Learning from Bin Laden

Bin Laden knew a thing or two about the media; especially the Western media. On the rare occasions on which he permitted an interview, he always had the entire exchange recorded by his own videographer. It’s a lesson a good many Australian public figures could have benefitted from. The latest of them is Andrew Hastie.

When Major-General Brereton released his report, Andrew Hastie, as a former officer in the Special Service Regiment (SASR), was anxious to put his point of view. He wrote an article published in The Australian, and then he was interviewed by Andrew Probyn for the ABC. In his Australian article, Hastie wrote, “The report is hard reading. It is comprehensive, detailed and unsparing in its judgment on those ­alleged to have committed war crimes.” A problem jumps out from this, a problem that characterises the whole media circus. It does accurately characterise the report, and it seems also to characterise Hastie’s attitude. How can unsparing judgment be made on allegations? Such language implies pre-judgement.

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Brereton’s Backup

The most interesting, and in many ways the most useful, part of the Brereton report is Annex A, the Whetham Report, to Part 3, Strategic, Operational, Organisational and Cultural Issues. It’s written by Dr. David Whetham. Among (many) other things, he’s Director of the King’s Centre for Military Ethics at King’s College, London. He was made Assistant Inspector-General of the ADF for the purpose of this very report. Here’s his bio from King’s.

David Whetham is Professor of Ethics and the Military Profession in the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London. He is the Director of the King’s Centre for Military Ethics and delivers or coordinates the military ethics component of courses for between two and three thousand British and international officers a year at the UK’s Joint Services Command and Staff College. Before joining King’s as a permanent member fo staff in 2003, David worked as a BBC researcher and with the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] in Kosovo, supporting the 2001 and 2002 elections.

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No officers were harmed in the making of this report

It’s like this, in the gospel according to Brereton

All that said, it was at the patrol commander level that the criminal behaviour was conceived, committed, continued, and concealed, and overwhelmingly at that level that responsibility resides…
The Inquiry has found no evidence that there was knowledge of, or reckless indifference to, the commission of war crimes, on the part of commanders at troop/platoon, squadron/company or Task Group Headquarters level, let alone at higher levels such as Commander Joint Task Force 633, Joint Operations Command, or Australian Defence Headquarters. Nor…was [there] any failure at any of those levels to take reasonable and practical steps that would have prevented or detected the commission of war crimes.
…responsibility and accountability does not extend to higher headquarters…
The responsibility lies in the Australian Defence Force, not with the government of the day.
…that culture was not created or enabled in SOTG, let alone by any individual Special Operations Task Group Commanding Officer. … It was in their parent units…that the cultures…were bred, and it is with the commanders of the domestic units who enabled that, rather than with the SOTG commanders, that greater responsibility rests. Continue reading “No officers were harmed in the making of this report”

Young & Free

[Published at Catallaxy Files 12/01/2021]

In 1942, the Special Services Division, Services of Supply, United States Army, published a booklet called Instructions for American Servicemen in Australia. The first section includes this:

The Australians have much in common with us – they’re a pioneer people; they believe in personal freedom; they love sports; and they’re out to lick the Axis all the way. But there are a lot of differences too – their ways of living and thinking on all sorts of things – like tea, central heating, the best way to spend Sunday, or saluting officers and such.

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The Father of Lies

[Published at The Orthosphere, 20/12/2010]

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.   John 8:44

On November 9th, Tucker Carlson offered the following prescription for curing the ills of the USA.

Let’s all stop lying. Lying about everything that matters, every day of our lives. That’s what we’re doing now. Have you noticed? How many times did you lie today because you had to? Let’s repeal our national dishonesty mandate (it’s a law never codified but still ruthlessly enforced) and tell the truth instead. That’s our only hope. Tell the truth about everything. Continue reading “The Father of Lies”

Deadlock

[Published at Catallaxy Files 27/11/2020]

Edsgar Dijkstra became a programmer in 1951. He is one of the early giants in a field that saw an unprecedented explosion of intellectual activity. When multi-processing came to computing, the phenomenon of deadlock began to make a pest of itself. Processes would just sieze up, something that anyone with a personal computer or smartphone has probably observed. Dijkstra studied this problem, and in one of his simple, elegant expositions, showed that systems reached a point of no return before there are indications of trouble ahead. Processes could do essentially the same things thousands or millions of times without problems, then two or more of them would deadlock, no one of them able to continue. Until that happened, there would be no warning; yet, at some earlier moment the rubicon had been crossed, and it was only a matter of time.

