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Dead soldier's mother refuses to believe official story

Independent journalist Darryl Mason is the convenor of New Reality and has submitted a number of pieces to Webdiary. His last was Drilling Downer.

Second 'official story' in five days about how Jake Kovko died

By DP Mason

Jake Kovco's mother could barely contain her fury when she spoke today about the death of her son, and the distressing, confusing, swirl of blame and distortions that have flowed from the Australian government, and the Australian Defence Force, since he died last Friday while on active duty in Iraq.

The family had decided to keep quiet about the mystery surrounding Jake's death, preferring to let the Army handle the media questions, but a string of incredible mistakes has culminated with the body of Judy's son not being sent back to Australia where the family was waiting to retrieve the coffin (see story below).

Judy Kovco now wants Australians to know exactly what has happened in the six days since her son was killed, and the circumstances under which he died.

Originally, Australians were told by the Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, that the family did not want Jake's name or information about his death, released to the media. By the next day, the media knew his name, his age, about his family and had access to photos of him Jake and his family.

"I have shut up for the Army," she told The Age newspaper in Melbourne. "We have shut up and we let the Army handle it."

Judy and the Kovco family, along with close friends, were waiting at the local airport for Jake's body to arrive back in Australia when they were told the wrong body had been shipped back.

She said "all hell broke loose."

It now appears the body inside the coffin was that of a Bosnian man. Judy told The Age, and she was concerned that her son's corpse had been shipped to Bosnia, instead of still being in Kuwait as the Defence Minister has claimed.

Judy Kovco is also furious about Nelson's continual statements about the death of her son, which seem to change by the day.

Nelson said this morning that Jake Kokco had not died cleaning his pistol, as Nelson had claimed within hours of the soldier's death last Friday.

Nelson, this morning, "He had returned to his room with two of his mates, they had been out on patrol.

"He was doing something other than handling his firearm and in the process of fiddling about with the other equipment he had, it would appear, that in some way he's knocked his gun and it's discharged."

"It was near him in his vicinity and he made some kind of movement which suggests that it discharged.

"There was obviously a live round in it which there should not have been and that's as much as I should probably say at the moment."

"He wasn't in fact cleaning his weapon."

But the government spin spouted earlier by Nelson hadn't convinced Jake's mother for a moment.

She knew her son hadn't died from a gun cleaning accident, and neither does she believe he died in an accident while handling the weapon. He had grown up with guns and was an experienced deer hunter.

"My son knew guns so well," Judy told The Age. "None of us can comprehend how this could have happened."

"You could have put a blindfold on him. He could dismantle a gun and put it together again without even looking at it. We kept saying there's no way, there's no way."

Judy doesn't believe her son shot himself, or committed suicide.

But if it wasn't suicide, a cleaning accident or a gun handling accident, then how did Jake Kovco die?

His mother says even the new story told by Nelson makes no sense at all.

"The gun went off," she said, in response to the claims made by Nelson this morning. "It was near him. It was nearby. (So) what did Jake do? Put his head down near the table so it could shoot him in the head...?"

Was Kovco shot by an isurgent, or enemy sniper, while he was on patrol close to his base, and then rushed back there with a fatal head wound?

It's a question worth asking now that the two official stories appear to be utterly worthless.

The Army had not made contact with the Kovco family earlier this morning to clear up the confusion, and this has made Judy even angrier.

When she contacted his commanding officer, he was still repeating the Nelson story that her son appeared to have accidentally shot himself.

The disgusting disrespect shown to a dead Australian digger

The body of the first Australian Defence Force soldier to die on active duty in Iraq was supposed to arrive home in Australia last night.

His wife, his parents, his friends were all at the airport to meet the coffin as it came off a commercial. That Private Jake Kovco didn't come back on a Military flight is bad enough, but he didn't come back at all.

The process of preparing his corpse for the flight home to Australia had been contracted out by the Defence Force to a private company in Kuwait.

They sent back the wrong body to Australia.

A mistake beyond comprehension, considering the coffin had been so publicly draped in the Australian flag only two days before.

There was to have been a funeral with full Military honours. This has now been delayed, and Kovco's body is not expected to be brought home until the weekened, at the earliest.

How this stunning stuff-up could have possibly occured is now being investigated. Of course, there will be "an inquiry", which will allow all concerned to avoid answering the hard questions about what really happened.

The Australian Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, originally claimed he was on his way to pick up the soldier's shattered widow when he found out what had happened It now appears he travelled to the town of Sale to tell Kovco's widow, Shelley, himself.

If he hadn't, the media would have likely revealed the truth to the family at the airport.

Shelley gave Nelson a serve, which he whined about on TV the next morning.

Shelley demanded to speak to Prime Minister, John Howard. It was midnight. Nelson was smart enough to get the call through. When the Prime Minister woke up and came onto the line, the widow gave him an appropriate dose of her outrage as well.

By 11am the next morning, there was still no official apology from the Defence Minister or the Prime Minister.

Jake Kovco's corpse was lost when after it was moved from a US Military mortuary to a privately owned Kuwait mortuary.

Brendan Nelson claims : "He was at all times appropriately identified by the Australian Defence Force and Australian army. He was accompanied by one of the non-commissioned officers, one of the mates with whom he worked."

But you have to wonder about this truth of this statement as well. After all, it was Brendan Nelson himself who claimed that Private Kovco was killed in an accident while he was cleaning his weapon.

Another flat out lie, we now learn.

And don't be concerned about the minister, or the government, trying to cover up the truth about what how Jake Kovco died. As if they would do that?

Nelson : "...there is no evidence that it was anything other than an accident and nor is there any evidence that it involved either of the other two soldiers who were in the room."

Maybe Nelson should just shut up before he spins any more webs of distortion, and causes further distress to the family.

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Richard, I'm more than a little bemused by your reply. Do you honestly refuse to retract your assertion that Jake Kovco was a "hired murderer" and that he was either "assassinated" or "murdered by one of his mates"?!?

This isn't a 'debate', Richard, it's slander, pure and simple. And as I suggested in my previous post you're lucky it wasn't me who you targeted with your slander or you would have heard from my lawyers by now.

I also find it absurd that even in your apology-of-sorts you just can't stop yourself from persisting with your pathetic little conspiracy theories. You really need to give it a rest for five seconds every so often. The world's really not out to get you, or your family's pub for that matter.

To Stuart Re the Kovco Discussion

Stuart McCarthy, since many of the comments you wish to be withdrawn were made by me I need to respond.

 While I'm embarrassed by some of the things that I said I would not retract them.  Many others have wondered along similar lines.  I was stupid enough to say them.

The one thing that I deeply regret is my insentivity in the timing of my posts.  As you saw, when a level of distress arose on the thread I immediately withdrew, and have not posted again till now.  The conversation should have been commencing now, after the commencement of the inquiry. 

I still am suspicious of details within the scenario, especially the swapping of the body tags..  I am also amazed that Halliburton have not come under fire for losing the body of their Bosnian contractor.

I am glad, however inapprioprately made, that my thoughts still exist in this form, at the very least serving as part of a "cultural snapshot" of the intensity (however inappropiate) of speculation at the time, and suggest that you consider the concept of debate instead of advocating the removal of those element's of the discussion from Webdiary's history.

Oh, by the way, some of the things I tried to say didn't make it past the editors, and I respect the decisions that were made. 

