the country they fought for.
Since 1975 Australia has deployed 120,000 troops on overseas operations. The numbers suffering mental illness is estimated to be between 20,000 and 30,000.
Yet these men may have been better off staying in battle, where at least they would have received attention, because little is happening here.
As the number of post-1975 veterans has been growing, the DVA has been reducing staffing numbers and cutting back entitlements. There are different processing elements, depending where you are in Australia, with most still operating a single file, paper-based system. Veterans have no way of telling where claims are up to or in which state they are being handled, and files are often lost.
Veterans are required to attend up to five appeals to gain their proper compensation because of this poor administration, and the use of adversarial work cover assessors under-evaluating veteran incapacities to lower compensation amounts.
From lodgement of claim to payment – if the claims go through the appeal process – can take up to five years.
This is too long! These people are suffering now – good men like Reg, haunted by what they have seen and done protecting our freedom. It is a national disgrace and one every citizen should get on board to protest.
And while we’re at it, let’s look at the police force leadership and demand they treat their own with respect, dignity, care and compensation too. Because I will be damned if my friend decides there is “happier place”. That place should be his home, and it is up to all of us to ensure it is.
Source: Saturday Age columnist Wendy Squires is a journalist, editor and author.
Late last year a United States law framed in the name of world peace quietly reached its long arm into a small Melbourne tribunal, persuading it to let a large armaments manufacturer override Australian human rights legislation.
In a decision that went largely unremarked upon, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) agreed to let Thales Australia Ltd and its subsidiary ADI Munitions discriminate racially against their employees, job applicants and contract workers.
The companies won a five-year exemption from six sections of the Equal Opportunity Act so they could comply with stringent US export laws that describe who can and who cannot have access to American military technology and know-how.
Simon Rice, an Australian National University law professor, could only sigh. He is an almost lone voice against the Americans’ capacity for such strongarm tactics in Australian courts.
“It’s legal imperialism,” says Rice, who chairs the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council. “It’s the US saying to everybody in the world: You will deal with us on the terms we will dictate to you.”
There have been scores of such decisions in small courts across the nation since at least 2003, when the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Tribunal granted Boeing Australia Holdings some of the first such exemptions.
Because the Australian government relies heavily on US military technology, the big defence manufacturers operating here have, for more than a decade, made a practice of applying for exemptions from our equal opportunity laws so they can stay sweet with the US State Department. All applications, except one in Queensland, have been granted, allowing the companies to bar access to certain employees and contractors to positions where they would have access to sensitive US military goods and services.
This means the workforce is segregated, so that the “wrong” people are not given certain positions, as spelt out by the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), according to Rice, who advises our federal parliamentary human rights committee.
Because the ITAR, which governs the terms with which an importing country can use American defence technology, requires companies to discriminate on the basis of birth or nationality, it conflicts directly with Australian state and territory human rights legislation. Companies either persuade our legal authorities to let them off the hook or they don’t get US State Department clearance to access exported US defence technology.
“It is easier for the companies to get a local exemption than to get this clearance,” explains Rice.
Some people are outright denied access to sensitive American defence exports because their country of birth or dual nationality is on an ITAR list of “proscribed” nations.
The list changes from time to time and barred nations currently include Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Fiji, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Syria and Vietnam – the ancestral homes of many Australian migrants.
There was a salient reminder this week of the reasons for US nervousness over technology security. Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed via German magazine Der Spiegel that Chinese spies had stolen design plans for the Joint Strike Fighter, the aircraft meant to reinforce US aerial dominance. Australia is spending billions of dollars on the same planes.
American lawyers specialising in export laws have described the ITAR as unparalleled in scope, as it reaches across the entire globe. It’s not just about arms, but a whole gamut of hardware and software used for military purposes or space research. It includes ships, planes, lasers and satellite technology, and “export” can simply mean transferring information – even, possibly, according to one analyst, sending an email.
Australia’s foremost specialist in space law, Professor Steven Freeland of the University of Western Sydney, sees extra benefits beyond national security for the US as it enforces the ITAR to regulate who can use American satellite technology.
“In the area of space technology, the US are still the superpower and they want to stay there, despite developments in China and Russia, so they’re very sensitive about their weapons technology going to other countries,” he tells The Saturday Paper. “In its simplest terms, space technology is regarded as akin to missile technology.”
While the ITAR has a benevolent motive in wanting to stop sensitive technology falling into the wrong hands, it also has the effect of enabling the US to retain a competitive advantage, he says.
“You won’t find that motivation explicitly in the official documents,” Freeland says.
However, he is less worried than Rice about ITAR’s reach.
