Andrew Wilkie, Iraq, WMD & Paul Moran

“The Fairfax Press and SBS TV, aided by the ABC, have been obsessed with the story of Australian Commandos involved in a botched raid that resulted in the unintentional killing of five Afghan civilians last year – but that is another story. Meanwhile, it would appear that ABC cameraman Paul Moran’s role in selling the Iraq war that has caused so much death and destruction has slipped under the radar.”

The Australian public, including Mrs Shelley Kovco, the widow of Australian soldier, Private Jake Kovco, have a right to know about Moran’s activities.


The Man Who Sold the War
Meet John Rendon, Bush’s general in the propaganda war
Rolling Stone/Nov. 17, 2005

James Bamford’s November 17th, 2005 profile of John Rendon, “The Man Who Sold the War,” (RS988) won the 2006 National Magazine Award in the reporting category.

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.


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Wilkie or Wilkie not ask for an ABC inquiry?
By Sasha Uzunov – Tuesday, 14 September 2010 !

Ex-Australian Army officer turned independent politician Andrew Wilkie is regarded as a brave man who resigned as an intelligence analyst over the 2003 Iraq War. He is now in a unique position as a member of the newly formed ALP-Green-Independents-federal coalition government to call for an inquiry into the controversial ABC TV camera man Paul Moran who was killed in Iraq.

Wilkie resigned as an analyst with the Office of National Assessment (ONA), an intelligence organisation that directly services Australia’s Prime Minister, disagreeing with claims made by the then Howard government about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and the reasons for going to war.

One of those killed in that war was Paul Moran, who helped to publicise the WMD story, which we now know was a complete fabrication. Wilkie has the opportunity to press for a parliamentary inquiry into the ABC’s employment of Moran and possible conflict of interest.

Moran, 39, was killed on March 22, 2003 by a car bomb while covering the war in Northern Iraq for the tax payer funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC TV). He was an Adelaide-raised freelance cameraman who worked on and off for the ABC as well as US public relations firm Rendon, which had ties to the CIA and the Bush Administration.

Walkely Award winning Australian journalist, Mr Colin James, of the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper, was the first to break the story about Moran’s shadowy past when he attended Moran’s wake in Adelaide.

He talked to relatives who revealed that Moran had a James Bond other life.

“For a freelance cameraman, Moran sure had some incredible access to US State Department officials in Washington,” Mr James said. “How many freelancers get to play games of social tennis with US diplomats?”

Moran had worked for Rendon for more than a decade in places like the Middle East and Kosovo, pushing US government spin while doing freelance work for the ABC TV as a combat cameraman.

On November 17, 2005 prominent American journalist, academic and former US Navy intelligence analyst James Bamford wrote in the influential American magazine Rolling Stone a detailed account of Moran’s work with Rendon and its link to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its selling of the Iraq War to the American public.

The controversy surrounding Moran stems from his exclusive story about an Iraqi defector who had knowledge about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction program. A Rendon colleague gave him the scoop which turned out to be false, but was a pretext for the US invasion of Iraq, according to Bamford.

The Australian cameraman also helped to set up a television station for the Iraqi National Congress (INC). The INC was established by the US as an opposition group to the Saddam Hussein regime.

In 2006 the then ABC’s Managing Director, Mr Russell Balding, was approached and asked if he would launch an internal inquiry into the Moran allegations. Mr Shane Wells, his spokesman, said there would be no comment. The Moran story remains a hot potato.

Feisty, tough Maltese-Australian journalist, Monica Attard, host of the ABC’s Media Watch, dared to criticise then ABC TV news boss Max Uechtritz in his refusal to answer questions about Moran.

“The story was followed up by some parts of the media, but not by the ABC. It should have been.” (“Death in Baghdad”, Media Watch, April 14, 2003.)

The irony of all this is Uechtritz, now with Al Jazeera network, complained to The Age newspaper on June 30, 2003 about freedom of speech after coming under attack from the then Communications Minister, Senator Richard Alston, for alleged biased reporting by the ABC over the Iraq war.

“It is the duty of independent journalists in a robust democracy to question everything,” Uechtritz wrote. “The senator seems to think the media’s duty in time of war is to fall meekly into line with the government of the day.”

Uechtritz was contacted at his Al Jazeera email address for comment on Moran but after many months there has been no response.

Last year, Sally Neighbour, a self-appointed national security expert who was employed as an ABC reporter while working for The Australian a commercially owned newspaper, ran a story about Moran without any reference to the CIA allegations and quoted fellow ABC journalist Mark Corcoran, a hugely respected journalist and genuine media tough guy who previously served in the Royal Australian Navy and super secret Defence Signals Directorate.

