Sunday, December 06, 2020

A SPECIAL Forces soldier who deployed to Afghanistan seven times says the Australian Defence Force "created the beast'' by sending men out to kill "every other day or night.''

I have always found "General" Campbell rather loathsome and the story below reinforces that. He is a bureaucrat where a proper military leader was needed

Wes H Hennessey CSM, 48, from Toowoomba in Queensland, said he felt compelled to defend the Special Forces community in the wake of the Brereton report, which referred 19 current and former soldiers to police for investigation over war crimes including murder.

The soldier, who uses his former protected identity initial H, said he was not investigated by the Brereton inquiry.

He said he did not condone the actions alleged in the report, including “bloodings’’, where rookie solders were ordered by their superiors to execute prisoners for their first kill.

He said those found to have committed war crimes “should be held accountable, 100 per cent.’’

But he said the entire Special Forces community had been smeared by the alleged actions of a few, and that senior leadership within the ADF – who trained the Special Forces soldiers and encouraged the “can-do’’ attitudes of its top operators – were not being held accountable.

“To me, they created the beast,’’ he said.

“They needed the capacity, they needed us to be the strategic tool for them. They referred to us as the scalpel and sometimes the sledgehammer.’’

H, a former 2nd Commando Regiment Warrant Officer who joined the military at 17 and spent 18 years in the Special Forces, was deployed in Afghanistan seven times, including two back-to-back deployments totalling 13 months in 2013-2014.

He said he was mentally fatigued by the end and there had been numerous operations in which “we were out killing people every other day or night.’’

H, who left the Army in 2014, decided to step out of the shadows and join the national debate when he became infuriated by the decision of Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell to accept the recommendation of Assistant Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force, Justice Paul Brereton, to recommend the revocation of the Meritorious Unit Citation.

The citation has been awarded to around 3000 people who served in the Special Operations Task Group during Operation Slipper in Afghanistan between 2007-2013.

Gen. Campbell has since back-pedalled and said no decision had been made, following public concerns expressed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

H is also campaigning for improvements to mental health services available to veterans’ and their families, and says he wants to ensure ADF leadership figures were also held accountable, where appropriate.

He said the decision to publicly release the report had opened the door for disinformation campaigns such as the one launched by China this week, where a senior diplomat tweeted a distasteful faked image of an Australian soldier about to cut the throat of a terrified Afghani child.

“What you (Gen. Campbell) have done, and how you have done it has affected every Australian,’’ he said. “This should have remained classified. “It’s – allegedly – a very small group. Fix the small group.’’

He questioned how Justice Brereton and Gen. Campbell could so categorically state that the incidents that occurred were not in the “heat of battle’’ or “fog of war’’. “How does he psychologically assess the guys’ state of mind on the ground?’’ he asked.

“I know how I was. I was cooked. But if you’d asked me at the time you would have got me saying ‘I’m fine, good to go, no problem’.

“Part of our coping mechanism to protect ourselves is compartmentalising. When you’re in the vortex, you’re in the vortex. It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle and when you’re in it, you have to be focused on it 100 per cent every single minute.’’

H was 16 and working on a sheep farm near Longreach when he lodged his papers to join the Australian Defence Force.

In 1990, at 17, he was accepted, and began a military career that saw him posted to Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, Somalia and Solomon Islands.

“I always wanted to join the army. Ever since I was young, I wanted to join the military,’’ he said.

In 1998 he joined the Commandos at Holsworthy and embarked on a Special Forces career that ultimately saw him awarded for Exceptionally Valorous Achievement as an Assault Team member in 2006, Exceptionally Meritorious Achievement whilst deployed in 2008 and Conspicuous Service in the 2nd Commando Regiment over an extended period of time in 2009.

He does not pretend he was perfect. He was investigated over a prisoner death some years ago. No action was taken. He was charged with disobedience of a general order after unauthorised ammunition was found in his locker back in Australia. He has upset ADF leadership several times, including as recently as a few months ago, when he took part in the Life on the Line podcast for veterans, and, identified only as H, revealed supervision had been so lacking in Afghanistan he was able to freelance with other western allied forces.

His separation from the ADF in 2014 was acrimonious – he was in a bad head space, exhausted, and upset at the munitions charge (to which he pleaded guilty).

The seemingly-endless cycle of rotations took its toll. He said he had become addicted to combat. “I recognise now I should not have deployed. It was my fault. The only place I wanted to be in the world was in Afghanistan, in combat.

“Now, the CDF, how do you know what was going on in our minds when we didn’t know? We were cooked.

“I must have done 100 psychologist interviews. I can outsmart them, we all can. We know what to say and what boxes to tick.’’