“It’s quite common where people are dealing with national security issues to say: Sorry, but we get to choose the sort of people who work there because we don’t want them to have access,” he says.
Rice argues that the state department is dictating the private behaviour of individuals and companies outside the US, causing them to act unlawfully in their own countries.
Fines and jail terms
The state department can fine offending individuals and businesses up to $US1 million per violation for breaching ITAR requirements. It can ban companies from using American military exports and jail offenders for up to 10 years.
In a case that sent a message to universities, John Reece Roth, a former Tennessee professor of electrical engineering, was jailed for four years in 2009 for breaching the ITAR by providing information on drone technology to students from Iran and China.
Boeing was fined $US3.8 million in 2001, $US15 million in 2006 and $US3 million in 2008 for ITAR breaches and other companies have also been hit hard.
By comparison, breaches here of Australian anti-discrimination and equal opportunity law may lead to an apology or “small value financial compensation”, Australian defence industry lawyer Jane Elise Bates pointed out in the journal Security Challenges in 2012.
“From an economic perspective the balance is certainly in favour of continuing the status quo and seeking exemptions as required to permit the conduct of racial discrimination,” Bates wrote.
In the latest decision granting Thales Australia exemptions in November, VCAT member Anna Dea said the company’s work for the Australian Defence Force, including ship, aircraft, vehicle and munitions manufacture, generates more than $861 million in annual sales. It employs 871 people in Victoria, with an estimated $2 billion worth of projects lined up over the next eight to 10 years.
Dea listed the same reasons that have persuaded nearly every Australian decision-maker in her position for the past decade or so to grant exemptions, faced with the brutal reality of the US ITAR. The company’s work is important to Australia’s defence capability, the state economy and jobs that could otherwise go elsewhere, she said. She noted that no employees or union representatives made any submissions to the tribunal.
But it was not always so.
When Thales and ADI sought similar exemptions in the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia in 2005, the commissioner for equal opportunity, the WA Trades and Labour Council, the state’s Ethnic Communities Council and Western Australians for Racial Equality all objected.
The companies won a five-year exemption anyway.
As Australia negotiated a new defence treaty with the US in 2008, judges and decision-makers for a while bridled at having to bow to American law, after a parliamentary committee recommended the federal government seek exemptions from the ITAR.
In 2007, the then VCAT president, Justice Stuart Morris, voiced his concern about being asked by Boeing Australia Holdings to depart from local legislation to provide jobs.
“Such a departure is only sought because important aerospace technology is subject to an American law which places American security ahead of this human rights standard. One might ask: why should not the Americans give way?” he said.
“One suspects that the ITAR is misconceived … But then, I rather doubt that the United States government will back down from ITAR in the face of a decision of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.”
VCAT deputy president Cate McKenzie described the nationality-based prohibitions in the ITAR as a “blunt instrument” when she granted a partial exemption to BAE Systems Australia Limited in 2008.
“Assessment of individuals on a non-stereotyped basis, or training and education about the importance of the obligation of secrecy, would seem to me to be a better approach,” she said.
Little choice for legal bodies
At the end of 2008, the president of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, Douglas Savage, refused exemptions sought by the Boeing group. The companies’ opportunities should not be at the expense of employees or potential employees, said Savage, whose decision still stands.
He doubted that refugees who had risked their lives to flee nations whose regimes they opposed were a security concern. Any concern could equally apply to US or Australian citizens, he said.
Rice sees such opposition as having faded. In particular, although they have appeared in past hearings, he is disappointed at unions’ failure to take this on as a cause.
“They haven’t been very effective or strategic in their arguments,” he says.
Four years ago, Rice argued in The Canberra Law Review that courts and tribunals in reality “have had little real choice, in the face of employers’ (poorly substantiated) claims that without the exemption the defence contracts will be breached with serious consequences, including the loss of jobs.”
There have been at least 25 more decisions allowing exemptions since he wrote that. Thirteen were in New South Wales, where there are no public hearings and exemptions are gazetted by the attorney-general. Two were in the ACT, two in Victoria, six in South Australia and one in Western Australia.
“I’ve been waiting for one tribunal to break ranks,” says Rice. “It seems to me they’re spooked. They’re between a rock and a hard place. You have to have sympathy. This is a political issue. The tribunals are being asked to decide it and they shouldn’t be.”
However, tribunals should be more rigorous in making these self-interested businesses spell out the exact consequences if they complied with local human rights laws, Rice says.
The tough US laws are unpopular around the world, particularly with close allies such as Canada, and the Obama administration recently tweaked them. But as VCAT’s Anna Dea explained in her most recent Thales decision, “it remains the case that information about a workforce member’s nationality and national origin is still required”.