Code of Ethics

David R, that being the case, why does Webdiary even bother having a 'code of ethics'? Perhaps it should be re-named "A Statement of Impressive Platitudes". Seems a bit silly to me that you would spend more time and effort deleting posts with spelling errors than addressing matters of principle. 

If that's the direction that you want to take with Webdiary, don't be surprised when your readership continues to decline. I suppose the targets of the slanderous bile littered throughout this particular thread might instead deal with the responsible contributors through the courts. I certainly would.

Webdiary Ethics

Email from Stuart McCarthy to Hamish Alcorn 03 May 2006:

Complaint Regarding Webdiary Breach of the Media Alliance Code of Ethics Dear Editor,

On 27 April 2006 Webdiary published an article by DP Mason titled Dead Soldier’s Mother Refuses to Believe Official Story. The article and many of the subsequent contributor’s comments manifestly breach the Media Alliance Code of Ethics. On two occasions I complained about the article and some of the comments, however the article remains published on the Webdiary website.

The following clauses of the Media Alliance Code of Ethics have been breached:

1. Failure to report and interpret honestly, strive for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts; and a distorting emphasis.

3. Failure to attribute information to its source.

4. Allowing personal interests and beliefs to undermine accuracy, fairness and independence.

11. Failure to respect private grief and personal privacy.

I hereby request that the article and the entire thread of commentary be withdrawn from publication. Should this not occur I will forward my complaint to the Media Alliance.


Stuart McCarthy


Hamish replies:

Hi Stuart,

I'm discussing your complaint with my colleagues. On the face of it though I don't think you're being reasonable. It was clearly an opinion piece (as is most on Webdiary at the moment - unfortunate I think though opinion will always be welcome). I'm not sure as to some of what you refer to and you might have to be more explicit about, for example, >which information he should have sourced, and even distorting emphasis.

I'm sure you could mount an argument about all of this, but no more than could be mounted against virtually every opinion piece written on any given day.

The main one I was concerned about myself from the beginning was the privacy one (11), and I didn't publish until the family itself had gone very public.

But consider your complaint made. It is extremely unusual, as you probably know, for us to unpublish from Webdiary, and I can see no legal reason to take the post down. But as I said, I've opened it up to discussion amongst the editors.

Of course you may approach the Media Alliance if you feel you have cause.




Stuart replies:

Hi Hamish,

Thank you for your reply. At the outset I take issue with your attempt to absolve opinion pieces from ethical standards. Webdiary either upholds its purported ethical standards or it doesn’t. You can’t have it both ways.

Below I have listed examples of breaches against each relevant clause of the Code of Ethics.

1. Failure to report and interpret honestly, strive for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts; and a distorting emphasis.

DP Mason: “Was Kovco shot by an insurgent, or enemy sniper, while he was on patrol close to his base, and then rushed back there with a fatal head wound?” This is a far-fetched conspiracy theory with no logic, let alone any factual basis.

Richard Tonkin: “This story may not be that of an accidental death of a saint. To some it may already appear to be one of a hired murderer encountering karma. To others it may be reminiscent of Wag the Dog. However the story has all the hallmarks of a propaganda invention, and therefore needs to be looked at with suspicious eyes (emphasis added).” Describing Kovco as a ‘hired murderer’ is neither accurate nor fair.

Richard Tonkin: “Personally I think it more likely for Kovco to have been assassinated than be murdered, accidentally or otherwise, by his mates (emphasis added).” Needs no explanation.

Peter Woodforde: “An Australian military police direction that the body of Private Jake Kovco was not to be moved or touched until investigators arrived in Baghdad was countermanded, soon after the death, by the Australian commander in Iraq.” (jeez! Try that one out on civvy cops, next time you’re at a scene of death! Just cross the tapes and “tidy” the body, the gun or knife or pick handle or car, and sweep things up a bit).” Richard Tonkin: “In another twist to this sad tale, it has now been revealed that normal procedures in such a situation were deliberately disregarded immediately after Kovco's death.” The news.com.au story also read that “Brigadier Symon is understood to have decided soon after the death of Pte Kovco, Australia's first military casualty in Iraq, that his body should be returned home, the Canberra Times reported today (emphasis added).” The Canberra Times report read that “There was no suggestion that this had been done with the intention of destroying evidence - it was more for the purpose of ‘cleaning it up’ for return to Australia (emphasis added)”. Woodforde and Tonkin ignore the fact that the decision was motivated by concern for the family, preferring to imply a cover-up. Clearly this is a distorting emphasis.

3. Failure to attribute information to its source.

Richard Tonkin: “Right now I'd like to see a report of the Iraqi people who Private Kovco, in his capacity as Guardian Angel of Baghdad, took careful aim at and ended their lives (emphasis added).” What is the source of this information? To my knowledge there has not been a single report of Australian soldiers from the Baghdad Security Detachment having shot and killed anyone in the three years that they have been there.

4. Allowing personal interests and beliefs to undermine accuracy, fairness and independence.

Ernest William: “Accidents do not happen - they are caused. And to the apologists - YES Howard did have a hand in this young man's death. Have we forgotten that 87% of Australians were against Howard's illegal involvement in Iraq (emphasis added)?”

Michael de Angelos: “Expressing mock outrage simply isn't on when we have been taken into a risky war based upon lies. Jake Kovko's fate and, indeed, your relative's is a direct result of a Prime Minister who declared war upon a sovereign nation which had never harmed us, who lied to Parliament about the timing of our involvement, and who never consulted the Australian people (emphasis added).”

Daniel Smyth: “How come people can't see how evil he [John Howard] is, he and his bloated capitalist mates? Is he putting something mind-deadening in the water supply of all major cities and towns?”

Ernest William: “The Bush, Blair and Howard governments have pushed this "terrorist weapon" to the extreme, so much so that we are finding ourselves being convinced by the venal media corporations, that "terror" will never end and neither will wars.”

11. Failure to respect private grief and personal privacy.

While Kovco’s mother and various distant relatives may have ‘gone public’ his immediate next-of-kin, ie his wife, has not. Furthermore, his father-in-law has expressed his disgust at media speculation and intrusion and explicitly requested that the family be allowed to grieve in private. Unsubstantiated speculation about the cause of his death, his relationship with his wife, and conspiracy theories are clear failures to respect the family’s right to grieve in private.


Stuart McCarthy

David R: I support Hamish's original reply. The Code of Ethics does not restrict journalists from writing opinions or making speculations - and clearly in the print media can never require the 'unpublication' of something once printed and distributed. The second letter refers almost entirely to things written in comments (effectively "letters to the editor"), which are not covered by the code.

Webdiary Ethics

Hamish, now that the facts surrounding this incident are becoming clearer as a result of the inquiry, and in the spirit of open and honest debate, I wonder if you would be gracious enough to publish my complaint and our subsequent correspondence in this thread?

I would be happy to email you copies if you no longer have them.

Kovco- Wrong Body Was Halliburton Contractor

The body sent to Australia in the place of a fallen soldier was that of a Halliburton contractor from Bosnia. The Kellogg, Brown and Root employee was finally buried last Friday, a month after he died.

Halliburton have indicated that they will pay compensation to the family of Juso Sunanovic, who the company claims died of a brain hemorrage while playing table tennis in Iraq.

The revelation is the latest in a situation filled with procedural errors.  Pte Jake Kovco's body was moved from the scene of death before MP inspection on orders from the commander of Australian armed forces in Iraq despite an MP command that the location remain undisturbed for investigation purposes. After being ceremonially escorted to a waiting plaine, his body was accidentally substituted with that the Halliburton employee.

