Thursday, June 29, 2023

"I exposed war crimes among the SAS"

The report below by a female sociologist is one in a long line that judges wartime behavior by peace time standards. As such, it is typically unjust. It is particularly egregious however in judging the highest risk military situations by civilian standards.

I am a former Army psychologist so perhaps have a keener awareness of the issues than some. I have no field experience. All I know is what I could learn from talking to people here in Australia. But one thing I have learned loud and clear is that military experience greatly reshapes attitudes.

One of the reasons miitary veterans often refuse to talk about their wartime experiences is that they know how their wartime actions were guided by different standards than civilian ones. The heat of battle alters attitudes and attitudes alter behaviour.

And nowhere is all the more so than in special operations. Such assignments are super high-risk and big pressure and survival instincts are at their highest there. The stress is great and anybody acting under stress is likely to make different decision from peacetime ones. And that is acknowledged throughout the military. And it is that acknowledgement that leads to "coverups". People who try to apply armchair standards to wartime behaviour are seen as missing the point and are therefore sidelined as much as possible. It is exactly such sidelining that the lady below experienced.

It would so wonderful if war could be waged like a game of chess but that is never going to happen. To use a common cliche, war is hell and there are many demons in hell. Democratic societies do their best to exclude or expel the demons but that will only ever be a campaign with limited success.

"Hypermasculinity" has got nothing to do with the problem. All that is at work is the attitudinal response to the military situation. In social psychologist's jargon, what we see are "the demand characteristics of the situation".+

It is rather regrettable that the sociologist lady below abandoned that obvious social explanation in favour of a pseudo-psychological one.

As the most frontline of SAS fighters, all that applies particularly to Ben Roberts Smith. He tried to explain his actions under the highest stress by civilian standards but inevitably failed.

It wasn’t long ago that I had been a successful business owner with a string of government contracts.

For me, it all began on Australia Day 2016. That was the day I submitted a report to army chief General Angus Campbell that would trigger the biggest inquiry into war crimes in Australia’s history. It would also be the day that David Morrison, chief of Army from 2011 to 2015, would be awarded Australian of the Year. Chair of the committee that chose the winner was Special Forces soldier Ben Roberts-Smith.

The first time I heard mention of war crimes among Australian Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan was in 2014, in a small, partially furnished office in an Army barracks. I’m a sociologist and I had been contracted by the army to undertake a number of research projects. I was speaking with an army chaplain about domestic violence prevalence. The conversation went well beyond the initial topic. It was the first time I heard of the “serious misconduct” that was occurring within SAS patrols in Afghanistan. The chaplain described returning from deployment “a broken man”, having tried and failed to have his concerns taken seriously.

It wasn’t until late 2015, in one of the first interviews I did for a project in Special Operations Command, which oversees special forces units, that the chaplain’s story came back to me. That project began as an examination of Special Operations capability. It ended in a report on war crimes that led to the Brereton Report and news stories that resulted in Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith unsuccessfully suing this masthead for defamation.

The Federal Court last month found Roberts-Smith was a liar and murderer who engaged in war crimes. At the time of my initial report, I had no idea what that report would eventually cost me, personally and professionally.

For I now realise that what I was coming up against was more than the horrific acts of a few rogue soldiers. It was the cult of brand “SAS”; the cult of the male warrior. In this cult, unsanctioned violence is justified, encouraged and celebrated.

It seemed my report on the SAS had triggered a threat to some Australian men’s masculinity. I’d dared question their heroes. These loud voices would hound me for years. The attacks on me to be bashed, killed, tortured, and my livelihood destroyed came via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, email, text and phone call. Mostly the backlash came from those not in the military, but some were ex-military and younger white male soldiers – all of whom appear to idolise the SAS as a stronghold of hypermasculinity.

When the war crimes allegations emerged, then-defence minister Peter Dutton said he had made it “very clear” to Defence that I should not be awarded further contracts. That he did not want the military to be “distracted by things that have happened in the past”. My credibility was questioned repeatedly by Jacqui Lambie and reiterated in the Murdoch press.

It became politically inconvenient for me to keep speaking about the SAS issues. In 2021, I had written an essay about how misconduct becomes entrenched in organisations and how it spreads, and I used the SAS as a primary example. The Australian Government Solicitor unsuccessfully tried to stop my essay being published.

In a letter I received from the government solicitor’s office shortly after publication, I was told my conduct and public statements had “harmed the Commonwealth”. The result was that my ongoing work with the government was “terminated for convenience”.

The implications for me, my family, my business, and my staff were profound. The message had been sent to the department loud and clear that I was now a liability and a risk. No work would follow. Work in the pipeline was stopped indefinitely. I’d told the truth, so they cut me out.

