The Australian Defence Force is reeling from another internet sex scandal in which at least 17 male army officers formed an email ring that circulated footage of members having sex tagged with demeaning commentary about the women.
Police sources told Fairfax Media that the ring of soldiers called themselves ''The Jedi Council'' and that they swapped footage of sex acts without the knowledge of the women depicted. At least 17 soldiers - including senior officers - were involved in receiving and distributing the footage, and it is understood three members of the ring shot the footage, starting in 2010. The material also includes stills, some of which have been doctored. [...] Fourteen army members were ''closely linked'' in distributing the emails, he said. Five of them faced imminent suspension and the other nine could also be stood down. Up to 90 other Australian Defence Force members, mostly in the army, were on ''the periphery'' of the affair.
[...] ''These are actions by men who have been in the defence force for in excess of 10 years. This goes to the heart of what I said about systemic problems with culture inside the army.'' General Morrison took personal responsibility for the affair and repeatedly acknowledged the army had a persistent cultural problem. ''The leadership of the ADF no longer accepts the 'bad apple' argument when one of these incidents does occur,'' he said. ''These behaviours are symptoms of a systemic problem and we will continue to address them in a comprehensive manner.''
[...] The email ring included a lieutenant-colonel - the sixth-highest rank in the army - as well as majors, captains, warrant officers, sergeants and corporals. They were based around Australia and did not belong to any one area of the force, he said. The three ringleaders are being investigated by NSW police for possible offences relating to producing and distributing the material on the internet. The wider ring of soldiers are being questioned by the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service.
One day early last year [Elizabeth Broderick] called me and suggested that I needed to hear from some of the women whose experiences she had been collating. I agreed, not reluctantly but certainly with some trepidation. Not long after I was sitting very uncomfortably, and with mounting disbelief, through lengthy face-to-face meetings with three women who had endured appalling physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their fellow soldiers; so much for our pride in looking after our mates. These women had been let down by their leaders and their comrades. They had been robbed of that irreplaceable component of their individual human personal identity – their dignity and self respect. This was not the Army that I had loved and thought I knew.
My disbelief gave way, in turn, to shame that this had occurred in the institution to which I had devoted my entire life and of which I had been fiercely proud since I was young boy. That was my conversion experience and it had all the qualities of the road to Damascus apart from the fall from the horse.
I hasten to add that I had already concluded that the ‘bad apple’ theory was a comforting self-delusion. Police forces throughout Australia only started to come to grips with systemic corruption when they came to the same realisation. Cultural problems are just that; they are systemic and ingrained, not the work of a few rogues.
Such cultural problems generally evolve over time into distortions of what began as an admirable quality in an institution or organisation, but they are hijacked by misguided or malevolent people and become a device to exclude the vulnerable and the different from the dominant group. Often in hyper masculine environments, like armies, the ‘other’ is defined by being weaker physically, not drinking ‘like a man’, being more introverted or intellectual, and of course female.
In an excellent report compiled by Major General Craig Orme titled Beyond Compliance: Professionalism, Trust and Capability in the Australian Profession of Arms, this aspect of our culture was analysed with insight and frankness. Yes, we do need to bond our soldiers to one another and instil toughness and resilience into them. But when this goal is invoked to degrade and demonise women and minorities it is undermining rather than enhancing capability. We need to define the true meaning of teamwork to embrace a band of brothers and sisters.
Firstly, I must of necessity express some obvious qualifications about my remarks. Foremost, I can never fully imagine, much less experience, the issues faced by any woman. I was born male in an advanced Western nation, to comfortably well off parents. I have never routinely experienced discrimination in my career, nor the apprehension of violence in my personal life. Far too many women regardless of nationality, religion, or class status have known both. Most benefits of masculinity and patriarchy have accrued to me. Nonetheless, I hope those considerable limitations in my perspective can in part be offset by my sincere intent to support women in my organisation to thrive in the absence of both.
COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA CONSTITUTION ACT - SECT 68
Command of naval and military forces
The command in chief of the naval and military forces of the Commonwealth is vested in the Governor‑General as the Queen's representative.
A core function of Army is the application of violence to protect and defend national interests. While violence is an essential part of our business, it is employed in a tightly regulated and controlled manner and we most emphatically do not accept or condone violence outside of these parameters. This is why Army is a Campaign Partner with White Ribbon, which as many of you would know, is a global movement to stop violence against women.
I was angry, that in a crisis, those three women, and many others to whom Liz Broderick had spoken, had not been able to rely on their mates. In other words the very thing that we claim as our defining ethos had been used to exclude and humiliate others.
Next steps for army feminist hero? Canberra journos were quick to proclaim Lieutenant General David Morrison the most likely to success General David Hurley as Chief of the Defence Force after his redoubtable performance handling the latest ADF s-x scandal. But if he does, that's going to ruffle all kinds of feathers in the ADF brass. Convention says the next CDF should rotate to navy, which hasn't held the top rank since admiral Chris Barrie's departure in 2002. Some senior officers are already complaining that generals are behaving too much like politicians, and if the convention is thrown out, the top brass' independence may be thrown out too.
Two defendants in military sexual assault cases cannot be punitively discharged, if found guilty, because of “unlawful command influence” derived from comments made by President Barack Obama, a judge ruled in a Hawaii military court this week.
Navy Judge Cmdr. Marcus Fulton ruled during pretrial hearings in two sexual assault cases — U.S. vs. Johnson and U.S. vs. Fuentes — that comments made by Obama as commander in chief would unduly influence any potential sentencing, according to a court documents obtained by Stars and Stripes.
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