Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In With the Wrong Crowd

If torture is good
and black is white,
then day is night
and wrong is right.
Are these the truths
for which you fight?

When you're easily led and just can't help tagging along with the big boys, instead of thinking for yourself, staying home and doing something useful, you never know where you'll end up. Yes, I'm talking about you, Australia*:

"Documents released to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) reveal that Major George O'Kane, a military lawyer with the Australian Defence Force, had concerns about the legality of interrogation techniques proposed for prisoners at Abu Ghraib. However, the Australian Government publicly announced that Major O'Kane's legal opinion was that the interrogation techniques complied with the Geneva Conventions. The Government has never corrected the public record. The proposed techniques - including sleep management, dietary manipulation and sensory deprivation - are generally regarded under international law as cruel and inhuman treatment and in some cases, torture.

"Major O'Kane was in Iraq, working as a legal officer in the office of the US Staff Judge Advocate, Colonel Marc Warren, the senior legal officer in Iraq, when he was asked to provide legal advice in 2003 about the proposed techniques. Major O'Kane said he believed the techniques would be open to abuse and had inadequate safeguards. He wrote in a legal memorandum dated 27 August 2003 that the techniques 'substantially comply' with the Geneva Convention, which imposes absolute standards. He later explained that the reason he did not think the techniques fully complied was because there was no time limits on their use.

"The Commanding officer of the US 205th Military Intelligence Brigade who sought Major O'Kane's advice had previously been investigated following the death of a detainee in Afghanistan. The same Brigade was later revealed as being at the centre of the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. Speaking inside the the Australian Federal Parliament on 30 May 2004, the head of Defence Legal Services, Air Commodore Simon Harvey, said Major O'Kane's legal memorandum concluded that the proposed interrogation techniques were consistent with the Geneva Conventions. In subsequent weeks, Defence Minister Robert Hill and senior Department of Defence officials knew Air Commodore Harvey's statement was inaccurate. However, the Department of Defence made no effort to correct the public record and refused to publicly release Major O'Kane's advice without first consulting the United States.

"Major O'Kane based his reservations about the legality of the proposed Abu Ghraib techniques on the fact that there was insufficient detail in the US Interrogation Manual about the length of time that interrogators could use techniques such as sleep management and sensory deprivation. Major O'Kane noted that the Australian Interrogation Manual also failed to specify time limits for these techniques and was therefore open to abuse. Major O'Kane may not have had the appropriate clearance to provide his advice. He was asked to confine his advice to proposed interrogation techniques for one particular individual who was considered a high value detainee. However, Major O'Kane provided general advice and looked at the US Interrogation Manual in general terms. Moreover, Major O'Kane based his advice on a view of the Geneva Conventions that was inconsistent with the Australian Government's publicly stated interpretation of international law. This placed Australia in the untenable position of endorsing a particular view about detention treatment and conditions that it simultaneously condemned." (Military Detention: uncovering the truth, Story 4 - Australian military lawyer's advice on interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib, PIAC, 1/7/11, pp 6-7)

That's the PIAC's Executive Summary of the matter, stemming from a 6-year FOI battle with the Defence Department for hundreds of pages of documents relating to this and other matters showing little Australia clearly way out of its depth. In its reporting of the matter on the 4th of July, ABC1's 7.30 included the following pious soundbytes from another Australian military lawyer, Colonel Mike Kelly (now federal Labor MP for Eden-Monaro) attached at the time to the Coalition Provisional Authority of Paul Bremer:

"Geoff Thompson: Mike Kelly agrees that coalition forces simply got it wrong at Abu Ghraib and says their actions were inconsistent with his own advice to the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Mike Kelly: My clear advice to them at the time in Baghdad was a level of coercion that a civil policeman could apply in this situation should be... the limits of what they could do.

Geoff Thompson: And that wouldn't include putting women's underwear on men's heads?

Mike Kelly: No, I think those sorts of things go beyond the pale.

Geoff Thompson: George O'Kane says he saw no connection between the allegations of mistreatment he read in the ICRC report of October 2003 and the photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib published in April 2004 [See PIAC's Story 3]. Mike Kelly says the worst abuses began when a team from Guantanamo Bay arrived in Baghdad in September 2003.