After that my business collapsed and my mental health declined amid the endless stream of misogynistic threats through social media. Work from other organisations was not forthcoming. I gather this was because most businesses hire consultants to tell them what they want to hear, not uncover what is really at the heart of their problems.

I once heard Special Forces described as the “weeping sore” of the Army that no one was prepared to tend to. But there is a cost to organisations that leave issues to fester. It teaches others in the organisation that bad behaviour is acceptable, that those who engage in it will be protected, that to dismiss it is the norm. Such attitudes seep through an organisation and rot it. When the day finally comes that these problems must be addressed, the damage is far greater for all involved.

But the greatest takeaway from my experience is a personal one. That despite the cost, I would do it all again. I am grateful for the trust placed in me by soldiers and officers who gave accounts of egregious acts of violence and cover-ups. I have never taken it for granted and I have felt an unwavering duty of care to them.


Climate cult weakening

Politically, ‘net zero’ is increasingly on the nose in many European countries. This week, the Swedish parliament officially abandoned its 100 per cent renewable energy target to meet net zero by 2045, replacing it with a ‘technology-neutral’ target. Many green-tinged Europeans were dismayed, but as Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson told the Swedish parliament, ‘We need more electricity production… we need a stable energy system.’

Of course, for the Swedes, blessed with huge mountains and deep lakes but little abundant sun, hydro plays a key part in their renewable energy supply: 98 per cent of their electricity already comes from hydro, wind or nuclear power, so they can afford to eschew fossil fuels. The new ‘non-renewable’ target simply means they can get more nuclear power into the grid, and essentially admits that the Nordic utopian fantasy about wind and solar being our salvation is now done and dusted.

Meanwhile, in Germany during the last winter, one town was forced to tear down the local wind farm and dig it up to get to the precious coal beneath. A more entertaining and apt metaphor is hard to find.

In an article headlined, ‘The perils of net zero coercion’, the UK Telegraph this week reported that, ‘Sweeping bans to cut greenhouse emissions in Europe is leading to widespread public backlash,’ and that, ‘Climate coercion is a very bad way to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Western democracies’.

A day earlier, the Telegraph had also warned that, ‘Germany is headed for a political meltdown. Olaf Scholz faces a reckoning as Germans resist his “Green dictatorship” of mandatory heat pumps and unaffordable technologies.’

This week, even the BBC had to admit that Britain is not capable of meeting its own net-zero targets. According to the latest report by the bed-wetting Climate Change Committee, there is a ‘worrying tendency’ of UK government ministers to avoid embracing the next stage of net zero. What a surprise! ‘The UK has lost its clear global leadership position on climate action,’ the report’s authors lament. ‘We are no longer COP President; no longer a member of the EU negotiating bloc…. We have backtracked on fossil fuel commitments.… And we have been slow to react to the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s proposed Green Deal Industrial Plan, which are now a strong pull for green investment away from the UK.’

Last week Britain also abandoned its proposed ‘green hydrogen levy’ on households, which, according to the Guardian, ‘[signals] a possible U-turn as households struggle with high inflation and this week’s shock interest rate rise’.

Craig Mackinlay MP, chairman of the parliamentary Net Zero Scrutiny Group, said: ‘The cancellation of the proposed £118 Hydrogen Tax on household energy bills is hugely welcome and I hope is the start of a common sense journey for the government on energy policy…. When the laudable ambition of net zero hits the reality of cost and significant changes to the way we live, the public are understandably turned off.’ Meanwhile, we also learn that EVs are looking increasingly dubious. That same UK Climate Change Committee report says that ‘plug-in hybrids have performed up to five times worse than expected’. China, too, is reportedly ‘discarding fields of EVs, leaving them to rot’.

Yet here in far-away Australia, our climate warrior-in-chief Chris Bowen blithely places his faith for our energy future in green hydrogen and EVs convinced that Australia can survive without our fossil fuel energy advantage. Is he deaf? Blind? Can he not read a foreign newspaper? Does he not have any advisers who are actually aware of the shift in public opinion occurring in places once famed for their green ideology but now crippled by soaring inflation and out-of-control cost of living?


Super fit mother-of-two, 37, 'is left in chronic pain, bound to a wheelchair and forced to find a new home' after Covid jab

A mother-of-two claims she has been left in debilitating pain and now relies on a wheelchair to get around after receiving three doses of a Covid vaccine.

Mel Guevremont, 37, says she has gone from being a keen gym-goer, surfer, snowboarder and rock climber to barely being able to take a few steps around her home before her legs give out.

