Pain thresholds.

Tuesday is ANZAC day. A day where many Australians honour the men and women who laid down their lives to make this country free.

This year the Victorian RSL is giving official permission to the descendants of WWI Turkish soldiers to join in the march of veterans. The Victorian RSL President, Major-General David McLachlan says,

“the Turkish were a very honourable enemy.”

On the same day, Veterans who feel that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has abandoned them and their claims for acknowledgement of their PTSD, and compensation for their PTSD, have been told they cannot use the day to highlight their frustration by wearing an orange armband.

What is the message being sent to Australians? Is the right to march as a veteran only reserved for those that don’t challenge the ANZAC story of honour, bravery, sacrifice and compliance? Or are we as Australians mature (and honest) enough to have the discussion that might be-

“War can physically and psychologically injure our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Airwomen.”

Recent polls would suggest that Australians are not as sympathetic to the Iraq cause as they once were. Australians are also not voting with their marching feet as they walk past military recruitment centres around this country.

NewsRadio mentioned an Australian Soldier ‘incident’ in Iraq this morning. I will continue to search the news to find the story.

Whilst, of course, I hope for an end to the deaths in the war in Iraq, I know this to be impossible as the reality is that people are still dying daily.

I wonder how many ‘hurt’ Australians it will take for this government to feel the backlash?

I wish the orange armbanders nights of sleep with only one nightmare.

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47 Responses to “Pain thresholds.”

  1. Christine Keeler Says:

    “NewsRadio mentioned an Australian Soldier Ďincidentí in Iraq this morning. “

    Later reported that death resulted from head-wound that was ‘not combat-related.’ Read into that what you will, but it don’t sound purty.

  2. Suki Says:

    Thanks Christine.
    Oh my, this news story has the hallmarks of reporting a suicide- not least of all the request by the family to have the Soldier’s name suppressed.

  3. weez Says:

    SO, if it’s a suicide, does this count as a combat death?

  4. cat =^..^= Says:

    it should

  5. Suki Says:

    I’m now hearing that the soldier shot himself in the head whilst cleaning his weapon.
    The cynic in me weez would have smart money on NO.

    cat =^..^=, I would agree, but first the ADF would have to openly acknowledge within its number- depression, effects of deployment/separation, battle trauma/fatigue, operational tempo, etc.
    I suspect instead of this we will see compulsory attendance at a
    “How to safely clean your rifle workshop.”

  6. Christine Keeler Says:

    Agreed Suki.

    Make yourself happy and go here

  7. mark Says:

    Ptsd is not a politicaly acceptable condition polititions cannot get thier photo taken standing be side it .

    pollies and DVA cant see ptsd which is unfortunit because i see it three to four nights a week see it taste it and wake up yelling from it my poor wife she puts up with a lot !

  8. Two good ANZAC posts » The Road to Surfdom Says:

    [...] Here and here. [...]

  9. Brownie Says:

    Amen, Suki.

    ANZAC Day has jumped the shark.
    Hijacked by Howard.
    The pop concert at the cove last year was a ridiculous development.

    I am heartened to see I am not the only person who thinks ‘a trained marksman’ knows not to clean a loaded weapon.

    Some years ago a most excellent (war?) film was made titled ‘Friendly Fire’ with an excellent actor Ned Beatty as the father who fought the Pentagon’s wall of indifference to find out exactly how his son died on active duty.
    All war is disgusting.

    Howard Bush and Blair should be in uniform at the front with the troops, if in fact, ‘Australia is being threatened’ by the country we are ‘at war’ with.

  10. Dave C Says:

    I always strikes me that the ANZAC myth is a weird, weird social construction. We’ve edited out the bits we don’t like and in doing so have we have created this weird fable – about honour and bravery rather than pointless death and terrifying violence.

    See this article, to see what I mean.

  11. The Bartlett Diaries Says:

    Anzac Day…

    I think it is a pity that Remembrance Day has become less significant in recent times, as to me it seems more effective as a recognition of the universal truth of the tragedy and loss of war, without being as coloured by the excessive nationalism that …

  12. Graham Bell Says:

    About the death of an experienced soldier while handling a weapon in Iraq:

    For what it is worth, whilst I was on service in the Viet-Nam War,
    an American soldier was killed when his 7.62mm M14 rifle, which was field stripped!!! (dismantled) for cleaning, accidently discharged. It was definitely NOT suicide.

    I do not yet know why the Australian soldier in Iraq died …… but news reports of his death have the stench of government spin-doctoring all over them.