Freeland acknowledges the role of US domestic politics. “Americans are very good at protecting US interests. It’s what you pay your politicians for, in one sense,” he says.
“We may not like it, but if the American administration were not seen to protect US interests, it wouldn’t last long in government. Americans have a particularly patriotic or provincial view that the US is the centre of the universe.”
Canada, accustomed to its gigantic pushy neighbour, has over the past few years negotiated changes with the US State Department that allow companies to comply with the ITAR as well as Canadian privacy and human rights legislation.
The Canadian government acted following public controversies, including a ruckus when General Motors Canada sent immigrant workers home with pay after the company was fined $US20 million for breaching the ITAR when it manufactured certain military vehicles.
There is no such outcry here. Instead, Freeland says, Australian governments continue to tolerate the ITAR’s workings because of the trade-off of lucrative business investment.
After the bloody suppression of a patriotic demonstration in Warsaw in 1861, Alexander Herzen wrote to Tsar Alexander II: “You have become a common murderer, an ordinary thug.” He also described the Russian press as “shameless” and “unscrupulous.”
Today, perhaps we should repeat the words of this great Russian, and direct them at Vladimir Putin and his Russian press-men who are lying ceaselessly and insolently. First we hear that Poland trained the Ukraine fascist squads that terrorized the Maidan; next we are told that Putinist conquerors of the Crimea bought their weapons and uniforms in stores and that the Kremlin had nothing to do with it. Now we are once again hearing about the Ukraine state’s responsibility in the MH-17 disaster.
The 298 victims of the shoot down of the Malaysia Air flight are a result of Putin’s ruthless and cynical imperialist policies. It was his decision to arm and finance the so-called “separatists” who in reality are the Kremlin’s spy network and fifth column in the Donbass region. They were armed with Putin’s knowledge, approval and money. And these people are the ones who killed random, innocent individuals.
Putin—with his KGB polkovnik mentality—does not want to let Ukraine follow its own path toward democracy and Europe. He wants to reconstruct the Russian empire. Inciting, upholding and supporting ethnic conflicts in Latvia and Estonia serves this aim, as does the creeping dismantling of Moldova, and maintenance of conflicts around Upper Karabakh. Indeed—this great power, this great Russian chauvinism is the final and highest stage of communism. And Putin understands progress as gradual and complete annexation of successive former Soviet states.
The European Union—accustomed to peace and quiet—has neither determination nor an understanding of the growing threat. The clichéd faith in the possibility of placating the beast is replaying over and over again. The blindness and loyalty of European political and business elites gives reason for concern. But there is nothing that releases us—intellectuals active in culture, scholarship, and media—from the duty to say clearly, stubbornly, and emphatically: This is very dangerous. We must not be allowed to repeat the naiveté once displayed by intellectual elites toward Hitler and Stalin. And back then we were not allowed to close our eyes to the annexation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic States.
My friend from Moscow says that there are two scenarios in which the Russian army will leave Ukraine: One realistic and the other miraculous. In the realistic scenario, Saint George will ride in on a dragon and use his fiery sword to chase this band of scoundrels away. That’s the realistic scenario. And the miraculous one? They’ll just up and leave on their own.
The policy of successive concessions leads nowhere. Putin is not a European-style politician; he’s a politician of permanent belligerence and aggrandisement. Much seems to suggest that he has already let the genie out of the bottle—crowds of mercenaries are moving from Russia to Ukraine, crowds of sentimental monarchists, Orthodox fascists, National-Bolsheviks, and the like. Arming these bandits with first-class weapons is simply criminal. It is a good thing that Poland’s current government has taken an honest and judicious stance—it’s not flexing its muscles but it’s also not succumbing to illusions or hypocrisy.
Source: Adam Michnik – a leader of the anti-Communist opposition in Poland in the 1970s and 1980s, is the editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, where this piece originally appeared (as edited). Translated by Agnieszka Marczyk.
US intelligence officials say they have no clear evidence of direct Russian government involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which they say was most likely hit by rebels by mistake. This is a narrow view at the least considering the source of the weaponry used in the attack.
They say that MH-17 was likely hit by an SA-11 SAM fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and that Russia “created the conditions” for the attack by arming and financing the separatists.
It is believed that the most likely explanation for why the plane was shot down was that the rebels made a mistake and misidentified the aircraft as that belonging to the Ukraine air force. Separatists had previously shot down 12 Ukrainian military aircraft.
“The most plausible explanation … was that it was a mistake,” and that the missile was fired by “an ill-trained crew” using a system that requires some skill and training, an official said. Again this statement does not stand the test of scrutiny! Why was this “ill-trained crew” using a technical weapons platform, but even so they still managed to shoot down an unidentified civilian aircraft flying at 33,000 ft by assuming it was a Ukraine air force aircraft.