Ms Guevremont, from Sydney, claims her body has broken down and she has been forced to wear a neck brace since receiving her third Pfizer mRNA vaccine in March 2021.

'It's ruined my life completely and utterly,' she told Daily Mail Australia.

'I am skin and bones. I don't recognise myself. It's not my body and I wake up with a new symptom every day. It's a grieving process.'

Ms Guevremont and her partner Richard Ellison, who moved to Australia from Canada seven years ago, said they were forced to sell their Manly unit because it was located on the fourth floor and she struggles with stairs.

They now live with their two boys in a ground-level home in the south-eastern Sydney suburb of Maroubra.

Ms Guevremont said she has spent more than $25,000 seeing specialists, including neurologists and rheumatologists, but has not found them helpful.

Mel Guevremont says she has been left in a wheelchair after three doses of the Covid vaccine

Her comments come after a landmark Covid vaccine injury class-action lawsuit was filed in April against the Australian government, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Department of Health.

The nationwide suit, which reportedly has 500 members, seeks redress for those allegedly left injured or bereaved by the Covid vaccines.

Ms Guevremont said she was a fit and healthy woman who regularly took part in outdoor activities - but her active lifestyle has drastically changed.

'Right before these jabs I was snowboarding in New Zealand. The only problem I had was a tweaked knee from too much surfing and playing basketball,' she said.

'I was an adrenaline junkie. I did not stop. It's quite the clash for me to be barely able to hold a cup of coffee or hold my own neck.

'How do you go from snowboarding, ripping on a mountain and having a great time, to all of a sudden can't hold your neck?'

Ms Guevremont claims she is also suffering from electric shocks, unexplained weight loss and body weakness.

'I went to a beauty salon and after a while I couldn't feel my legs,' she said. 'When I tried to get up, my legs just completely collapsed. I sort of laughed and brushed it off. 'I thought maybe it was related to post-pregnancy hormones.'

Ms Guevremont says she struggles to do basic physical activities like walk to the park or even pick up her two boys, who are aged two and four.

'It breaks my heart. My young one wants to play soccer, and he knows I played soccer with him before, and all of a sudden I can't,' she said. 'I wonder if I am going to be there for my kids.'

The mother has made farewell videos for her boys just in case she is 'not around' when they grow older.

In July 2021, Ms Guevremont caught Covid-19, which she said took her four days to get over, after which 'she was fine'.

In November 2021, her condition spiralled and she fainted and collapsed. 'My partner rushed me to the hospital and I stayed there for a week,' she said.

She said a specialist suggested she might have 'post-vaccination syndrome and potentially post-viral syndrome' - although she only wrote the second diagnosis in her notes.

In referrals seen by Daily Mail Australia, hospitals and neurologists have diagnosed Ms Guevremont with 'suspected vaccine injury'.

Last year, Ms Guevremont reported herself as a vaccine injury to the TGA but said she was still waiting for a response. 'They fail to follow up and investigate,' she said.

A TGA spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia an 'acknowledgement email requesting further information was sent in response to an adverse event report submitted by Ms Guevremont'.

They added: 'The TGA strongly encourages vaccine recipients and healthcare professionals to report their experience of suspected adverse events, even if there is only a very small chance a vaccine was the cause.

'The TGA uses these reports to look for patterns in reporting that may indicate a new safety signal for a vaccine.'

The spokesperson said such a signal will lead 'to appropriate regulatory action which may include making changes to a vaccine's Product Information and communicating information to doctors.

'To date, the TGA has initiated over 43 regulatory actions to include new safety information in Product Information documents,' the TGA representative said.

But Ms Guevremont said she felt 'abandoned' and turned to Kerryn Phelps, the former head of the Australian Medical Association, for help.

Last December, Professor Phelps told a parliamentary inquiry into long Covid that both she and her wife had been vaccine-injured.

Ms Guevremont said Professor Phelps was very kind and supportive in referring her to a neurologist who 'specialised in vaccine injuries' but who turned out to be too busy to see her.

She also condemned the vaccine-injury compensation scheme run by Services Australia. 'The compensation scheme is a joke,' she said.

The compensation scheme for Pfizer vaccines includes about 10 eligible conditions, but these don't include neurological conditions such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Transverse Myelitis, even though they are listed for AstraZeneca shots.

'The TGA and regulators around the world continue to monitor and analyse Covid-19 vaccine safety data covering hundreds of millions of people, and the latest evidence from clinical trials and peer-reviewed medical literature,' the TGA spokesperson said.

'This information continues to overwhelmingly support the safe and effective use of Covid-19 vaccines.

'It remains the consensus view of international regulators and health departments that the benefits of Covid-19 vaccination continue to far outweigh the rare risks.'