A report of the incident was accidentally left by an Australian Brigadier at Melbourne airport, from where it felll into the hands of a local journalist.

A relative of the fallen Australian soldier, who works in the  funeral industry, took care of the contractor's body until he was returned to his homeland.

Kovco's mother-in-law and father-in-law and Sunanovic's daughter have shared condolences this week on a Melbourne community radio station. Melbournes Radio for the Print Handicapped arranged for the two to talk.

We have thought of you a lot over the time and we know you're feeling the same way we are," David Small told Jasmina Sunanovic.

"And I think your Dad would just want you to get on with it. You know, do what you have to do and the same with your mother.

"Shelley (Pte Kovco's widow) will be all right and her two kids will be all right, but we just hope it doesn't happen to anyone again."

Confirmation or Refutation

I was under the impression that, upon entering a compound, Australian soldiers were obliged to remove the cartridges from their firearms and then fire same into a 'safe zone' to ensure that they were not loaded.

Can anybody confirm this?


G'day Daemon.

I agree that we're desperately short on facts (and not 'just' about Kovco - oh, no), but I have to (mildly) disagree with your 'issue', which "was with the capacity for gossip to become historical fact, courtesy of the internet."

Until veritably quailing at my first hearing of "Shock & Awe", practically my only fleeting interest in essaying was on such themes as barkers, bicycles and bull-bars in our local rag. Oh, yeah: not only, there was the kiddies (not!) in the wardah, SIEV-X (353 dead but they were mostly 'towel-heads' weren't they) etc. But Howard's terminal mendacity vis-à-vis Iraq, the illegal invasion thereof, lit my wick in the worst possible way.

Sooo, with respect, you can't quarantine the issue of lies to the narrow confines of the (on the scale of all things rather trivial) Kovco case. In fact, the very fact that Nelson relayed conflicting versions splits the subject wide open, a bit like that fella under the parachute in Catch-22, if you know what I mean?

Now, we're told that there were two 'colleagues' nearby (in the same room? Reports differ); they are presumably our best 'sources'. Then there's the 'chain of command' 'up' to (if that's the right direction) Nelson/Howard. We're also told that the crime-scene was not pristinely preserved, that 'evidence' (a bullet? a bullet casing? Nothing really important) may have been mislaid - then there was the body snafu. IMHO, there's actually lots to discuss.

But, the fact that we got differing versions means someone lied.

Q: Why? A: Silly question!

lie2 —n. 1 intentionally false statement (tell a lie). 2 something that deceives. —v. (lies, lied, lying) 1 tell a lie or lies. 2 (of a thing) be deceptive.  give the lie to show the falsity of (a supposition etc.). [POD]

Part of the 'pushed paradigm' that we get from the MSM (a majority of which (whom?) are thought corrupt, incl. big bits of the AusBC - Boo! Hiss!) is 'that everybody lies'. As if our PM, for example, restricted himself to 'little whites', so that's OK then? Sorry; size may not matter, but lies do. Abso-bloody-lutely.

The internet provides us with a 'window of opportunity' (reached via a ladder of same?) which allows us to 'fisk' the MSM, politicians and any other lying, even murderous bastards; in contrast to the corruptly cynical 'history written by the victors' approach, we may now engage in searching for and exposing the truth the whole truth, etc.

Which, not just by the way, is a prime requisite for a democracy, if we ever get ours back.

As a small PS, whadda 'bout the AusBC? Here's a (not quite random) quote, you may consider its veracity:

"Neil James is the Executive Director of the Australia Defence Force Association, an independent defence think-tank." [AusBC/PM]

Then there's the way the AusBC are 'pimping' for the next US war, on Iran, say. Possibly to employ nukes.

Knock, knock!

Who's there?


Armageddon who?

Armageddon out'a here.

A simple story

Years ago, before I was 20, I was visiting the family farm and took my very new, Browning .22 semi auto, or self loading, rifle. It was my second.

The first had had so many rounds through it that it was losing a degree of accuracy.

While travelling in the farm truck with my father and a neighbour to the far end of the farm, I was subjected to a barrage of ridicule — their rifles hadn’t worn out!

As we wound down a hill my father abruptly braked and said: ‘there’s a shot for you’.

I couldn’t see anything that looked like a target until my father said: ‘there, on the river bank’.

There was a finger of land, around which the river wound unseen from our position, much like a peninsula, and right down at the tip, some 400 yards away on the far side of the river on the grey mud was a small patch of very green, spring grown grass.  Lying dead on the grass was a lamb, and upon the lamb sat a hawk.

I asked him to back up, then to switch off the motor. I shot the hawk.

Some two months later I was visiting Sam, the neighbour who owned the farm upon whose land the hawk was.

Sam had been a professional meat hunter until his older brother died, when he had come back to run the farm. Among professionals Sam was regarded as one of the best.

Sam asked: ‘you shot the hawk?’


‘I saw it on the river bank when going around the ewes’. (For those who do not know, when the ewes are lambing most farmers do the rounds at least once a day.)

‘My first reaction was that somebody had been shooting on our property.  Then I realised that it wasn’t possible to get a shot at it from our side.’

‘The only place I could see that the shot could have come from, was that spot on the road.’ (The terrain down the ‘peninsula’ was very, very difficult.)

‘That was a  difficult shot. I made it 400 yards’.

‘So did I’

‘Your Browning?’


The point of the story?

Sam knew from where the shot was fired. He knew that it was a .22 calibre. He didn’t now whether it was a .22 long rifle, a .22 Hornet or whether it was one of the .222 configurations. (The Hornet and .222's have increasingly bigger powder charges. Thus, the projectile travels at higher velocities.)

In  given situations, where little time has elapsed and nothing has been disturbed, a person skilled with ‘guns’ can read from which direction the shot came, the probable type of bullet, etc.

Thus my comment, ‘the truth of the matter was known at the time of his death.’

Malcolm B Duncan’s comment that: ‘A bullet casing is very easy to remove no matter where it lands’, is suggesting that which I have not seen suggested by anybody else, and is far off in the realms of speculation.

This is an area into which I do not go.

Lambs, hawks, government lies, Cindy Sheehan here in Sydney

Hi Peter, why did you shoot the hawk? Is this what farmers do to protect the lambs? Am a mere urbanite, I am afraid. I do find the idea of shooting such unpleasant. Equally, I like munching lamb.

PS. As to the Media and the sorrowing and our Government's lies again:

the recent study that suggests that the population trusts its media more that its government should give some pride to those journalists willing to question and demand answers.

The death was reported by the government, the minister's version was questioned by the media, the outrage of the family for being lied to was reported by the media, the common people who respond so well to a loss so many have also had, were outraged at the further suffering from now being lied to. Without the media bravely questioning the family may never have known the lies, may have known and been all alone in that stomach churning knowledge and been impotent to seek the truth.

The lesson hopefully for the government is that accountability is still out there. Like Cindy Sheehan, who grieved for her son, it is hard for the apparatus to silence the questioning of lies over such deaths.

Actually, she is in Australia, talking with an Iraqi doctor at a seminar at the Seymour Centre 23 May. It may be topical to hear what she says and how she deals with the loss of her son in the war mired in lies and devastation. The Iraqi docotr is touring seeking help for the Iraqi health system, something we might feel inspired to help as a practical action for the people we have "liberated".

the hawk

Angela, good question!

Today I wouldn’t shoot the hawk. Even back then I shot only for meat, or in extreme cases of pest eradication. That is protecting crops and pasture from serious depredations. No, farmers, didn’t and I assume don’t, kill hawks as they do not cause any damage to live stock.