Neighbour wrote:

“Why has there been no investigation into the murder?” asks Mark Corcoran, presenter and veteran reporter with ABC TV’s Foreign Correspondent program. “As of December 2009, I have still not seen any evidence of an investigation, either formally or informally, by any Australian official.”

Mr Chris Warren, the Federal Secretary of the Media Entertainment Alliance of Australia (Australian Journalists Association) has asked Australia’s Federal Attorney-General to investigate Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, better known as Mullah Krekar, and his links to UN-listed terrorist organisation Ansar al-Islam, as the mastermind who allegedly ordered the car bomb that killed Moran..

The Moran case has been linked by some ABC reporters to the highly emotive Balibo Five, Australian-based newsmen and crew killed by Indonesian troops during the 1975 takeover of East Timor. But the Balibo Five had no links to a foreign intelligence agency and launching a war crimes trial against Mullah Krekar could backfire.

It could open up a can of worms. Under the Geneva Convention, journalists in war zones are afforded some protection as non-combatants. However:

Article 29 – A person can only be considered a spy when, acting clandestinely or on false pretences, he obtains or endeavours to obtain information in the zone of operations of a belligerent with the intention of communicating it to the hostile party.

Thus, soldiers not wearing a disguise who have penetrated into the zone of operations of the hostile army, for the purpose of obtaining information, are not considered spies. Similarly, the following are not considered spies: soldiers and civilians carrying out their mission openly, entrusted with the delivery of despatches intended either for their own army or for the enemy’s army. To this class belong likewise persons sent in balloons for the purpose of carrying despatches and, generally, of maintaining communications between the different parts of an army or a territory.

The definition of a spy given in this Article remains completely valid since the Geneva Convention contains no similar provision. However, a spy is also a protected person in so far as he conforms to the definition given in Article 4 of the Fourth Convention. Under Article 5 of the Convention, the spy may nevertheless be deprived temporarily of certain rights, particularly the right of communication.

Article 30 – A spy taken in the act shall not be punished without previous trial.

Moran was “killed in action” by a car bomb; he was neither surrendering nor was he captured. The next question is do we prosecute enemy combatants who have killed Australian soldiers during the heat of battle, ranging from the Boer War to the present Afghanistan conflict?

Should we now ask that the Vietnamese communist government hand over the Viet Cong guerrillas and hard core NVA soldiers for prosecution over the 18 Australian soldiers killed in action during the legendary Battle of Long Tan in 1966?

Furthermore, critics call the Iraq War launched by the United States in 2003 “illegal”. Wilkie resigned from ONA because of his opposition to that war. Assuming that the Iraq war is illegal, does Moran’s involvement in “selling” that war which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as well as US/Coalition troops being killed, constitute a crime?

Under the Nuremberg Principles established in the wake of Nazi War Crimes Trial of 1946, Principle VI states:

The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

a)Crimes against peace:

(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

If you believe that the Iraq War was justified, then Moran deserves to be honoured as a hero killed in action in the global war on terror; he should have been given a state funeral just like any other Australian soldier, police officer or intelligence operative killed in action in a warzone.

The irony is that if Eric Campbell, the ABC reporter who was wounded during the car bomb that killed Moran, had been the one killed, the case of a war crime for killing a journalist could be justified.

The Fairfax Press and SBS TV have been obsessed with the story of Australian Commandos involved in a botched raid that resulted in the unintentional killing of five Afghan civilians last year – but that is another story. Meanwhile, it would appear that Moran’s role in selling a war that has caused so much death and destruction has slipped under the radar. Attard was brave in airing on Media Watch the Moran story.

Wilkie has the power to call for an inquiry into Moran’s activities.


About the Author

Sasha Uzunov graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, in 1991. He enlisted in the Australian Regular Army as a soldier in 1995 and was allocated to infantry. He served two peacekeeping tours in East Timor (1999 and 2001). In 2002 he returned to civilian life as a photo journalist and film maker and has worked in The Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His documentary film Timor Tour of Duty made its international debut in New York in October 2009. He blogs at Team Uzunov.

Other articles by this Author – online opinion
» Scrutinising the media’s scrutiny of defence – March 30, 2010
» Reporting on the reporters – February 4, 2010
» Scotland the brave, Ulster the unsure? – December 23, 2009
» Greens win the war but lose defence – November 24, 2009
» Afghan dress code – September 30, 2009


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