The officials had made their appraisal using social media postings and videos made public in recent days by the Ukrainian government, even though tnot all off this evidence has been authenticated.
Video of a missile launcher said to have been crossing the Russian border after the launch, and appearing to be missing a missile has yet to be verified as being exactly what it purported to be.
It is still not known who fired the missile at MH-17 or whether any Russian operatives were present at the missile launch. As if Russia (or the separatists) is going to freely divulge that information!
It is also not certain that the missile crew was trained in Russia, although a stepped-up campaign in recent weeks by Russia to arm and train the rebels suggests that Russia is clearly implicated in this disaster. This training has continued even after the downing of the commercial jetliner. The Russian military had been training the rebels at a large base in Rostov on various weapons, including air defence systems, they said.
The claim that the Ukrainian government had shot down the plan was not supported and was unrealistic, as Kiev had no such missile systems in that area, which is clearly under the control of the rebels.
This would mean Ukrainian government troops would have had to fight their way into the area towing the weapons systems, fire at the passenger plane and fight their way out again. “That is not a plausible scenario to me,” the official said.
President Barack Obama said the Malaysia Airlines plane “was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.’’ He also said Russia has both trained the separatists and “armed them with military equipment and weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons”.
But in Russia, at a news conference held yesterday, defence chiefs offered two alternative theories about what happened to MH-17, the first being that it was possibly shot down by a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet. Moscow stated its radar systems had detected the fighter tracking near the Boeing 777 at the time it crashed and noted the plane was armed with air-to-air R-60 missiles (how?) that could shoot down the aircraft.
The US dismissed the claim as “desperate” propaganda, pointing out that Ukraine air force fighters cannot operate at 33,000 feet where MH-17 was flying and that Ukraine has told Washington that none of its planes was in the air at the time.
Russia also suggested MH-17 might have been shot down by a Ukraine government surface-to-air BUK missile system rather than a Russian supplied system provided to rebels by Moscow. But again, how did Ukraine get the missile into the rebel held area?
Russia seems to be offering feeble and implausible excuses to attempt to deflect their role in this disaster!
While there are various questions that have already emerged from what was supposed to be Ukraine’s irrefutable proof confirming Russian rebel involvement in today’s MH-17 tragedy, perhaps one just as important question emerges when one considers what is clearly an different flight path in today’s tragic flight of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777.
Perhaps the best visualisation of what the issue is, comes from Vagelis Karmiros who has compared all the recent MH-17 flight paths as tracked by Flightaware and shows that while all of the ten most recent paths pass safely well south of the Donetsk region, and cross the airspace above the Sea of Azov, it was only the last flight that passed straight overhead Donetsk.
How and why did the diversion from the accepted diversion flight path and passage over the war zone occur? The above map shows precisely where the restricted airspace is, and how MH-17 flew straight over it on the 17/07/2014.
Also, had airlines and pilots been made aware of the recent and previous missile attacks on Ukraine air force aircraft in this area? While MH-17 may well have been mistaken for a military aircraft of the Ukraine air force, there was always a significant risk that this exact type of incident would occur.
Of course the most burning question still remains as to why this civilian aircraft was targeted, and who is responsible (directly and indirectly) for firing the missile. Those who supplied the missile system are just as guilty as those who pressed the button!
Twenty-seven Australians were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 apparently shot down by a missile fired by Russian-based and Russian-supplied rebels in Ukraine, which killed all 298 on board.
Kiev accused pro-Russian separatists battling Ukrainian forces of the “terrorist act’’ as stunned world leaders called for an international inquiry into the disaster, which could further fan the flames of the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.
B777-2H6 (ER) 9M-MRD; C/N 28411; Photo: Wikipedia
Ukraine’s government and pro-Russian insurgents traded blame for the disaster, but comments attributed to a rebel chief suggesting his men may have downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17 by mistake, believing it was a Ukrainian army transport plane.
And if this is true and the plane was brought down by Russian supported separatists using Russian know-how and Russian supplied heavy weapons and SAM missiles, then all roads lead back to Russia and stop clearly at the feet of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The finger of suspicion in this matter has to point to Russian operatives. Pro-Russian separatists would scarcely have the expertise to operative this type of technical equipment, therefore this indicates that they must have been operated by the Russian Army who have the prerequisite skills and experience. This theory is supported by reports (and video) of mobile SAM batteries crossing back into Russia the day after the attack.
The Russian president has again demonstrated that he has scant regard for human life inasmuch as he has failed to prevent the flow of money and weapons to these terrorists, in the obvious attempt to annexe more Ukraine territory to the Russian state. Putin should resign from the presidency, but of course he will not do so because he so enjoys the power of office. The elixir of power is more addictive than any narcotic! Furthermore, Russia has demonstrated that little has changed in its national outlook and foreign policy from its communist past, and is still not averse to being the “bully” to achieve its national needs and desires. Russia has demonstrated its continued dissatisfaction with the loss of territory since the breakup of the former USSR. Russian democracy resembles no other!
However, in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed the Ukrainian government for the crash of a Malaysian Airlines jet that was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 295 people on board. The government in Kiev is responsible for the fighting in eastern Ukraine between government troops and pro-Russian rebel forces which caused the downing of the civilian aircraft, Putin said at a cabinet meeting last night, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin.
Putin has repeatedly denied Russian involvement in the fighting in Ukraine. Mr Putin said Ukraine bore responsibility for the downing of a passenger plane, saying it would not have happened if Kiev had not resumed a military campaign against separatists. “I want to point out that this tragedy wouldn’t have happened if there was peace in this land, or at least if fighting hadn’t resumed in the southeast of Ukraine,” Putin said. “And undoubtedly, the state on whose territory this happened is responsible for this awful tragedy.”
The government in Kiev blamed the attack on pro-Russian rebels. The separatists denied the accusation. Ukraine’s state security service said it intercepted phone conversations among militants discussing the missile strike, which knocked Flight 17 from the sky near the eastern town of Torez, about 30 kilometres from the Russian border. The Boeing Co. 777 was en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.
The Australian Prime Minister demanded Russia cooperate with any international investigation and took a swipe at Moscow, saying: “The bullying of small countries by big ones, the trampling of justice and decency in the pursuit of national aggrandisement, with reckless indifference to human life should have no place in our world.”
The Boeing 777-200ER, travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur but carrying 27 Australian-born passengers, appeared to have broken up before impact and the burning wreckage was scattered over a wide area.
Malaysia said the plane had made no distress call.
Around the World
American intelligence authorities believe a surface-to-air missile took down the passenger jet. US officials said a US intelligence assessment suggests it is more likely pro-Russian separatists or the Russians rather than Ukrainian government forces shot down the aircraft. US Vice President Joe Biden said the incident was “not an accident’’ and described the Malaysia Airlines aircraft as having been “blown out of the sky.’’
Ukraine labelled the crash a “terrorist act” with the Ukraine embassy Charge D’Affaires to Australia, Mr Mykola Dzhydzhora, stating that the Ukraine understood “medium-range surface-to-air missile” was used in an attack on MH-17, which he said were supplied by the “Russian Federation”.
On the plane were 154 Dutch, 27 Auistralians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, six from the UK, four each from Belgium and Germany and one from Canada. Other nationalities had yet to be confirmed.
All of the 15 crew were Malaysian nationals.
Dialog of terrorists discussing the shooting down of MH-17 from the Ukraine Security Service.
George Brown is a decorated soldier and health professional and 40 year veteran in the field of emergency nursing and paramedical practice, both military and civilian areas. He has senior management positions in the delivery of paramedical services. Opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and should not be construed as being those of any organization to which he may be connected.
He was born in the UK of Scottish ancestry from Aberdeen and a member of the Clan MacDougall. He is a member of the Macedonian community in Newcastle, and speaks fluent Macedonian. While this may seem a contradiction, it is his wife who is Macedonian, and as a result he embraced the Macedonian language and the Orthodox faith.
His interests include aviation and digital photography, and he always enjoys the opportunity to combine the two. Navigate to his Flickr site to see recent additions to his photo library.
Џорџ Браун е украсени војник и професионално здравствено лице и 40 годишен ветеран во областа на за итни случаи старечки и парамедицински пракса, двете воени и цивилни области. Тој има високи менаџерски позиции во испораката на парамедицински услуги. Мислењата изразени во овие колумни се исклучиво на авторот и не треба да се толкува како оние на било која организација тој може да биде поврзан.
Тој е роден во Велика Британија на шкотскиот потекло од Абердин и член на Kланот MacDougall. Тој е член на македонската заедница во Њукасл, и зборува течно македонски. Иако ова можеби изгледа контрадикција, тоа е неговата сопруга кој е македонски, и како резултат научил македонскиот јазик и ја примија православната вера.
Неговите интереси вклучуваат авијација и дигитална фотографија, и тој секогаш ужива во можност да се комбинираат двете. Отиди до неговиот Фликр сајт да видите последните дополнувања на неговата слика библиотека.