Monday, July 20, 2009

Peace Convergence Update

Seven protesters from the “Peace Convergence” have knowingly trespassed into the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in an attempt to disrupt Exercise Talisman Sabre 09. While the bulk of the exercise will involve the use of blank ammunition, there are elements that will be live – that is that real bullets and bombs that go bang. I do hope that they don’t get themselves blown into tiny little hippie pieces, because the human being who launched the ordinance in the honest belief that he was firing into a safe area would have that on his conscience for the rest of his life, regardless of any actual culpability for the stupid actions of the morally retarded.

There is a familiar name on the list, and quite frankly I’m surprised he’s managed to haul his quite generous frame anywhere more demanding than the savoury snacks aisle at 7-11.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Guest post at OSK

Kae asked me to write a guest post for Ocean, Sky and Khaki; a site set up to provide information to people interested in sending care packages to deployed soldiers. It is a great idea, and a great way of showing your support for those Australians a long way from home in harm’s way. The post can be found here if you’re interested.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Obama goes to Africa

There has been some talk of Obama’s trip to Africa. I was in Africa when he was inaugurated, and the general feeling was that all their Christmases had come at once. It was about that time that we were having some difficulty with both power and running water.

Sometimes the water would cut out because the ablutions used by the African troops were routinely abused and the broken plumbing would leak all the water out of the tank that supplied our part of the compound. The other time we would lose running water was when we would lose power. When the power went out, so did the pump for the water, so that was a two-for. Now, I realise that not showering for a few days is hardly deserving of a VC out of petty cash, but it was a pain in the proverbial because we were entirely self-sufficient for rationing. Cooking our own food meant that we was some small measure of quality control for what went into our mouths, at least from the point that the ingredients came into our possession. It also meant the usual domestic by-product of meal production – dishes. After a while with no water, we would start to run out of clean dishes to cook and eat with.

After nearly a week of very intermittent water supply, one of the German police I lived with had had enough. He marched over to the camp manager’s office to give him a good old Teutonic performance counselling session. Having delivered his opinion of the situation and the competence of those who were responsible for its remedy, the local just smiled and said “Everything will be OK now, Obama is President and he will fix everything.”

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vale Ted Kenna VC

Edward (Ted) Kenna, the last surviving Australian VC winner from the Second World War has died. I met Ted Kenna once at the Army Centenary Dinner in March 2001. He was a really genuinely nice bloke. I’m sure that night is one that he would have remembered with great fondness. There were 1901 serving and retired officers and soldiers at that dinner. Before the entree was served, the three surviving VC winners were announced. Sir Arthur (Roden) Cutler, Edward (Ted) Kenna, and Keith Payne entered the room to a standing ovation. As the import of the moment hit all those in attendance, the applause grew to a crescendo, and then some. It didn’t just die out either. It maintained its tempo and, if anything, grew as they walked past the assembled diners to take their seats.

In the Canberra Convention Centre that night, the current generation of the Australian Army showed their appreciation for the legacy they had been given. There were some moist eyes there that night, not only on the faces of the three heroes in our midst. I am grateful not only for having met him that night, but for having been present for such an outpouring of admiration, respect, and gratitude to men who had truly demonstrated the ANZAC Spirit. I know that when Ted Kenna left us, he knew that he held a special place in our history and in our hearts.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I’ve mentioned local radio station 4ZZZ before. In preparing to write this piece I went back to that post, and found some lovely little comments that had escaped my attention when they were written. In light of the fact that ladies sometimes drop in here, I’ll remove some of the explicit vulgarity.

Anonymous said...
you are a stupid c**t. I hope you die in the trenches for your sh**ty cuntry you c**k
November 8, 2008 8:25 AM

Anonymous said...
blow sh*t up...
kill people...
nuclear waste everywhere...
yay what a happy world!!
what better things do you have to do? bash queers? do doughnuts in your clean efficient ute whilst yelling abuse at minoirty or fringe groups?
you're a real stand up guy!!
November 8, 2008 5:38 PM

Charming and erudite. Now that we have set the tone, I’ll broach the topic at hand, the upcoming protest against Exercise Talisman Sabre 09 (Ex TS09).
Ex TS09 is the biennial exercise conducted between the ADF and the US Armed Forces. It provides the opportunity to train in a reasonably benign environment in case it becomes necessary to do it for real somewhere else. Aside from the usual collective training benefits that come from exercises of this scale, the opportunity to train with our allies from across the Pacific provides many rewards. Not only does it give individuals the chance to foster personal and professional relationships with personnel from our major strategic ally and to exchange ideas on the profession of arms, it also provides the opportunity to synchronise systemic functions and ensure that when the ADF and the US military are doing it for real, they do so with the advantage of familiarity.

What has this to do with 4ZZZ and the charming fellow who left anonymous droppings on my blog? As I was driving back to work after lunch, I was flicking through radio stations. I paused when I hit 4ZZZ just as the announcer for their “Anarchy Hour” show was introducing their (wo)man on the ground in Shoalwater Bay. It seems that after their little “workshop” (I still hate that term) in Brisbane last year, they have managed to follow through and are planning a series of protests over the next few weeks. A number of things struck me as particularly ill informed throughout the interview, which was just about as hard hitting as Kerry O’Brien with Kevin Rudd.