In that instance it was a case of two ‘oldies’ rubbishing a youngster and his ‘fancy’ rifle, and being challenged to make a shot that they didn’t believe I could make. That said I made the shot that day, on another day it could well have been different, and today there is no way I could make that shot.

Farming livestock teaches you to become pragmatic. There are times when it is necessary to kill. Then you kill as quickly and cleanly as possible. I don’t recall ever meeting a farmer who ‘liked’, or ‘enjoyed’ killing.

Cindy Sheeran, do you have any further information on the meeting?

Cindy Sheehan speaking here in Sydney, with Dr Ismael from Iraq

Hi Peter, Cindy Sheehan is the US mother mourning the loss of her son, a Marine, and known for confronting the Bush regime about the lies that sent him to the war. She will be speaking at the Seymour Centre Sydney on Tuesday 23 May at 7pm, tickets through the venue at $20.00. Dr Ismael will also be there speaking. Salaam Ismael was a junior doctor working in Iraq at the time of the invasion. He will be speaking about the state of the Iraqi heatlh system and the suffereing from it's destruction and what we can do to help.

Nice to be able to do something positive, no matter how one thought of the Iraq invasion. They really need us now.


PS. Hamish, would it be possible to publish any thing about that meeting?

Hamish: absolutely, I just need something to publish and permission from the author. Cindy Sheehan's speech would be ideal obviously. Could you investigate if that's possible?

Thanks Angela for meeting info

Thanks for the reply, Angela. It is  Dr Ismael I particularly want to hear.

And yes, the Iraqi's need and  deserve all the non-invasive help they can get. They must be at screaming point with all tose who are telling them how they ought to/will run their lives and their country.

Hamish, I presume that you are happy to have Dr  Ismael's speech under the same conditions?

Hamish: absolutely.

Good point, Phil

Point taken, Phil. However, my issue was not with the issue of truth vis a vis the conflict per se, but truth in the management of the information blizzard currently being foisted upon us by the spin doctors.

I have no issue at all with the points raised re the illegal nature of the dirty little war. I also find it hypocritical the gnashing of teeth over this little incident, sad as it is for the poor mans relatives, family et al, but my issue was with the capacity for gossip to become historical fact, courtesy of the internet.

I am more than willing to debate all the issues surrounding this one single news item, as opposed to the three weeks of news feeds from both sides of the fence that it has become. What I am saying is, we should wait until the FACTS, are in, before we decide on who should hang.

The eventual outcome, to my mind is totally and completely immaterial and irrelevant. The movement forward can only come when Abernethy and his colleagues decide who did what to whom and who paid the rent. So far I hear what the victim was in terms of his role, I have heard what his family believes, but I have not heard anything which incontrovertible fact, and that, Phil, was my only point.

depravity; 101% pure and totally pervasive with it

Support our troops!



In the first instance, some sympathy must, perforce, go to the grieving relatives - but strictly on the understanding that a) Pte Kovco was a volunteer; he put himself in a position of possibly being sent into harm's way then b) he joined the army in 2002 (ie after 9/11; dangerous adventure and/or vengeance anyone?), was a sniper we are told and therefore accepted training to 'personally' kill one-on-one (he who lives by the sword...), c) allowed himself to be sent to an invasive, illegal war (ie obscene offence, as opposed to legitimate defence), d) is one dead out of our 1500, say vs. 2400 dead out of perhaps 150,000 US soldiers, and finally, e) is merely one compared to 10s if not 100s of 1000s of toadally innocent Iraqis 'pink-misted' ie murdered, how many more terrorised and the surviving Iraqis 'living' with destroyed infrastructure under a permanent and brutal occupation which continues to use WP, HE & DU with gay abandon - also against women and children.

Note the Oh, so very public wailing and gnashing that we have seen. Pure Hollywood; gotta make a real good show, don'cha know?

It's really no surprise, that we didn't get the truth the 1st or 2nd time from the Army, Nelson, Howard or anyone else, and now we're told enquiries (yeah, plural) may take 6 mths. We can also guess, that as no enquiry is initiated unless the result is fore-ordained (so we are cynically informed), we'll probably never learn the truth - about this, or AWB, or just when Howard made his (yeah. Not 'our', or our Parliament's) decision to invade Iraq, kiddies (not!) in the wardah, SIEV-X (353 dead) etc.

We, the people - or at least 50%+1 of the voters, assuming a 'level playing field' - ie no gerrymander, and wide and honest choice of candidates, a fair and comprehensive MSM, an informed and engaged populace etc (Cue Costello: "Haw, haw, haw! - Let us prey.") - yes, we, the people are 'responsible' for keeping Howard and Co in government, especially in 2004 after our shameful participation in the invasive, illegal war was forced upon us.

Daemon Singer suggests his "fellow coalition of the willing haters to cease and desist"; why that? I do not admit to be a 'hater', BTW, not of CoW or Howard or of anyone or thing (always excepting injustice, that I truly hate with a purple passion) - I'm just a seeker of truth. B, B & H inform us we have a democracy and enjoy free speech. So I may continue to speak, no? And anyway, how could anything anyone says affect any enquiry outcome? See above about 'fore-ordained'.

Daemon also suggests that the Howardophiles might likewise desist. I have another suggestion: in the Oh, so obvious absence of any effective opposition, the Libs may wish to reign in some of their own worst excesses? The costs to us all, we the people, are aready out of control and spiralling ever further down the gurgler. It really doesn't take much to see what we need - ie. a fair, comprehensive and affordable health system. Which Howard will never do, in fact the absolute opposite. Well, Howardophiles, just why that an' whadda y'gunna do about it?

The AL-bloody-P is partly to blame for our troubles; although Latham had Howard's measure and that in spades, he (Latham) let us down at least from the point when he posed in front of a US flag. As well, I'm supposing that part of his failure was insufficient support; 50% of his colleagues voted for Beazley and may never have accepted Latham's lead. Whatever; if the ALP cannot offer us an alternative to crawling up the US' bum we must find another. BUT: however bad was the ALP, voting for Howard in 2004 was a vote for his war.

Things is crook in Tallarook; and can only ever get better if at least 50%+1 of the voters can stir themselves (away from their TVs!) to reject our filthy 'business as usual' - Oh yeah, an' it has to be emphasised; we gotta get a reasonable choice of candidate, etc. See above about a 'level playing field'. (Pssst! The greenhouse is coming!)

The elements missing

I am thoughtful about several things, but the main one of those is even discussing the death of a soldier, under ANY circumstances, without not just adequate knowledge, but ANY knowledge at all, of what happened.

I am a bit taken aback by the Jay White crew and their gleeful haw-hawing of conspiracy theories, knowing full well that the Australian Government do conspire with others in many areas, not the least with Dick Cheney in the WMD fiasco and so on.

Not one of us is a position to comment in any respect, on the issues that are being canvassed here, for one single reason. Not one of us has one iota of information about the issues.

The anti-Howard’s, of which I am one, sally forth and suggest "so and so knew this and such and such said that", but in reality, by having the discussion, we are adding to the crippling of the judicial oversight provided by the NSW coroner. It is a good thing to see the enquiry taken out of the hands of the Army however, to ensure no axes are ground, in the process of finding the reality and bringing it to the fore.