Mike Kelly: The whole regime was suffering from a very poor lack of preparation and a very bad tactical approach and strategic approach to counter-insurgency, and then of course when the added element of the Guantanamo team came in, then we really went down a very dark road... You have to be able to justify yourself at the end of the day and to be open to scrutiny. And if you can't do that, then you're going down the same road as your enemies." (Australia's ties to Abu Ghraib)

Now I'm wondering just who wrote those insufficiently detailed Interrogation Manuals mentioned in PIAC's account above. And why is that you ask? Well, two reasons actually, and both straight out of the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Colonel Mike Kelly (who gained some notoriety when he wrote from Iraq to the NSW Premier, Bob Carr, to protest against the awarding of the Sydney Peace Prize to the Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi), was another central player. On his first tour - Kelly is now back in Iraq - he made multiple visits to detention facilities and played a key role in drafting interrogation procedures." (On the defensive, Mike Seccombe & Tom Allard, 5/6/04)

"The documents, which include extensive interviews with Major O'Kane when he returned from Iraq in 2004, reveal that as a military lawyer embedded with the United States he was a primary author of the manual for processing prisoners in Iraq." (ADF knew of abuses at Abu Ghraib, Anne Davies, Deborah Snow & Debra Jopson, 5/7/11)

These two surely need clarification.

[* See my 28/7/10 post 'A Mature Democracy?']


Anonymous said...

Mike Kelly has quite a history and now is painted as the good guy, again, while Col. Kelly's subordinate,Major George O'Kane takes the wrap.The wicked man.

The old adage; no responsibility without authority and no authority without responsibility, so well known by the military, seems to have escaped the attention of the media.

There seems to be a degree of elasticity in Mike Kelly's version of ethics and morality. While the A.L.P. opposes capital punishment Kelly "endorsed capital punishment a week after Kevin Rudd publicly confirmed the the A.L.P.'s opposition to state sanctioned execution." Warming to his theme, Kelly "revealed his role in the execution of notorious Somalian warlord, Hussan Gutaale Abdul in April 1993."
"I have absolutely no personal regrets about Gutaale's execution"
"I'll have to admit that even when I saw him wallowing in his own blood and excrement I felt no remorse or pity, only relief."

Sunday Telegraph.

Kelly, as Defence Force Military Law Centre Director, was promoting the notion of "nominated sharpshooters" shooting demonstrators in his new 'Field Manual' which dispensed with "archaic protocols" in 2000.
The Adelaide Advertiser noted with alarm that "The manual gives soldiers far wider powers."

Civil Libertarians, Unions, The Greens and even the A.L.P. were horrified.

BEHIND THE ORDER TO SHOOT, Adelaide Advertiser, August 30 2000.

Kelly went on to write a "Legal Opinion" as to why the World Court got it so wrong over the Ghetto Wall built across Occupied Palestine.

Of course Kelly's notorious attack on Hanan Ashrawi and the Sydney Peace Prize had Premier Bob Carr lecturing Kelly "Mike Kelly ought to understand the mission. The Australian mission to Iraq is not to engage in a war with the Arab world or the Palestinians..." Oh really? Oil maybe, Bob?

SMH Nov 3.

At this point Kelly does not look like an ideal A.L.P. 'celebrity candidate' to parachute into a marginal seat at any election.

What could he have going for him?

Could the answer be found in THE AUSTRALIAN, 24 June 2008?
Here Kelly revealed that Israel is "the most robust democracy in the world"
And, Kelly's wife was indeed the cousin of former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmet!

Seems to explain everything.

The last word must go to Antony Loewenstein, who observed of Kelly's Abu Ghraib capers, "Kelly's exact role in the saga remains unclear."

MY ISRAEL QUESTION, M.U.P. 2006, p. 262.

MERC said...

Many thanks for that detective work. A 'colourful character' to say the least.

Anonymous said...

Readers of the BRAIDWOOD TIMES, right in the middle of Kelly's electorate, were given an insight into Kelly's priorities in the 24 December, 2008 edition. Remember, the date is important and not just because it is the day before Christmas.


The Parliamentary Secetary for Defence Support and Federal Member for Eden-Monaro, the Hon Dr Mike Kelly AM MP was on an official visit to Israel last week. During the visit, Dr Kelly met with Israeli Deputy Minister of Defence, Mr. Matan Vilnai; Director General of the Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenzai and the Israeli Defence Force Deputy Chief of General Staff, Major General Dan Harel; as well as a number of senior Israeli Ministry of Defence officials."

OPERATION CAST LEAD began on 27 December 2008, just a few days after Kelly's visit.

Amnesty International describes the event as "22 days of death and destruction."

"Amnesty International believes that the deaths of so many unarmed civilians [at least 1400] and the manner in which they came under attack demand a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the conduct of all parties to the conflict."

The BRAIDWOOD TIMES took this news from Kelly's web site. It was soon taken down, as the dead and wounded started to pile up.