    Will the soldier’s widow and children be deprived of some entitlements if the story can be manipulated one way or the other?

  13. Brownie Says:

    Two small children waiting at home, would seem to be a very good support for a case of ‘completely accidental’ death.
    Re ‘spin’ – if they can they will, the heartless bastards.
    His coffin will come home to a country town, and there will be publicity.
    Very very sad.

    Blogger Barista has a very touching post on ‘war’ and Neil Young 30 years on (he will be in Suki’s links, Graham).

  14. david tiley Says:

    He was supposed to be an expert on weapons. A sniper, as I recall.

    If it is a white lie, I hope it works. He has two small children.

    If it was simpy badly described, then I hope the truth comes out.

    If someone else shot him…

    I wonder if the army knows and we are not being told.

  15. Suki Says:

    Graham I don’t know how compensation is calculated for a deceased member of the ADF whether they have died of a self-inflicted wound or not.
    I don’t know anything for sure except these figures coming out from the US Military.

  16. Stuart Fenech Says:

    I am told by a reputable source that the reason the death of the young soldier is being reported this way is because… if it is reported as suicide, his young family gets nothing.

  17. Rooster Says:

    Here’s a trackback.

  18. kartar Says:

    And then to top it all off – this. I am beyond words. They didn’t even manage to send the right body home – some fucking private contractor messed up the paperwork and sent the wrong body home. It’s shameful. I am horrified the Army (and the Defence Forces) didn’t have the decency and respect to handle the transport of the body themselves. So much for lest we forget.

  19. Brownie Says:

    Hear hear.
    For all the shit we dump on the USA, at least they know how to handle a dead Marine.
    The body of every Marine killed, has it’s own individual escort to the family door, and that Marine remains their support from then on.
    No screwups to add to the burden of death.

    Two little kids in Briagolong, fatherless because of our greed for oil.
    This country needs a LEADER.
    Where is this person with strength integrity and vision?

  20. Brownie Says:

    This links to a story on how Marines take care of their casualties.
    The Australian Defence Minister ought to read it.

  21. Graham Bell Says:

    Suki:
    Thanks.

    David Tiley:
    Good one.

    All:
    Veterans wearing orange armbands on ANZAC Day as a silent protest at DVA’s abuse and neglect was always a forlorn hope ….. the government would just laugh at them …… but it did no harm whatsoever and it would have made some veterans feel better for having done something. Besides, our soldiers overseas would have had their morale raised by knowing that somebody back home did care enough about what would happen to them if things did go wrong.

    BUT …. the spiteful attempts at bullying veterans into not wearing orange armbands or ribbons on ANZAC Day must go down in the pages of infamy as one of the lowest cowardly acts of political crawling ever to occur in Australia.

  22. Jennifer Says:

    All very, very sad.

  23. Suki Says:

    Graham and Stuart Fenech,
    It seems we have some definitive advice here

    “A spokesman for the assistant Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson, said that whether there was a suicide or not made no difference to the entitlements of Private Kovco’s widow.”

  24. Graham Bell Says:

    There is always the possibility of homicide in war. Whether arising from inter-personal conflict as in civilian life ….. or as “contact without enemy” or “stray rounds” which might happen if a dangerous or incompetent officer has to be taken out of the picture as rapidly as possible. I’m not suggesting that there was homicide in this case but the possibility must not be rejected out of hand.

    Whatever really did happen and whatever the prime minister may desire, this tragedy has COVER UP stamped all over it ….. so if there is nothing to cover-up then why bother covering-up?

  25. Suki Says:

    Agreed Graham.

    Mrs. Kovco (Senior) and the soldier’s brother Benn, are two people that the ADF has to support and FEAR.

    Neither of these people are behaving in a way that the ADF can control. This is our best insurance for a truthful outcome to the Board Of Inquiry.

  26. Graham Bell Says:

    Suki:
    1st. I have sympathy for the Kovco family and for everyone in 3RAR.

    2nd. There is a real need for the tightest secrecy and for ruthless deception …. in operational matters where soldiers’ lives are endangered by careless talk ….. and so as to frustrate the enemy.

    But ….there is no operation here; there is no enemy here …… there is only a soldier killed whilst on active service and his bereaved family. And the bereaved family is not the enemy, is it?

    Honour demands that there be no secrecy and no deception here – or even the slightest hint of it – even if several people have committed gross acts of stupidy, malice or incompetence.