I am not in a position to ask my fellow coalition of the willing haters to cease and desist; I would trust they do it on their own, when they realise the damage they are doing to public perceptions of any in-depth enquiry into the circumstances. For the Howardophiles, I would likewise request/suggest that you desist, for the good of your guardian spirit, St John, lest he be seen as complicit in this awful thing.

You all know, that at the end of the day it will not effect any one of your masters' servants, since any enquiry will be sheathed in protection for the minister and his people. The only ones to suffer if we continue down this path will be the family in the death of their child, father and brother, and of course truth, which is ever the victim.

Kovco standing, weapon concealed

Says AAP:

Tomorrow's Bulletin magazine reports Pte Kovco was in a standing position, facing an open laptop computer on a top bunk when he was killed.

The handgun, which he had been handling shortly before his death, had been concealed, accidentally or otherwise, before it fired. Two other soldiers had been in the room with Pte Kovco before he died and last saw him standing in the position described. But The Bulletin reports he was alone when he was killed. Neither soldier saw the pistol that killed Pte Kovco, according to sources cited by The Bulletin.

The other cock up

Someone put it better than me the other day - 'what kind of Australia do we live in when one of our dead soldiers gets couriered home'!? My naive belief (and I think the belief of the Kovko family) was that Private Kovko would not be left by himself, but that an army honour guard would be with him from Iraq onto the plane that was to take him home. It kills me to think of that poor young boy all by himself in the morgue. I can remember the step brother of Private Kovko saying in an interview on radio national am program that "they promised they would not leave him (Kovko) alone".

It appears that the gravity, pomp and ceremony all come to a sudden halt when you are not on show.

My apolgies C.Parsons

I didn't understand that you were referring to a relative in the US Marines and let's hope he fares well.

Uninformed spin

The arguments raging here about who is anti or pro Bush and Howard do little to address the issue.

In the comments that address the deaths in Iraq I see only one that mentions Iraqi deaths — the only innocents in the whole bloody mess — who for my money are entitled to as much concern as any of the others.

The official reports on the cause of Private Kovko’s death would never have been believed by anybody who has worked with, or understands ‘guns’.

Had Dr Nelson or his advisers had any experience with ‘guns’ at all, he would never have made such stupid claims.

Accidentally shooting yourself while cleaning a pistol? Difficult if not impossible.

A modern weapon discharging while lying on whatever surface? Or discharging because some thing fell or was dropped on it? Spare me.

When I was young and heavily involved in using and modifying pistols, rifles and shotguns we repeatedly ran tests, both with safetys on, and with cocked and loaded weapons.

You can drop most weapons off a two story building roof onto concrete and they will not discharge. Browning builds some of the most secure systems around. (They may have dropped their standards over the years, but the general trend is toward improved safety.)

Whatever the truth of the cause of death of Private Kovco, it was not by either reason put forward by Dr Nelson. The truth of the matter was known at the time of his death. It is time the truth was told, without the spin, without the whitewash.

There are public policy

There are public policy issues here.

1/ The reported removal of the body against police wishes

2/ The loss of the bullet

3/ The autopsy report that the gun was not close when fired

While I believe Mr Nelson tried to do the right thing - someone was lying to him.

Having said the above I note that infomation is confused after such an incident.

About 16 years ago 2MMM ran a radio documentry about the road toll. Apart from being hororific and still haunts me today I remember a Melbourne grandmother talking about how she sat with her grandchild in a Melbourne children's hospital while the child died. The mother was in another hospital injured. She said the sun came up and she couldn't understand how the sun could come up on such a day.

When my sister was killed by unknown means or unknown people her children were also involved, one was critical at Westmead Children's Hospital. Even though some TV stations (thanks Ch 7 for sending us your tape for free), radio, and AAP were reporting it they got the age of one child wrong. My sister wan't identifiable (needed DNA testing - it takes a week) so there was no official notification. The media was our only source of information (NOT the SMH I may point out - they prefer rich kids like Mollie and Sophie who shared the ward with my relative).

It was important to me that the world noted the tradegy. Fairfax was the only one to get interviews (Newcastle Herald) due to my Family's anti News Ltd attitudes. Yet it was News Ltd that gave a stuff (in every state). It's the only time I've read the Tele. It was The Australian's AAP feed that convinced me my mother wasn't mad.

I found it very important that the world noticed.

Mock outrage - and the mystery deepens

Michael de Angelos: "Expressing mock outrage simply isn't on when we have been taken into a risky war based upon lies."

I'm not mocking when I express my outrage at the tactics of the Sunni militias in Iraq, Michael, be assured.

Otherwise, I was conveying my sincere thanks for your expression of concern for the US servicemen and service women in Iraq, including my cousin (a Marine technician).

Doubtless some of the servicemen and service women in Iraq themselves feel they are engaged in "a risky war based upon lies", too.  Others don't.

But expressing mock outrage about that doesn't alter the facts.

US service personnel, along with their allies in the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi civilian population (especially the Shi'ites) are indeed taking the brunt of the attacks dealt out by the so called "resistance".

At the end of the day, and notwithstanding the fine efforts by Australian and other Coalition forces that should itself not be underestimated, if democracy flourishes in Iraq, it will be due mostly to the efforts of those taking "the brunt of the attacks".

And not those who express mock outrage.

Anyway, regarding Private Kovco, the mystery deepens with the NSW Coroner finding that there were not flash-burns in the vicinity of the soldier's head wound, reducing the likelihood of suicide.

So, murder? Bizarre accident? Surreptitious enemy fire?

Who knows?

Jenny, One Last Horrible Coincidence

Jenny Hume, I agree - I want to stop!  That's all I want to say but having just read the story in today's Daily Telegraph I feel compelled to add one thing more.

At the start of this thread I asked "Will we see a ballistics report that proves that the bullet came from Kovco's gun?"

This will never happen.  The Telegraph reports that the bullet has gone missing

And now I'll stop. 

RIP Jake Kovco.

Distressing though this must

Distressing though this must be to the soldier's family, and while I have some sympathy with Jenny Hume's comment, I don't believe in censorship but I do believe in waiting until the facts are in.

May I suggest (without wishing to pre-empt anything the Coroner might find) that it is unlikely the bullet is missing.  The likelihood is that the bullet casing is missing.

The missing bullet

Why? That is, why do you think that it is unlikely that the bullet is missing?

And why do you think it likely that the cartridge case is missing?

Army issue, Browning Hi-power semi automatic, or selfloading, 9 mm.

The cartridge case would be ejected, but surely not difficult to locate on a barracks floor.

The bullet, or projectile, would reasonably be expected to go straight through, assuming that it was fired at relatively close range and was of  military issue.

I am assuming that the military still uses copper jacketed bullets, but wasn’t able to confirm this.

There is, or used to be, a ban on ‘expansive’ bullets, ie: soft nosed, hollow points, dum dums and such, stemming I believe from the Geneva Convention.

The bullet casing

I have no intention of adding further distress by entering into forensic details.  We shall leave the bullet wherever it is for the moment.

The comment was essentially about loose reporting.  A bullet casing is very easy to remove no matter where it lands.  It is also probative in demonstrating which weapon it was fired from.  Assuming there is something "missing" I doubt it is the bullet.

PM To Attend Kovco Funeral

ABC News has just announced that Mr Howard will attend the service in Briagalong tomorrow. He will be accompanied by Defence Minister Nelson and the two top ADF brass Angus Houston and Peter Leahy, as well as members of the 3RAR battalion. Kovco will be buried with full military honours.

Doesn't anyone else consider this as political "overkill”?

