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Australia and Abu Ghraib

May 19th, 2004

Although Australia, as part of the Coalition that invaded Iraq, has a general responsibility for the actions of the occupying forces, it’s been generally assumed that we don’t have any direct involvement with the Abu Ghraib prison/interrogation centre/torture chamber. So it’s disturbing, to put it mildly, to find that the front man for the Abu Ghraib operation appears to be Captain Mark Doggett, an Australian army officer and press officer for the Coalition forces.

Doggett is quoted here, for example, in a piece by Deroy Murdock in the National Review Online, the general tenor of which is that we need more and better torture if we’re going to win the war on terror. Doggett doesn’t say this, or anything like it, himself, but he clearly has the job of defending the operations of Abu Ghraib and minimising the crimes committed there, thereby providing ammunition for the likes of Murdock. As another example, he’s quoted here , defending a decision to exclude human rights groups from the first of the Abu Ghraib trial.

I’d like to know something about the conditions under which Doggett holds this job. To whom is he answerable? In particular, are his statements endorsed by the Australian government? If so, is not Australia just as responsible as the US for conditions at Abu Ghraib? If not, how does it come about that an Australian army officer is a spokesman for a foreign government? buy sinequan

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  1. snuh
    May 20th, 2004 at 09:43 | #1

    your captain mark doggett link is busted, but good catch nonetheless.

  2. May 20th, 2004 at 13:50 | #2

    John,

    A Google for “Captain Mark Doggett” reveals him to be of relatively recent provenance in Iraq.

    In November 2003, he was the quoted army spokeperson on drug use at Palmerston (Darwin) army barracks – which suggests that he is just a garden variety PR flack who has recently been dragooned into an international spotlight that he’s not at all been trained (or being paid) for.

    On the abuse scandal generally (as we’ve both previously written), the blowtorch should be focused on those in charge – and Mark Doggett appears to be far from being one of these.

    http://www.google.com.au/search?q=%22Captain+Mark+Doggett%22&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&btnG=Google+Search&meta=

  3. Fyodor
    May 20th, 2004 at 13:53 | #3

    Very interesting pickup, JQ.

    I really pity that poor bastard. It’s quite common for Australian servicement to serve in allied units – e.g. we had guys posted to British units in Bosnia – but this is the first time I’ve heard of a Digger doing PR for the US government. In terms of his line of reporting, accountability etc., I would assume he receives direction from the head of allied forces in Iraq (i.e. a US general), and his statements do not (necessarily) represent the views of the Australian government.

    That said, the cynical view is that the Americans chose a foreigner to be their mouthpiece to reinforce perceptions back home that they’re not alone in stuffing up Iraq – the more funny accents the Americans hear, the better, I suppose. It’s an absolute disgrace that our government should allow one of our servicemen to be placed in this position, particularly on such a repulsive issue. It’s appalling, but not surprising given the Howard government’s total abandonment of independent foreign policy. I say this as a Liberal voter, and I will vote against the Howard government at the next election based purely on John Howard’s disgusting conduct of foreign policy. I am sick of feeling ashamed of my government, and will vote for a more socialist government just to be rid of the lying bastards.

  4. May 20th, 2004 at 13:55 | #4

    The good captain is certainly getting around at the moment:

    ‘a spokesman for the American-led coalition military forces in Baghdad’. (International Herald Tribune)

    ‘says Capt . Mark Doggett, a US military spokesman( Christian Science Monitor)

    ‘Captain Mark Doggett told Human Rights Watch that senior officers had discussed attendance by Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations and decided not to permit their attendance for unspecified “security among other reasons.” Capt. Doggett refused to provide the name of a senior officer to whom Human Rights Watch could protest the exclusion and request a reversal.’ (Human Rights Watch)

  5. Phil
    May 20th, 2004 at 20:29 | #5

    Fyodor

    Re your voting intentions: now, don’t forget to tell your friends, eh? Especially those in marginal electorates.

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