    3rd. Our soldiers are in Iraq supposedly combatting terrorism and helping the Iraqi people recover from decades under the rule of Saddam Hussein and his Baathists ….. so why do the federal government’s spindoctors seem to be so hell-bent on handing enemy psyops professionals a glorious victory on a golden plate?

  27. Suki Says:

    I have no answer Graham.

    I have however considered many aspects. I have come to the conclusion that there are two very separate issues here. One being the cause and circumstances of the soldier’s death. The second being the bungled repatriation of the soldier’s body from Kuwait to Melbourne.

    We may have all or none of these-
    A new, inexperienced Minister who does not have a grasp of military culture?

    A relatively new CDF who was widely considered next in line for the job that Cosgrove got, but was believed to have been too honest as CAF when it came to talk TAMPA and is now very, very cautious and circumspect and not communicating effectively?

    A powerful, high profile, respected ex-CDF weighing in with anecdotal, and historical contexts to lend an air of confidence in the ADF, but potentially alienate the Coroners?

    Tired and fatigued serving members?

    Australia and Australians not coming to terms with the very brutal reality that war kills people.† As such, we can discuss everything, but “Why was he there?” “Why is Australia there?”

    All that said, there are two facts that remain- a soldier is dead and he has left a Jake Kovco-shaped hole in the Universe of many, many people.
    -There is every likelihood that more Australians will die before ‘the job is done’ in Iraq.

  28. Graham Bell Says:

    Thanks Suki. Agree with most of your list although (and I really hate to say this) Nelson seems to have a better idea of what’s happening than did most of the previous incumbents in his portfolio.

    The underlying problems go much further back…. and they include the flawed selection and training of ADF officers. (Sorry, I don’t have the power to reform the system).

    Sadly, you are probably right about more casualties. The Australian public will find it difficult enough to deal with the ones who are known to be dead ….. but how will they cope if there is a large number who have just disappeared off the face of the earth – forever?

  29. kartar Says:

    I was talking to my father tonight – an ex-Army officer. He expressed a) disbelief at the government stating anything about the non-combat death of a soldier without a full inquiry – no way should ANYTHING have been said until the Army had investigated – it should have been ‘No comment’ all the way, b) confidence that the Army was, at heart, an honourable organisation and that any investigation would be thorough and conclusive, c) extreme doubt the Government would let the findings of the inquiry out without attempting to spin it.

    He also had serious doubts about how Private Kovco died. Apparently if Kovco was indoors and in barracks then all weapons MUST be cleared (have any chambered rounds removed) before entering barracks or any indoor office/living type areas. Weapons can be carried but always without a live round. This has apparently been standard since Vietnam to reduce the possibility of accidental discharges. Any soldier not doing this would be up on some sort of disciplinary action – weapon safety is drilled into these guys. Certainly something very odd and profoundly tragic occurred.

  30. Graham Bell Says:

    Kartar:
    I agree with what your father said …… and I share his concern that all sorts of fairy-stories will be spun out of this tragedy.

    The trouble is the public is now highly suspicious of anything at all said or done by ADF, Defence and DVA.

    The rot started with all the lies and cover-ups after HMAS Voyager was sunk in 1964 ….. there was surprisingly little nonsense throughout the Viet-Nam War itself (:-) too much competition from politicians and diplomats perhaps? ) …. however, from the late ‘seventies onwards, there has been an almost continuous stream of lies, scandals, cover-ups, frauds and heaven only knows what else, most without purpose other than to protect the reputation or the vanity of some pompous, incompetent dill or another.

    And what a catalogue it is: The sell-off of war service housing land. Dodgy naval purchases. Nomad crashes. Bastardization, bullying and suicides. The notorious Evatt Royal Commission. The Blackhawk tragedy. Noisy submarines. Cheating the widow of the SAS soldier killed on active service in Afghanistan. …. these are only a few samples from a long dismal list.

    The usual trick of defaming, intimidating, shutting-up and belittling anyone – serving or civilian – who spoke up about these scandals has been used too often. There are now so many people throughout the country who have had direct personal experience of these scandals or knows somebody who has had that now, whenever there is an attempt to cover-up, instead of keeping things quiet, fuel is only added to the fire.

    Nowadays, only the gullible trust ADF, Defence or DVA ….. and that is sad …… and it is a sad too that recruiting has been so adversely affected by all this disgraceful and dishonourable conduct (and yes, I have heard all the “demographic changes” excuses too).

    I wish the new honest, forthright CDF all the best of luck in restoring the honour and the effectiveness of the ADF ….. he certainly has a Herculean task ahead of him.