Richard: Let me add...

Richard, not putting it all on you but let me add that tonight's report in the SMH that the Kovco family are fed up with the speculating and just want to bury their son with dignity, says it all. As I pointed out in an earlier post on this thread, rumours grow and hurt, and are often finally peddled as truths. And believe me, when a family suffers a tragedy, that only adds to the anguish.

Hamish/Fiona: Not up to me, but I really think this thread should be shut down.


Richard Tonkin, one can only speculate what you would say if Howard did not attend. Leave it alone, you are flogging a dead horse.

Blessed are they....

Richard: Matthew Chapter 5: Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Roger and Mike. Keep your hair on!)

Funerals are for family and friends to mourn the one they have lost and to be able to say their good-byes in whatever way that helps them, and comforts them. They may not feel blessed but they do need to be allowed to mourn in whatever way they chose, and in front of whom they chose. Surely it is up to the family to make judgements about the presence or otherwise of certain people at their loved one's funeral. This family has the right to invite people to come, and it also has the right to ask others to stay away. It is not up to us to judge the matter.

Oh sure, the media will be there to catch the sorrowing faces of Howard, Houston and Co. But so what. The Australian people are not all stupid. And even the dumbest could see through a veil as thin as this one. So let's give it a rest.

Kovco Body Moved Before Investigation

In another twist to this sad tale, it has now been revealed that normal procedures in such a situation were deliberately disregarded immediately after Kovco's death.

Military Police gave instructions that the body not be touched until investigators arrived to make an on-the-spot assessment. These orders were countermanded by the Commander of Australian forces in Iraq, Brigadier Paul Symons. This decision was reportedly made despite investigators' concerns that their findings would be compromised.

The Australian coronial inquiry into the death has today confirmed that Pte Kovco died from a shot to the head, and will now attempt to determine how this transpired.

Occam's Razor

Hamish, I appreciate your reply but I maintain that this absurd conspiratorial nonsense isn't up to Webdiary's purported standards. After the the energy expended in Webdiary on the 'children overboard' affair I would have expected that contributors would be wary of conflating errors in the passage of information up through the defence chain of command with massive conspiracies. Indeed, the way I see it, the efforts that defence went to release the available information while simultaneously tyring to prevent speculation and shield the Kovco family from the inevitable media hysteria, were commendible. Unfortunately the whole issue has been clouded by generic anti-military bias and the stuff-up with the repatriation of Kovco's body. The Kovco family's reaction is perfectly understandable, however the media's practice of preying on their grief to sell papers and air time under the banner of 'the public's right to know', and in this case 'let's get some answers for the family' has been an absolute disgrace. The media couldn't give a toss about the Kovco family.

Richard Tonkin, you asked:

... consider the activities that a trained sniper would be involved with in Baghdad and you're not going to find flower arranging high on the list. ... From what you've seen, what do you think Kovco was doing?

To answer this question you need look no further than the Department of Defence 'Operation Catalyst' webpage, which explains exactly what he was doing:

A security detachment of about 110 personnel including Australian Light Armoured Vehicles (ASLAVs) [provides] protection and escort for Australian Government personnel working in our Embassy in Baghdad.

Judging by your emphasis on the term 'trained sniper' you've obviously fallen for precisely the anti-military bias and media hysteria that I am referring to. Snipers are infantrymen Richard. Of the 110 personnel in the security detachment about half would be infantrymen, simply providing security in and around the embassy. What could possibly be controversial about that?

What do I think happened? From what I have read, the most plausible and likely explanation is that he was accidentally shot, as has been reported by the defence department.

The conspiracy theory offered by DP Mason in his piece to the effect that he was shot while out on patrol but returned to base in some cover-up is so absurd that it hardly warrants further discussion, but I do so here only to highlight the ridiculous 'logic'.

What would be more embarrassing or controversial for the defence force - that he was shot by an insurgent or accidentally shot by his own weapon or one of his mates? Clearly if there was some conspiracy to cover-up the truth, the cover story would have been one that was less controversial or embarrassing than the truth.

"100% Crap"

It’s pieces like this that make me wonder:

[from news.com.au]

The regiment known as Old Faithful needed all its faith in itself as a chaplain led Private Kovco's body across the tarmac, a flag at half mast, black bands on the arms of soldiers soon bound for a tour of duty in East Timor.

They all needed to know how he died at only 25, wondering why death came from the soldier's own 9mm Browning pistol. But, for now, they must await an inquiry.

The airport came to a standstill as eight pall-bearers carried Private Kovco's heavy coffin draped in an Australian flag, a wreath on top.

Three of the sad faces in a sad crowd watching this procession belonged to defence force chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson and Army chief Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy.

All that was missing was Mark Knoppfler's soundtrack.

Has anyone pulled out a copy of Wag The Dog yet? It won't spoil it for you to say that Derek Ballantine's piece bears remarkable similarities to the end-sequence of that movie, as does this DoD released picture of the Kovco pageant. One could suggest that the film was being used as a propaganda template, which is ironic given its central premise.

Kovco's mother doesn't believe it was suicide, saying that the notion was "100% crap."

[from The Age]

His mother, Judy, attacked suggestions that her son committed suicide, saying that she knew "100 per cent" that her son was not alone when he died from a gunshot wound at his barracks.

Mrs Kovco said she had spoken with her son before his death, and that he had been fine.

"He loved what he did," Mrs Kovco said. "I know 100 per cent that my son was not in that room by himself when he died."

Mrs Kovco's comments came in response to reports in two tabloid newspapers that appeared to imply Private Kovco had committed suicide, reports that Mrs Kovco emotionally described as "heartless".

I found this letter from one of Kovco's SECDET comrades on a sports-shooting website- it's an interesting insight:


Many of us are avid shooters and many have their own rifles at home, although they don’t really compare with the Military weapons that we work with and enjoy here. Our vehicles firstly are an excellent vehicle for the Baghdad environment; it is fast with speeds up to 110km/h, four-wheel or eight-wheel drive, very good armour protection for the crew and personnel we carry, and excellent firepower and sighting systems.

The ASLAV Type 1 (gun car) has a 25mm chain gun firing up to 200 rounds per minute (rpm) out to long range. Two or three Mag .58 machine-guns that just don’t stop, a 76mm grenade launching system that fires smoke or Air bust HE Grenades. It has an excellent day, thermal and image intensifying sights all supported in a full-stabilised turret and fire control system that allows us accurate firing on the move or when stationary.

The other vehicle that we use is an ASLAV Type 2 (personnel carrier). It carries a remove weapon station that can hold a .50-calibre machine-gun or a 40mm automatic grenade launcher and also has thermal and day sights. Plus, both cars have bucket loads more firepower with other fire weapon systems stored in the vehicles ready to do.

Our role here is to provide security and support Australia’s diplomatic mission for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq. Baghdad was once a beautiful city and I’m sure in a few years it will be once again. Some of the architecture is amazing.

The boys are doing a great job here and sometimes under very stressful conditions. However, they are very professional and very aggressive if the bad guys show up.

Ernest Williams' drawing together of the Kovco death and the AWB scenario makes oil for food for thought. I have a couple more ideas here, but again now is not the time. However, I can't help thinking that if the Prime Minister and Defence Minister's call for silence, which has been ignored by Kovco's family, doesn't work as "media management" of the situation, then it will take an action of considerable magnitude to do the job.

If the Advertiser's letters page is any indicator, next week's opinion polls will place the PM's popularity at levels similar to those of the US President.