There has always been a contempt for the rubes within the ruling class. Different rules have always applied. There has at least since the advent of mass media been manipulation of public opinion. Powerful agencies of government have always chafed against the restraints of law and representative government. There has been a widespread awareness of this malignancy – it is part of the background, it is part of what is thought of as normal. It is an assumption for those who have disconnected entirely from the “news” and the goings-on of politics, as it is for those who make their living, on way or another, from politics. So it is that no-one noticed any change in the character of the times. The Zeitgeist flailed and raged much as it had before. Continue reading “Deadlock”

Jeremy Bentham on the seal of confession

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was a philosopher, economist and writer on jurisprudence. He is most well-known for his development and expounding of utilitarianism. He considered that the object of legislation should be “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” Bentham was an atheist, and a strong proponent of the separation of Church and State. In 1827, John Stuart Mill edited Bentham’s writings on jurisprudence into the five volume Rationale of Judicial Evidence.

His opinion concerning the seal of confession is of topical interest. In Rationale, Bentham considers the case where priests can be forced to testify concerning any felony, but the application to the case of child sexual abuse is obvious, though less widely applicable.

Bentham takes as context for his arguments a country in which Catholicism is “barely tolerated,” and its withering desired, though no coercion is applied to that end; for example, the United Kingdom of the early nineteenth century. Of countries where Catholicism is granted equal standing with other religions – contemporary Australia for instance – he writes that the necessity of protecting the seal of confession “will probably appear too imperious to admit of dispute.” Apparently not. Continue reading “Jeremy Bentham on the seal of confession”

Endemic Pandemic Panic

[A version with slight differences was published 27th April, 2020 on Quadrant Online QED.]

The previous “pandemic”, commonly know as Swine Flu, was caused by a type of Influenza virus known as H1N1. Spanish Flu was also caused by an H1N1 variant. The disease was first detected in Mexico in 2009, and initial reports gave what was eventually seen to be an exaggerated view of the morbidity and mortality of the disease, but, as a paper on the response of Australian emergency departments put it, [a]lthough the severity was subsequently shown to be of less concern, the initial response was, and necessarily had to be, based on the information available at the time. That assumption is invalid, for reasons to be outlined. Nonetheless, the response to that pandemic was somnolent compared to our betters’ instituting a totalitarian state (with a sunset clause) just 10 years later.

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The Burden of Proof and the Pell Case

[Originally published by Quadrant Online on 30th December 2019. Published in Quadrant Magazine March 2020.]

The conviction of the guilty is just; it is the unremarkable business of a just criminal jurisprudence; but the conviction of the innocent strikes at the heart of Justice. If it happens through error or negligence, it is bad enough; when it happens by design, it is an abomination that corrodes trust in the law itself. 

Maimonides in the 12th century, in this commentary on Exodus 23:7 (Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked) concluded, “it is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent man to death once in a way.”

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The Pope’s Commission

[First published at The Orthosphere.]

Faithful Catholics are expected to accept that, although the Pope is elected by the Conclave of (eligible) Cardinals, the One who really selects the Pope is the Holy Ghost Himself: the cardinals are His catspaws, so to speak. It is a grave offence to leak the proceedings of the Conclave (which is why such leaking is so rare), but if the preceding is to be accepted, the machinations in the Conclave are irrelevant. Therefore, I can appreciate both the smile and the squirm of orthodox Catholics who, in these very pages, see the so-ordained Pope described as … ahem … Pope Fruit Loops I.

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