  31. Suki Says:

    Ten days later, this story continues to unfold and create more distress.
    Be it grief or the ability to perform due diligence.

    “Relatives of the Bosnian man whose body was mistakenly sent to Melbourne are still waiting. A body, believed to be of a Bosnian father of three, Juso Sinanovic, 47, is in Melbourne as the Victorian coroner completes its identification. Mr Sinanovic died in Iraq from a stroke on April 17. His family was last week preparing for a funeral. But on Thursday a US soldier visited his widow, Refija, in Sarajevo to say the body had been sent to Melbourne. “It’s painful. I feel helpless,” she told the Bosnian paper Nezavisne Novine.”

    “The NSW police investigation of the death scene faces delay because the Defence Force insisted the coroner’s team do a three-day course on protective equipment and survival techniques.”

  32. Brownie Says:

    1. It is a WAR, whatever anybody claims; and in WAR, there are NO RULES. That is precisely why we of sound intellect and ego, are all ANTI-WAR, any war.

    2. Your Dad dies of a heart attack and before your funeral for him, his body takes a trip to the farthest place from home it possibly could. Those poor Bosnians.

    3. If the ADF had sent Jake’s MOM to the war, it would have been over in a week.

    4. What was in the email he got from his wife right before the ‘incident’?

  33. Graham Bell Says:

    Brownie:
    Re 4: The stench of S P I N is all over this story ….. if a convenient e-mail did not exist, it would most certainly be invented. These people, incompetent and bereft of any honour, are compulsive cheats who just can’t help themselves.

    Suki:
    Thank you for thinking of the Bosnian’s bereaved family in Sarajevo.

  34. Brownie Says:

    When I saw newsfilm of the flag-draped silver casket arrive in Sydney, I thought: if his body had been given that treatment right from the start it would never have been lost. Sunday Age trying to blame ‘illiterate employees’ in Kuwait. For God’s sake!

    Briagolong will be a bunfight for the State funeral.

    (Graham: you will notice that I also expressed sympathy for the Bosnian family)

  35. Graham Bell Says:

    Brownie:
    Yes, did notice your sympathy for Bosnian family – sorry if it looked as though I had ignored it.

    Suki and Everyone:
    I dread to think how the Kovco family’s grief will be manipulated so as to make cheats and crooks look good today.

    I’ve come across one (unconfirmed) expression of concern about the selection of Queensland’s former Police Commissioner “Uncle Jim” Sullivan for the inquiry. Given everything that has happened so far, is there cause for general concern about this or not?

  36. Graham Bell Says:

    Eighteen days later …. and what a mess!

  37. Suki Says:

    …and still yet to be finalised!
    I left my disc in the drive and the girlchild accused me of doing ‘a brigadier’…

  38. Jennifer C Says:

    Obviously various people who have anything to do with this case are simply freaking out.

  39. Graham Bell Says:

    It is becoming increasingly obvious the Kovco tragedy, sad and disgaceful as it is, is a catalyst with a far wider effect than could have been imagined just after ANZAC Day. Pte J Kovco may not have died in vain …. his unfortunate death may bring about a long overdue clean up of Defence and ADF. The incompetent, the crooked and the bullies are probably running around like chooks trying to find scape-goats, excuses and even more ways to cover-up ……. and they’ll get away with it too if we citizens don’t keep a sharp lookout.

  40. Brownie Says:

    Graham, Suki’s post asked: “Is the right to march as a veteran only reserved for those that donít challenge the ANZAC story of honour, bravery, sacrifice and compliance? ” and I would like to suggest that those of us who have historically attended and applauded the returned servicemen, are acknowledging that the poor bastards managed to survive despite the total SLOPPY ADMIN which dogged WW1 and has continued for 90 years to Pte Kovco.

    There is NO excuse for that brigadier leaving a CD in a public computer. None. She should be sentenced to a lifetime of childminding the Kovco kids in Briagolong.

    The fact that the draft report contained nothing to satisfy the Kovco parents, is beside the point.

  41. Suki Says:

    Good points all Brownie!

  42. Graham Bell Says:

    Suki and Brownie;
    Just back; sorry it took so long to respond.

    That ANZAC Day should be reserved for crawlers, moral cowards and good little boys is repugnant to me. It is the day ALL Australia honours those who died in the service of their own people and those who grieved and suffered for them.