US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld would see this as another defeat in the "media war" that he claims we are losing to Al Qaeda. If such as the case I'll be holding my breath.

Odd logic Syd Drate

I'd rather no casualties at all – including Iraqis, Americans and any other nationality. A bit rich, although not unexpected, trying to turn a death in Iraq around to an attack on one who didn't want war.

What odd scenes we have been witnessing over the past few years.

A Prime Minister who puffs his chest out and farewells the troops off to a war at every opportunity when the cameras are rolling – one sad death and the wrong body is returned in a plain wooden box in the early hours with only his family to greet him. To their distress the mistake is uncovered and when the right body arrives it is finally accorded full military honours and an escort of outriders with all the pomp and ceremony given recently to one of the country’s greatest bullies and tax avoiders.

you confirm what I say C.Parsons

Expressing mock outrage simply isn't on when we have been taken into a risky war based upon lies. Jake Kovko's fate and, indeed, your relative's is a direct result of a Prime Minister who declared war upon a sovereign nation which had never harmed us, who lied to Parliament about the timing of our involvement, and who never consulted the Australian people. Your relative must be a professional soldier so chose to be were he/she is. That person is no more or less a hero than any hapless Iraqi civilian whose life has been shattered by our involvement. Nor is anyone else's life worth more or less than a US life, except perhaps in the eyes of a US administration who have never put themselves in harms way but bleat constantly about "their" sacrifice.

You may have handed over control of your life and destiny to John Howard but many of us haven't and will continue to question especially now that a thousand Bin Ladens have been unleashed – as war critics around the world insisted would happen – thus endangering every one of us.

No need to mention, of course, the odious actions of the AWB enriching the enemies of your relative in Iraq or our Prime Minister’s, Deputy Prime Minister’s or Foreign Minister's total abrogation of duty.

Liberal Libations?

Michael, I haven't handed my life and destiny over to Little John either. In fact, I'm in a state of rebellion and have begun to build a stockade. I haven't decided on a flag yet or an anthem yet but first things first.

How come people can't see how evil he is, he and his bloated capitalist mates? Is he putting something mind-deadening in the water supply of all major cities and towns?

P.S. I've got a rainwater tank so I'm one of the lucky ones.

Well said Daniel.

I recommend that you read President Eisenhower's farewell speech to the American people in 1961 I believe - he addresses the problem they faced when wars had brought together the Corporations and the Military - here is a small section of it:

"This conjunction of an immense Military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal Government. We recognise the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

The Bush, Blair and Howard governments have pushed this "terrorist weapon" to the extreme, so much so that we are finding ourselves being convinced by the venal media corporations, that "terror" will never end and neither will wars. We even notice Dwight's warnings about "spiritual" influence - look at Bush "listening to HIS God" - look at Howard and Costello, campaigning with the small but influential Pentecostals (?); no doubt that Blair is doing the same. All the powerful military-corporate has to do is to adopt the media into the portals of power, and then - "there is no truth - only the powers that be".


The chain of evidence described for the Kovco death by that scrupulous lawyer Robert McClelland was well and truly busted in the stealthy rush to pave the well-trodden back passage to the PM’s private office.

So now the NSW cops and not a few soldiers will have to unravel a mess.

Like Mr Agius and Mr Cole, they must tale care not to point too hard at the PM via one of his careless and dishonest ministers. Not even maybe just a little bit.

Brendan Nelson is a notorious poon for the Howard gang, and owes them much. Publicly and unashamedly. Hopefully, one of the Trioli lasers will slit him up the belly, live to air, as she did to Tenix™ Reith over the kids overboard lies. But there won’t be an official BANGG!! of any kind, anywhere.

Meanwhile, as said elsewhere, all m’Justin, m’Stuart, m’ etceterae, m’general-Noams, seem a bit pre-menstrual in the wake of Josh Frydenburg’s dank little failure in Kooyong. Good. Sorry, boys. Blame it on the Moslems and the Moonbats, who are out to get you (and usually do – they are putting very effective stuff in your drinks, you sad bloody drongos).

Meanwhile, back in the surreal world, other post-Young Liberals are slaving away at the bottom of the pit, digging for gold and tax lurks. And not getting crushed by a thousand yards of rocks, or Petro Georgiou MHR.

Now we all have to pass our Abu Ghraib citizenship tests, get an OzCard-lite and in the end, get put in the right casket, or coffin, as we used to call them in the days when we spoke Australian. Then on for a bier. Any of us who have been involved in any kind of f**ked up deaths or funeral arrangements know how much they hurt. Most deaths hurt loved ones at the best of times, even without wrongdoing on anyone’s part.

But when things go bad in the care of the dead and living, and the truth of the matter, all vectors are opened up wide, the volume of pain amplified full blast. Unlike the labyrinthine highways and byways lading via ’phone, fax, email and quick brisk walk to and from the PM’s notoriously furtive and dishonest private office. And no inquiry, military or otherwise, is going to risk rank and preferment opening that air-conditioned can of worms. Those Kirribilli worms bite hard, even down the ’phone line to Baghdad.

There is no joy in knowing that, in the end, like Nixon, these buggers will all come specularly unstuck. Anyway it was Nixon’s demise and Ford’s arrival which saw the chance for a scuttling, grasping crook like Rumsfeld to make his run for White House placement. As with our lot, it has always been handy to follow the cash with that mob. Now there’s Republican cash and Liberal Party cash mixed up all over years of background to the vile mess dealing with the young man killed in Baghdad.

If exposure of the nest of rats is good, maybe some good will come of this evil. A few blocks getting knocked off. First cab off the rank will be to send that fop Nelson off as Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy in Chad. Do him good. Character building.

But don’t let him near the consular work.

aged wisdom comes not from court play, nor the PM's office

"Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Chad. Australians may obtain consular assistance from the nearest High Commission. This is in Nigeria.

Will Lagos do? Does he speak Chinese?


PS. Anyone who is an adviser to the PM and Foreign affairs ministers at
30 and a director of Deutch bank at 34 needs no commiserations for
losing to the shining light at Kooyong ,and then again in politics in
Kooyong. Pehaps one should have commiserations for those who see no
advantage to aged wisdom in such important positions. It explains a lot

It was such a clever bank in the 911 stock selling too if I remember
rightly. Definitely a bank on the ball, maybe like Nixon in court too...

Semper Fidelis - and the big mystery of it all

Michael de Angelos: "If they (Australians) aren't sharing the burden fairly with troops of other countries, does this mean the hapless American forces are being used to bear the brunt of the dangers in Iraq?”

Speaking as someone with a male relative doing a tour of duty with the Marines in Iraq, I want to say first how touched I was by your concern for the welfare of American servicemen and women.

Thank you.

Australian troops have possibly suffered fewer casualties in Iraq because (a) they are capable soldiers in a relatively stable part of the country performing lower risk guard duty for Japanese engineers doing what is essentially humanitarian reconstruction work, (b) the "resistance" is essentially fascist reactionary Sunni militias and their Wahabist mercenaries battling it out in a desperate attempt to reimpose the restricted privileges enjoyed by the Ba’ath Socialists before the overthrow of Saddam, and (c) they have only limited support in a narrow band of territory.

And yes, the Marines and US Army are bearing "the brunt of the dangers in Iraq."

Apart from the Iraqi security forces - and of course those regular civilian victims of "resistance" suicide bombers and militia thugs, such as aid workers, election officials, beauty contestants, school teachers, foreign workers, Shi'ites at prayer, restaurant staff, etc, etc.