Ms Guevremont is currently looking at experimental treatments and possibly moving the U.S. to receive them.


Parents start own schools in ‘woke teaching’ backlash

Rebel parents worried about “woke teaching’’ are starting up their own small schools, in a renaissance of “classical” education.

Twenty-two students have enrolled in the conservative Hartford College, which opened in Sydney this year as Australia’s “first liberal arts school for boys’’.

As more families drift away from free public schooling, start-up schools are mushrooming across the country, paid for through tuition fees, bank loans and federal government funding for basic running costs.

The Hartford College motto is “Dare to think. Dare to know,’’ and its ethos is to encourage students to “think outside the box, ask difficult questions and have courage in pursuing the truth’’.

Its chairman and founder is father-of-six Tim Mitchell, the solicitor director at Bay Legal in Sydney, who established the school with just 22 students in February after renting a spare building from the Catholic Church in the inner-Sydney suburb of Daceyville.

The school plans to grow to 200 students from Years 5 to 12.

READ MORE: Religious schools poach public pupils
“It was parent-driven – the idea was initiated in 2020 when people came together and thought it would be a much-needed initiative to have a school with a classical, liberal arts education,’’ Mr Mitchell said yesterday.

“It’s a Christian ethos, and an ethos of academic excellence and opening boys’ minds to great literature, philosophy and languages, as well as science and technology.’’

Hartford College employs six teachers, some part-time, specialising in traditional school subjects as well as French and Latin, music and philosophy.

The school complies with the NSW Education Standards Authority curriculum, but customises its own syllabus.

“Each boy has his own mentor who meets every couple of weeks for mentoring and advice,’’ Mr Mitchell said.

“Every term the parents have an hour to talk to the principal.

“Ultimately parents are the most important educators, and the school’s there to assist the parents.’’

Parents are paying between $10,500 and $13,300 a year in tuition fees for boys in Years 5, 6 and 7, who are taught in small classes.

“We’re confident the school will grow,’’ Mr Mitchell said. “It will be cash-flow positive in two or three years.’’

Parents Nathan and Tanya Brown chose the school for their 12-year-old son when they noticed a sign outside the new school building close to their home.

“The culture of the school appealed to us, especially the mentoring program for boys,’’ Ms Brown said.

“We liked the liberal arts curriculum and the focus on literacy for boys.

“We get quite a bit of feedback from the school – it’s not just about kids’ marks, it’s about how happy he is and his application to his studies.

“He’s found a good group of friends.’’

Hartford is the second start-up school for principal Frank Monagle, who was founding headmaster of Harkaway Hills College in Melbourne, a girls’ school set up by a dozen Catholic parents in 2016 to teach “traditional values’’ through the Parents for Education movement.

It now has 167 students between pre-Prep and Year 10, paying between $5225 and $9928 in tuition fees this year.

The school received $2.2 million in federal funding and $363,000 in Victorian government funding in 2021, equivalent to $13,000 per student.

Mr Monagle said he aims to integrate subjects, so that English lessons tie in with history or science subjects.

As an example, Year 7 boys studying Aesop’s Fables in English would study ancient Greece in history.

“I’ve found that subject teachers and departments within schools tend to be in their own silos so they haven’t a clue about what’s happening in other (subjects),’’ Mr Monagle said.

“We’re integrating the lessons as much as we can because boy react to the big picture – boys more than girls will ask, ‘Why are we learning this?’’

In Brisbane, beer baron James Power is part of a group of six Catholic families planning to set up St John Henry Newman College, an independent school also in the “classic Liberal Arts tradition’’.

The parents hope to begin primary school classes in 2025, before expanding into a secondary school.

Dr Kevin Donnelly, the coordinator of a Classical Education and Liberal Arts seminar held in Sydney yesterday, said many parents resented the “woke ideology’’ taught in many mainstream schools.

“Throughout their schooling, students are indoctrinated with the belief gender and sexuality are fluid and limitless, that males are inherently violent and misogynist and that Western civilisation is oppressive and guilty of white supremacism,’’ Dr Donnelly, who reviewed the national curriculum in 2014, said.

“Unlike the national curriculum taught by existing government and non-government schools, parents are seeking a more rigorous and enriching education for their children.’’

Federal Education department data shows that 76 independent schools – separate from the Catholic education system – have opened since the start of the pandemic in 2020, including six so far this year.

Independent Schools Australia chief executive Graham Catt said enrolments in private schools had risen 3.2 per cent last year, educating one in every six students.

“It is interesting how much growth is occurring in small and low-fee schools,’’ he said.

“(They) are often new or small and offer specialised programs and support.’’




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