When I heard that Alexander Downer hadn't made a connection between
the founder of an organisation and that organisation's most famous
victim (the first Australian casualty in the Invasion of Iraq) I
thought his memory had gone wonky again, like it had in the AWB
hearings. Then I checked his website and began to wonder.
The key to the current events is an interview that Downer gave
from his Stirling palace on April 9, 2003. At the time Downer was
triumphant, and more anxious to talk about having set up the
arrangements that would later lead to the AWB scandal than to talk
about Moran. Perhaps that might have been why he instinctively denied that he knew of Moran's "other job"?
[DFAT transcript extract, April 9, 2003]
On the subject of Paul Moran, there was a report over the weekend that
I suppose effectively characterised him as a spy. Do you have any
information about that?
Downer: No. I do remember seeing
that report and I'm trying to remember whether I've seen anything more
on it, but you've sort of asked me that a bit out of the blue, because
I did read the story but I don't have any information to give you. We
certainly had no knowledge of him being a spy for anybody. We don't
have any information on that, and I don't think from recollection we've
heard anything more about it.
Journalist: Do you have any information to support those claims?
Downer: I don't have any information to support those claims.
Journalist: Even whether he was contracted to the Rendon Group?
Downer: I don't – no.
least we now have the date that, at the very latest, Downer became
aware of the Rendon Connection. Surely, then, someone in DFAT would
surely have passed on the Rolling Stone piece which explained where
Moran fits in:
[Rolling Stone extract 17/11/05]
had lived a double life, filing reports for the Australian Broadcasting
Corp. and other news organizations, while at other times operating as a
clandestine agent for Rendon, enjoying what his family calls his "James
Bond lifestyle". Moran had trained Iraqi opposition forces in
photographic espionage, showing them how to covertly document Iraqi
military activities, and had produced pro-war announcements for the
Pentagon. "He worked for the Rendon Group in London," says his mother,
Kathleen. "They just send people all over the world -- where there are
Moran was covering the Iraq invasion for ABC, filming at
a Kurdish-controlled checkpoint in the city of Sulaymaniyah, when a car
driven by a suicide bomber blew up next to him. "I saw the car in a
kind of slow-motion disintegrate," recalls Eric Campbell, a
correspondent who was filming with Moran. "A soldier handed me a
passport, which was charred. That's when I knew Paul was dead."
The Rendon Group responded to the piece by saying that Moran used to work for them...
[Rolling Stone extract 23'11'05]
While we are proud to acknowledge that Mr. Moran, a gifted freelance
cameraman, provided video services to TRG (and many other clients), he
had not done any TRG work for years prior to the events described by
Oh really? What one expect a media-spin company to do? Admit all?
[Australian Story 3/10/03]
NEWS REPORTER: Now it has been revealed that Moran worked extensively
for the INC [Iraqi National Congress] and with a company working for American intelligence and
the Pentagon, employed to spread anti-Saddam propaganda. And
al-Haideri's story certainly hit that mark. ZAAB SETHNA: It's
true that he was unwittingly involved in, I guess, what could be called
a propaganda operation in the early '90s, but people must remember he
didn't know that.
Here's what Mullah Krekar had to say about Moran on Tuesday night:
Foreign Correspondent extract:
is allowed for me in Islam to kill him, to kill his translator, to kill
the people which give him food and water, give him medicine – all of
Krekar claims to have relinquished control of Ansar al Islam
in 2002, months before the suicide bombing in which the Australian
cameraman Paul Moran and five Kurdish soldiers were killed.
Even so, he knows intimate details of the attack, including what the Saudi suicide bomber did in his last minutes alive.
is entirely unrepentant about the killing . Asked what he would say to
the widow of Mr Moran and his family Krekar said, “I say to all the
western women don’t send your sons to kill us.”
Corcoran: “ He wasn’t killing anybody, he was a cameraman!’
Krekar: “Yes. He was also with our enemy. “
memory seems to have been much better back when he addressed
Parliament, only a few days after Krekar's arrest in Norway:
CALDWELL: Last month, US Secretary of State Colin Powell identified
Ansar al-Islam as "Exhibit A" in America's case to link Baghdad with
al-Qaeda, based on several as yet unproven allegations. Today,
Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer endorsed that contention.
DOWNER: There was a report, Mr Speaker, in February of this year that
claimed that Iraqi intelligence agents are among Ansar al-Islam's
leadership, though we can't confirm that. There are also reports that
Ansar al-Islam has been experimenting with poison gas and toxins, and
that these may have been provided by the Iraqi regime.