    I really like the idea of the offender being sentenced to do the childminding of the Kovco kids! Apparently, the brigadier was far less to blame than were her civilian and military superiors – their ineptness and arrogance made an incident like leaving a CD in a public place almost inevitable …… but, naturally, she will be burnt at the stake for it and they will be rewarded and promoted.

  43. Suki Says:

    I fear you are right Graham.

    I’m wondering if the role of gender plays any part in who becomes a scapegoat and who doesn’t.

    I’m thinking out aloud as I consider the parallels between Brigadier Liz Cosson and Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski

    Both high ranking, both accomplished, both women, both with no more hope of a military career…

  44. Graham Bell Says:

    Suki:
    I’m afraid you’re right about gender ….. and, incidently, right too in mentioning scapegoats and accomplishment in the same breath.

    My own opinion is that many military officers and long-term soldiers are too immature to accept that a mere woman could possibly be better than them (fortunately, my own upbringing protected me against such stupidity). This immature attitude to women is then reinforced by being surrounded by peers who share this delusion; this in turn is exacerbated by a very selective reliance on certain sets of behavior and on certain traditions until it becomes a rigid organizational culture; (Boudicca doesn’t even get a look-in) . Then when you add a selection-for-entry system that is Clowns selecting Clones, the organizational culture becomes very difficult indeed to change.

    This set of attitudes can be cured …. but like alcoholism, a prerequisite is for individuals to admit that the problem exists and then it requires a sincere and firm commitment to make a permanent change in oneself regardless of what one’s (drinking) pals think or how they try to tempt one back into old bad habits. I would also suggest locking each one up for a week with a lusty lady as a sovereign remedy for their ailment …. but that would be too radical and too politically-incorrect to gain wide acceptance as a treatment regime. :-).

    This is a very dangerous attitude for soldiers to have because if they carry their demeaning attitude to women over from peacetime Australia into a war-like situation …. it could get them killed! In case anybody hasn’t noticed: quite a few suicide bombers were bright young middle-class women with excellent future prospects; some of those in the Moscow theatre seige were women prepared to die; and, way back in ancient history, many Viet-Cong sapper-reconnaisance and mine-clearing troops were women. The long conflict in Sri Lanka has led several women to die for their cause …… and these pompous imitation soldiers still have contempt for shielas!!!!

    Instead of taking delight in serving with bright, fit, determined, reliable, hard-working and very capable female colleagues, these moral weaklings retreat into the comfort of their prejudices.

    Our diseased military culture rewards conformity and rewards it very richly indeed, even after discharge from service. Accomplishment and innovation, on the other hand, are routinely demeaned, scorned and sometimes punished; these are people who “rock the boat” and disturb accepted routines …… that they have the ability to “sink the Enemy’s boat” and cause the Enemy anguish is never taken into consideration. One bright note though is that at least the ADF has not yet sunk to what the chairborne bird-colonels and other Pentagon paper-shufflers did to some of the U.S. Special forces troops who were so unorthodox and so outstandingly successful in South Viet-Nam!

    Most people expect soldiers to have moral courage as well as physical courage. In a perfect world this would be true. Sadly, decades of a well-nurtured Cover-Your-Own-A**e culture in the ADF and Defence has led for a frantic search for scapegoats whenever something goes wrong. Instead of asking WHAT went wrong and HOW to we fix it or prevent it recurring ? ….. and immediately saying sorry and getting stuck straight into the hard work of rectifying the mess, we have this disgraceful hunt around for someone to blame; anyone will do. When all else fails, there’s always that handy standby: Blame the dead pilot. Of course, when there is manifest avoidable human error, responsibility must be assigned but not as a substitute for finding and fixing the problem!!!

    The worst that should happen to Brigadier Cossens is regular visits to see how the Kovco family are getting on; nothing else ….. Now when is she due for promotion to Major-General?. (Sorry Brownie – she can check on how her former boss is getting on in the new child-minding career while she’s there though).

    By the way, I’m not a new-age guy. I like to mix with the other blokes at a barbeque and talk about common interests …. but definitely not to the exclusion of the ladies; life would be boring if we did.

  45. Graham Bell Says:

    The investisgation into the death of Pte Jake Kovco starts in Sydney tomorrow, Monday 19th June.

  46. Suki Says:

    Thank you Graham.
    And look at what day one brings us…

  47. Graham Bell Says:

    Yes Suki …. and I’m mystified by some of the things that have been made public. Good on “Soldier 17″ for telling a few home truths about resources ….. pity that in doing so he has probably wrecked his chances of promotion …. but that’s what happens when Spite triumphs over Leadership.

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