By 2014, H was done. He put in his discharge papers. He struggled to reintegrate and made bad choices. He drove his car like a maniac. He looked for risk. There were addictions. His marriage to the mother of his children broke down. He worked in the private sector but couldn’t settle down.

In 2019, his stock horse Tobi almost did what the Taliban couldn’t in Afghanistan. She kicked him off while he was working some cattle at a yard outside Toowoomba. His 100kg frame landed heavily, and he broke seven ribs. As his lungs filled with blood, he was rushed by helicopter to Brisbane where he spent two weeks in ICU before beginning a long, slow recovery.

On his left hand, a new tattoo depicts a compass, and the word Life. He looks at it every day to remind himself of his moral compass, and the need to make good choices as he rebuilds his civilian life.

H said he was not defending any individual. “I am not defending any of them. I am defending the Special Forces community, the meritorious and valorous work we have done. Members of the Special Operations Task Group who went there over 10 years and did thousands and thousands of operation without error.

“(But) mistakes happen, we are human and it is war. We are being over-judged, from a safe distance.’’

Sister of murder victim Anne-Marie Culleton launches petition to keep killer rapists in jail

The release on parole of a rapist murderer could spark a national review of sentencing laws with at least three states prepared to look at toughening sentences for domestic and family homicides, in a move that could go before the next State Attorneys-General gathering.

From her home on the NSW north coast Eileen Culleton has launched a national petition calling for law reform to remove parole options for rapist killers after the murder of her sister Anne-Marie Culleton.

In it she lists examples from various states of sex offenders getting parole and going on to reoffend including murder and has already attracted thousands of signatures in support.

Anne-Marie was 20 and living in Darwin in 1988 when in the night of February 22 her neighbour Jonathan Peter Bakewell broke into the flat where she was sleeping before torturing, raping and choking her to death.

He was sentenced to life in 1989 but given parole in 2016, breached parole and was jailed again four times before being released from a South Australian jail again in October last year.

SA Parole Board chairwoman Frances Nelson QC declared at the time he was unlikely to reoffend and the laws in that state were clear.

Eileen Culleton petitioned the South Australian authorities for justice for her sister but failing there has now turned to the public with a national campaign for law reform where life sentences with no parole exist for sexual assault/murders for other potential victims and families.

And help could come from NSW, Queensland and Victorian authorities with NSW Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Mark Speakman agreeing laws had to match community expectations and Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman saying she would listen.

The Victorian Government too yesterday said it was on board to participate in a national discussion.

Speaking about the national Culleton petition, Mr Speakman said moves were already afoot in NSW to address perceived shortcomings.

“I could never fully comprehend the ongoing anguish suffered by those whose loved ones are murdered and violated in this way. I recognise that no punishment would ever be enough to erase the grief of these terrible crimes,” he said, adding even though life sentences existed, some courts retained the power to impose lesser sentences.

“Because of my concern that sentences for murder in NSW may not be consistent with community expectations, I asked the NSW Sentencing Council to prepare a review of sentencing for homicides, including domestic and family violence homicides.”

That report due soon is expected to go to all state attorneys general.

Ms Fentiman said she was committed to working with her Corrective Services and the police minister on sentencing and parole “to ensure we have a fair and just legal system”.

“And I would welcome a discussion with Eileen Culleton on what more we could do here in Queensland,” she said.

Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy agreed sentences had to reflect safety of Victorians.

“What happened to Anne-Marie Culleton was a horrendous act – the effects of which are still felt by her family and friends every day,” she said.

“Every woman has the right to live her life without fear – that’s why we’ve strengthened our laws to protect victims and hold perpetrators to account. This included creating a ‘standard sentence’ scheme which increased sentences for 12 of Victoria’s most serious crimes, including murder, rape and sexual offences involving children, as well as increasing penalties for manslaughter.

“Too many women continue to be murdered in Australia by men intent on robbing them of their dignity, and our sentencing laws must recognise this.”

Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter said a meeting of attorneys general could be the forum to raise such issues.

“The Attorney-General is aware of the petition and the sad history attached to it,” a spokesman for Mr Porter said yesterday.

“As murder-rape offences are state/territory offences, it’s appropriate that any push for reform in this area is driven by state and territory jurisdictions.”

Mrs Culleton said all states should be concerned with “life” not literally meaning life in most circumstances.

“It is a state issue but violence against women is a national crisis,” she said yesterday.

“It just needs to go on the agenda for discussion, the public don’t realise that life doesn’t necessarily mean life.

“One in five women in Australia are sexually assaulted and one woman a week is murdered. A national crisis demands a national response. We need national laws to send a strong message in society and help to reduce all violent crimes against women,” she said.

She added the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) recommended Australia adopt federal legislation to better address violence against women.