Firstly, the talking head kept referring to Operation Talisman Sabre. Now, I’m only a lowly servant of the Australian people who goes where he’s told when he’s told, but if I was going to devote a month of my life to opposing a particular activity, I would at least find out what it was called. As I mentioned in the last piece on this topic, words have meanings. That may not seem important when you are just regurgitating Uni Co-op talking points, but it is. An operation, in the military sense, is real. In the least threatening scenario, it means providing aid to people who have just lived through a natural disaster (Op Sumatra Assist, Op Larry Assist etc) or just a lifetime of neglect (Op Outreach). In the conventional sense, it means real bullets, real wounds and real dead people. An operation therefore, should not be confused with an exercise. An exercise is just that – practice. At the end of it, everybody packs up and goes home. I guess operation just sounds cooler when you’re dealing with perennial adolescents.

The main pitch seemed to be against “warmongering”. The rationale seems to be that by hampering this exercise, they can promote peace. This is a fairly naive position. Look at it this way, what happens if they achieve their goal and the exercise is cancelled? Will that end the war in Afghanistan? Will it prevent another Iraq? No. All they will have achieved is to deny an opportunity for all involved to learn some valuable lessons that may one day save their lives. Because that is what an exercise is for, to learn. If they were to achieve their aims, all they would be doing is to ensure that Australian servicemen and women who do end up in Afghanistan or some other theatre of operations, are not as well trained and prepared as they should be, and any death or casualty should then upon their conscience be.

There was also a point made about how abhorrent it was that the Army had conducted an Open Day in Rockhampton and exposed children to the equipment of the ADF. No link is provided for a transcript at 4ZZZ so I can’t quote verbatim, but there was a statement that ran along the lines of “these things are killing machines, not toys”. In fact, they are neither. They are tools. A tank is an inert object. Without a human in it, it is a lump of very expensive metal. What it does depends entirely upon the crew. It can be used for great good, to shield civilians from sniper fire, or to blow the hell out of a protected fire position from which said sniper is engaging his targets. It can also be used to run down a lone protester defying leftist tyranny. It has no soul or conscience or self awareness. It is a tool. Exposure to hardware and the people who operate it is the first step in de-mystifying it and hopefully mitigating the visceral response like that which the interviewee demonstrated.

There was also concern expressed about the fact that the military would be using civilian infrastructure. Well knock me down with a feather, really? What else are they going to use? We don’t have large scale military ports, certainly not anywhere near where the exercise is taking place. Both the Port of Brisbane and Port of Gladstone are government owned. Why then would another government agency (admittedly in this case a Federal Department) be denied access to the infrastructure, particularly when the Qld Govt will be sending the bill to the Federal Govt? Somehow though, the military is imbued with such evil menace, that the very use of civilian infrastructure will somehow contaminate it. It is all very sad really.

The last part of the interview concerned the environment. Now, admittedly, an M1 will make short work of a Lesser Known Purple Spotted Bandicoot, should it be silly enough not to run away at the sound of gas turbine engines, but hey – isn’t that what Darwin was talking about? On a more serious note, Shoalwater Bay Training Area has been a military asset for over 40 years. In that time, the areas around it have been developed and altered. SWBTA has been recovering from mining and cattle farming since Army took possession. It is now a pristine wilderness area. It is pristine because the only people that use are the military. The ADF has very strict regulations about the use of the range and the minimisation of damage to the environment. It is quite a pain really, but that is what is required to maintain the range as a training area for years to come. The ADF is accountable for any environmental damage that occurs in SWBTA. The same cannot be said for Parks and Wildlife. How culpable are environmental vandals in National Parks once they have left? What recourse do Park Rangers have to prosecute offenders once they are safely back at home with no-one the wiser who set fire to the Lesser Known Purple Spotted Bandicoot’s log? Defence maintains permanent Range Control Officers who live in the training area. They are directly responsible for the maintenance of the environmental integrity of the range. They also know which unit was where and when. This means that should there be any damage to the range, they know who to go and find. This is quite a strong deterrent to anyone thinking they might get away with bending the rules and ignoring the regulations. The SWBTA Environment Report 2008 contains all of the details. Read it if you’d like.

Finally they got to the nuclear angle. Concern was expressed as to whether nuclear powered vessels would utilise the same civilian infrastructure mentioned earlier. Now, I don’t know how familiar these people are with nuclear powered naval vessels, but one of the great advantages of that particular type of propulsion is that they don’t have to refuel. The US, aware of the fact that berthing an aircraft carrier at Brisbane Wharf would likely incite these people to random acts of stupidity, is unlikely to drop the crew off for shore leave. If they do, it will likely be done by “Liberty Boat”, a tender that will ferry them to and from the ship anchored well away from the crowds of smelly hippies.

In the end, I wasted ten minutes of my life that I will never get back again, listening to the ill-informed ranting of a middle-aged petulant adolescent. I am therefore not surprised that a like-minded drone dropped such infantile droppings in my comments section.