Affairs Minister Alexander Downer says he is not aware of any links
between an alleged terrorist detained in Norway and the death of an
Australian in Iraq.
Mullah Krekar is the founder of the
extremist group Ansar al Islam and has urged his followers to attack
Australian troops in Iraq.
Tonight's Foreign Correspondent on ABC TV tonight reveals he may have been connected to the car-bombing that killed ABC cameraman Paul Moran in Iraq in 2003.
United Nations and the US Government believe Mullah Krekar is a
terrorist and he is fighting deportation from Norway, which considers
him a threat to national security.
Mr Downer says Mullah Krekar will not influence Australia's presence in Iraq.
who is wanted, who is a serious terrorist, we would expect him to make
extremist and threatening and blood-curdling comments as he has done,"
"But obviously we're not going to have our foreign policy dictated to by him," he said.
Too late Alex, he's been influencing Australian foreign policy for years.
Remember this report by Mark Forbes in The Age on 25/3/03?
Minister Alexander Downer said intelligence had identified the
organisation responsible [for Moran's death] as Ansar al Islam, which he said was "actively
supported by al Qaeda"
To look at things from another angle, take this BBC report (11 days after Saddam Toppling) from 2/04/03
other Australian journalists have been detained by Iraqi authorities in
Baghdad, and another Australian reporter has been deported.
Peter Wilson and photographer John Feder were under Iraqi guard at the
Meridien Palestine hotel in Baghdad, the editor of their paper, The
Australian, said: "They
are not allowed to leave the hotel, their phones have been confiscated
and they are not allowed to file," the newspaper's national security
editor, Patrick Walters, told Reuters news agency. On Wednesday, the
Sydney Daily Telegraph said its reporter, Ian McPhedran, had been
ordered to leave Baghdad.
told his newspaper the officials accused him of breaking regulations by
travelling from his hotel to the Iraqi capital's information ministry
building, the French news agency AFP reported.
things were this bad for journos "after the event", then it can only be
imagined how bad things were beforehand. Actually, no imagination is
required when you've met someone who was there at the time.
2003 I met a man who'd just come out of Iraq. Josh Mainka had been
blogging of his experiences on musician Grant Lee Phillips' (Grant Lee Buffalo)
website and was travelling with Phillips as he toured Australia. I saw the amazing pictures in his camera, and decided that the
best treatment for shell shock was a serious amount of Absythe. Somehow
he still remembers me. When you read his words below you can understand
how peculiar a Sunday night at The Gov must have been in comparison to what he'd just been through:
[Sky News extract 14/4/03 (three weeks after Moran's death]]
belonging to the US 3rd Infantry Division were now on the Jumhuriya
Bridge. Three mechanised warriors were goading the Iraqi defenders of
the east bank of the Tigris into a fight. The battle had begun under
cover of darkness with explosions on the west bank announcing that the
armour was on the move.
Mid morning brought disturbing news. The
Al-Jazeera office on the east bank, close to the ministry of planning,
had been hit by a shell, igniting a generator and killing one reporter
and seriously injuring his cameraman......
Rafat, an Al Jazeera
engineer, had been helping CBS stay on air since the others had gone. I
offered my condolences to him over the loss of his colleague when
suddenly I heard a sound I instinctively knew spelled danger
Down," I shouted, pushing him and CBS correspondent Lara Logan to the
ground. Then an explosion and the sound of debris falling all around
us. Then, for a moment, silence.
I ran back to my tent, called
London and screamed: "They've hit the hotel." There was a sound I will
never forget: A woman's voice, distorted with shock and fear saying:
"Oh my God, they've hit Reuters. They've hit Reuters."One of the
tanks on the bridge had turned his barrel towards us, mistaking the
glint of a TV camera on a tripod for a rocket launcher and fired one
shell. The mile between it and its target, our hotel, took a split
second to negotiate. Lara, ex-Reuters like myself, had witnessed one of
anyone's worst nightmares here: So called "friendly fire" directed at
people you know and love.
24 hours after this Mainka was manning
the satellite uplink that provided the "picture of the End Of The War".
Here's how he describes the event:
The focus turned to the statue
of Saddam Hussein in the centre of the square. Iraqis were releasing
decades of fear and loathing and smashing the smiling figure towering
over them. A large man, built like a circus strong man, wielded a
sledgehammer and pummelled the base of the statue, exorcising his
demons the only way he knew how.
The Marines came to help and
attached a chain to the statue's neck. A solitary soldier from New York
climbed up and and draped the stars and stripes on the dictator's head.
Then in respect for the Iraqis, their flag - a reminder that this was
not an occupation but a liberation. Iraq was for the Iraqis, not a
The chain grew taught, pulled by American tracked
armour, and Saddam Hussein leaned parallel to the ground to cheers as
he bowed to the will of the people. One final pull and all that
remained were a pair of boots and a broken figure of a man being
trampled under dancing celebrating feet.
"They got it down," were
the words of President George W Bush in the White House, watching Sky
News live on Fox. They certainly had. And the world watched, too.
There you have it.. Saddam Toppling was carried out by US soldiers! Mainka, unsurprisingly, now works for Al Jazeerah.
now let's get back to Downer's denials this week. There was a lot going
on at the time; Moran's death was being used to explain the deaths of
journalists in Baghdad, Downer was organising Trevor Flugge's
paperwork, and a media organisation that reportedly invented the Iraqi
National Congress had lost its Australian operative. It's amazing mark
of respect on Rendon's part, given all that was transpiring, that he
flew all the way to Adelaide for the funeral. Did Downer take the 20
minute drive dowm from his Mayo manse to attend? What, and risk being
photographed with Rendon?
You get the gist. Before denying any
knowledge of the Norwegian connection to Moran's death, all Downer had
to do was check on his own website. Given that Moran's death might have
been intrinsic to creating the most media-friendly [sic] environment to
broadcast a sanitised version of the end of the war, and given what
Alex had been up to, there is much that Alex could probably tell us
about behind-the-scenes machinations. But he never will.
[another Foreign Correspondent
Krekar says Moran and correspondent Eric Campbell, who was injured in the attack, were in the “wrong work at the wrong time.”
arriving in Norway as a refugee in 1991, Krekar began commuting back to
Iraq to create the feared terrorist group Ansar al Islam. His goal was
the establishment of a Taliban-style Islamic state in northern Iraq.
Moran was cited in US Army reports as amid apparent singling-out of journalists as targets
this was obviously a slightly different situation. Rolling Stone
explains the part of The Rendon Group's role in the piece:
top target that the Pentagon assigned to Rendon was the Al-Jazeera
television network. The contract called for the Rendon Group to
undertake a massive "media mapping" campaign against the news
organization, which the Pentagon considered "critical to U.S.
objectives in the War on Terrorism." According to the contract, Rendon
would provide a "detailed content analysis of the station's daily
broadcast . . . [and] identify the biases of specific journalists and
potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances, including the
possibility of specific relationships and sponsorships."
Jazeerah and Moran both get blown up within a fortnight... do you see a possible
connection? It looks like, from this week's report, that the bloke in
Norway who apparently sponsored Moran's death knew (or at least now
knows) exactly what the score was. That Downer now can't connect the
dots is dumbfoundingly amazing.
For overkill, one final extract from the Rolling Ston
the CIA official flew back to Washington with failed lie-detector
charts in his briefcase, Chalabi and Sethna didn't hesitate. They
picked up the phone, called two journalists who had a long history of
helping the INC promote its cause and offered them an exclusive on
Saddam's terrifying cache of WMDs.
For the worldwide broadcast
rights, Sethna contacted Paul Moran, an Australian freelancer who
frequently worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "I think I've
got something that you would be interested in," he told Moran, who was
living in Bahrain. Sethna knew he could count on the trim,
thirty-eight-year-old journalist: A former INC employee in the Middle
East, Moran had also been on Rendon's payroll for years in "information
operations," working with Sethna at the company's London office on
Catherine Place, near Buckingham Palace.
Oh, there's one more from Australian Story:
SETHNA: Paul and I met in 1990. It was just after the Iraqi invasion of
Kuwait, and we'd both been taken on by a public relations and
consulting company in America called the Rendon Group. At that point we
were trying to help the Kurds and the Iraqis opposed to Saddam set up a
now there's a clue if I ever saw one! From the look of it, you'd think
that Mullah Krekar and Paul Moran might for a while have been working
for the same intents and purposes.. What changed? Think, Alex,
think! Sometimes it helps, when trying to remember bits of
information, to remember what you were doing at the time they
occurred. Let me help. Just after Moran's death you were in the US
negotiating Australia's AWB "spoils of war."
Here's another memory aide-some events that, given timelines, happened within five days-.
Finally.. on the 24th of March 2003 you were recorded in Hansard as blaming Kreker's organisation for Moran's death.
You have a serious memory problem, Mr Downer.