And thanks for asking.

Whooping Cough

Stuart McCarthy, consider the activities that a trained sniper would be involved with in Baghdad and you're not going to find flower arranging high on the list. I sent Hamish my "drivel" on Sunday night, and he had the good sense not to publish. Fair enough, the facts weren't out at the time. From what you've seen, what do you think Kovco was doing?

The next time I sense wrongness in a situation I'll still post, and still give Hamish (who I hope doesn't consider what I wrote as drivel ... he didn't earlier in the week) the option of printing or not.

Justin Wilshaw, I guess I shouldn't have mentioned my family's military history so as not to give you such an opportunity. I've learned my lesson. However if your family would 'whoop' you for speaking your mind, do not assume mine would care to psychologically impair me in the same manner. The ones I have known would support me in speaking what I perceive to be the truth.

I doubt very much Richard

I doubt very much Richard that your family would respect you for saying your Great Uncle was nothing more than "a hired killer encountering karma."

The question no-one dares ask

It was first raised on crikey.com a few days ago but with the death of Jake Kovko it's legitimate to ask - how has Australia escaped with so few casualties in the Iraq War ?

No-one would want there to be more and indeed we are blessed that deaths have been minimal for us but when considering the appalling deaths of US and UK servicemen and other countries with smaller units, like Italy - 30 deaths, Bulgaria with 13, Poland 17, Spain 11 , the Ukraine 18 and Thailand with 2 and with the daily deaths of Iraqis it is a dangerous and murderous country to be in but to date our troops appear to have lived a charmed life with just one accidental death.

Why is this so ?  Are they more professional, better trained to avoid trouble than their fellow Coalition members or are they in areas that are far safer than those occupied by the US ?. If they aren't sharing the burden fairly with  troops of other countries, does this mean the hapless American forces are being used to bear the brunt of the dangers in Iraq ?

You are correct Michael.

Don't let desperate and dishonest people dissuade you from your opinion. I for one realise that your comment was one of curiosity as well as concern.

During the time we had a "free speech" in the Canberra Times, some of us wrote about the same question because we were of the opinion, like the Labor Party, that our involvement in Iraq was really a symbolic gesture of support for the Bush regime. To reach that conclusion we had to sift through the platitudes of the grand "war on terror" by tabloids like the Daily Telegraph. Do you remember, Michael, the front page picture in that garbage of papers showing our troops fully "booted and spurred" and "being on an active patrol" in the middle of Baghdad? Then it was exposed as a lie and those men were actually training in Australia.

Can we be surprised at the Howard Government's depraved indifference to the safety of any Australian anywhere in the world? Remember the widow of Sgt. Russel and how he ignored her in front of the whole world? Remember Hicks and Habib? And now our first death from his war in Iraq and - the procedures for safe transport of casualties was cast aside for the "Howard choice" of giving "business" to private enterprise in Kuwait.

Well might he excuse money to Saddam as just "business" while he is telling the Australian people that Saddam is the monster. I note that the "Howard choice" is to arrange for a "serviceman" to handle the coronial inquiry - there should be no doubt that the truth will not completely surface here due to the "hands on" control of the Howard Government. The Kovcos should demand an autopsy of their own - at least for their peace of mind.

"There is no truth - only the powers that be".

The question

Michael de Angelos, well you have asked the question but of course you knew the answer all along. It sounds as though you would prefer that the Australian casualties were around 30 so that you and your cronies could use it against Howard. You really have sunk to a new low level.

And then, the Aliens Landed ...

Hamish, I really have to take issue with the conspiratorial drivel that is this thread.

From DP Mason:

Was Kovco shot by an insurgent, or enemy sniper, while he was on patrol close to his base, and then rushed back there with a fatal head wound?

From Richard Tonkin:

Personally I think it more likely for Kovco to have been assassinated than be murdered, accidentally or otherwise, by his mates.

And another from Richard Tonkin:

Right now I'd like to see a report of the Iraqi people who Private Kovco, in his capacity as Guardian Angel of Baghdad, took careful aim at and ended their lives. This story may not be that of an accidental death of a saint. To some it may already appear to be one of a hired murderer encountering karma.

The only question is which act is more contemptible - writing this drivel or allowing it to be published on Webdiary?

Hamish: I can only answer for the latter. Before the misplaced corpse episode and Kovko's Mum's comments I had refrained from publishing an article which was submitted. Richard and DP might be hopelessly wrong (and might not), but it seems they are asking questions that the soldier's own family want answered.

Your general caution against crafting scenarios around an absence of evidence is well made Stuart. I for one am interested in any inquiry's findings, and I hope they are made available and that the proceedings are transparent, else speculation will only escalate. Blame the suspicious if you like, but death by a single shot to the head, with an already bodged story which now has the gun (a rifle - no! - a pistol) in nobody's hand, is about as suspicious a raw set of circumstances as you could imagine.

If I was Kovko's Mum, I'd want some answers too. Let's hope she gets some.

why so senstive?

Howls of outrage from the Howard supporters are amusing. After all if Howard can send these men and women off to Iraq - despite lying about when that actually happened, and be there to salute each departing unit along with the media, the very least we can expect is that he brings a body home correctly.

It's apporpiate to insinuate a "conspiracy" if a handful of people deviate from the truth and perpetuate an incorrect story. The media did us a service with the ABC perservering at the airport despite attempts to remove them by army personnel. That provided the dramatic footage we have now all seen.

We  all need to know the truth and Kovko's family are entilled to their outrage.

Howard of course will be absolved from any responsibilty - noone will have shown him the cables, he won't have read the emails etc etc. He lives in a charmed world where only the good happens through his sterling efforts and the bad is always someone else's fault.

Yeah Richard good on ya

Yeah Richard good on ya mate. My Father, Granfather, Great Grandfather, Great Uncle, Uncle(s) on both sides have fought and some have died in wars in the last century.

I know one thing. Im in my early thirtys and if I wrote what you wrote, my father and or grandfather would come around and give me a whooping.

You "moonbats" (to use your term) can see a hole in any story. Hell I know of one moonbat who saw blackhawks with big missiles flying over Canberra a couple of months ago. (Sorry Tony couldn't resist).

Was The Defence Minister Duped?

Tonight's ABC-PM has reported that Mr Nelson is considering expanding the terms of reference of the Kovco inquiry to include why he was given a false story. The inquiry might also include how the wrong body was "sent home".

PM says that Nelson's office is unhappy that the DoD gave them incorrect information. Perhaps we'll find out who is writing this pseudo-patriotic rubbish coming out of Iraq. My guess is that it's not anyone in the Australian DoD.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister has attempted to gag public debate.

Time will tell

1. Fact: A soldier is dead

2. What we think we know: We don’t know how he died except it was the result of a gunshot to the head.

Information required:

1. A faithful report of the autopsy.

2. A faithful forensic report.

3. Sworn (and honest) statements from anybody who witnessed (or was involved in) the event.

If the above information is provided in an honest and straight forward fashion then the truth will be revealed soon enough. However if anybody has something to hide then it may take decades for the truth to surface if it does at all.

Let’s hope that there is nothing to hide for as we all agree Jake Kovco’s family deserve to know the truth, it’s the very least we can do for them. But it would be extremely sad at this point in time, especially for the family, to use this tragedy for political gain.

In short if there is nothing to hide then we will all know the truth soon, however if otherwise then expect political opportunism to flourish. For the family’s sake let's hope it is the former. Time will tell.

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