“There is little I can do about Bakewell but I can certainly fight for law reform to prevent more women being raped and murdered,” she said.

Fatal distraction sees too many children die in hot cars

I must say I know about this. I was once driving little Suzie to her school on my way to where I was working.

I was miles past the school when I realized that little Suzie was still sitting there beside me, saying nothing but enjoying the ride. If you can forget a beloved child under those circumstances how can anybody be free of such an error?

The death of a Townsville toddler has horrified Queenslanders but forgetting a child in a car can happen to anyone, writes Kylie Lang.

The terrible tragedy of a three-year-old girl dying in a hot car has justifiably horrified Queenslanders.

And it’s not as if this incident is a one-off – too many precious innocents have perished this way.

But we don’t know all the facts, so instead of vilifying mother-of-four Laura Peverill on social media where everyone’s an expert, people need to calm the hell down.

Peverill, 37, and her new boyfriend Aaron Hill, 29, were charged with manslaughter after allegedly failing to realise Rylee Rose Black was locked in a car for several hours on a scorching Townsville day.

The couple was allegedly watching Netflix while the child died in Peverill’s Toyota Prado, parked in the driveway, on November 27 when ambient temperatures soared to 32.8C.

Horrendously, inside that vehicle, the temperature could have been as high as 75C, using data from an RACQ survey.

A more agonising and terrifying death is difficult to imagine. That poor little angel.

More details should emerge when Peverill and Hill, both on bail, front Townsville Magistrates Court on December 14, but police have ruled out drugs and alcohol.

For now, we are left shaking our heads and asking why. How could anyone forget their own child? How is this even possible?

Neuroscience offers some clues.

David Diamond is a professor of neurobiology at the University of South Florida, and a renowned expert on memory.

He likens memory to an imperfect machine. If we can leave our mobile phone in a shop, we can potentially leave our child in a car, he postures.

It has to do with the complexity of the brain, and not simply whether or not we are “good” parents.

While our prefrontal cortex thinks and analyses on the spot and our hippocampus makes memories, our basal ganglia is primarily concerned with forming habits and routine movement.

Professor Diamond says in instances where the basal ganglia rises up and takes over – typically when we are under great stress, sleep deprived or acutely distracted causing the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus to be overcome – we move into autopilot.

It’s why we might drive from A to B without paying attention to how we got there.

I’ve done it, and I bet you have too.

When my son was small, I once forgot to pick him up from daycare. I got all the way home – replaying work dramas in my exhausted head – before realising there was no babbling toddler in the back.

Another time I forgot to drop him off, arriving at work in the morning with him still strapped in his car seat. I thought what a goose I was, and sheepishly called the centre to advise he’d be late.

Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg says it is common for people to operate in a “state of flow”, blithely carrying out routine tasks while focusing on other things.

Dr Carr-Gregg once put his child’s safety seat on the roof of his car. “The child wasn’t in it, but I drove off with the bloody thing on top; I had no memory at all of not putting it in the back seat,” he admits.

There but for the grace of God go we.

In 2013, a Perth father’s apparent lapse of memory led to utter tragedy. The man arrived at his child’s daycare centre one afternoon to collect his 11-month-old son only to be told the child never arrived that morning.

The baby’s lifeless body was found in the back seat of his Honda Civic, and frantic attempts by staff to revive the child failed. Police said the death was not suspicious, and the man was not charged.

In a chillingly similar case in the US, a father was acquitted of manslaughter after forgetting to drop his 21-month-old son to daycare, inadvertently leaving him to bake to death in the car. Miles Harrison fainted when the verdict was read out, and said while his wife had forgiven him, he could not forgive himself.

In the US, more than 800 children have died in hot cars since 1998, and over half of those deaths have been accidental, according to the National Safety Council.

In Australia, more than 5000 children are rescued from hot cars each year, and charity Kidsafe describes cars as “unconventional ovens”.

For more than 20 years, American non-profit group has campaigned for child sensory technology to be mandated in new cars.

In a welcome move earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed the Hot Cars Act, which now awaits Senate approval and presidential sign off.

While Hyundai has already introduced motion sensors to detect children and pets, many other manufacturers are slow to act.

In February, Australia’s car safety rating body ANCAP (Australasia New Car Assessment Program) said such vital technology would be required for cars to get the highest safety rating by authorities here and in Europe from 2022.

Some detection systems are apparently so low cost they could become standard in all vehicles. Manufacturers have no excuse for dragging the chain on this.

But at the same time, people need to accept the reality of fatal distraction.

Leaving kids in cars is not something that happens only to “other” people or “bad” parents.

While it is understandable to rage at the tragic death of innocents, human fallibility suggests no one is immune.




No comments: