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Greg Sheridan's treatise on courage & Jim Molan - compared to The Greens and their divisive, spiteful & cowardly ways

Jim Molan offers lesson in courage for gutless Greens

Major-General Jim Molan on duty in 2001. Picture: Corporal Jason Weeding.
Major-General Jim Molan on duty in 2001. Picture: Corporal Jason Weeding.
  • The Australian

What a spiteful, divisive, unethical and prejudiced political force the Greens are in Australian politics.

This is evident from their grotesque attack on Major-General (retired) Jim Molan, a new Liberal senator for NSW and one of the bravest and most important soldiers Australia has produced in the past 40 years.

Molan is neither the pope nor a secular saint. It is perfectly legitimate to criticise his views. What the Greens did, in calculated, ­extreme and grossly insulting comments, was attack his character, substantially on the basis of his military service.

Greens senator Nick McKim labelled Molan “a blatant racist … who revels in trampling rights and freedoms”.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale accused Molan of overseeing “a humanitarian catastrophe” during the allied assault on Fallujah in Iraq in 2004. Quoting a United Nations Special Rapporteur with a long history of extreme anti-­Western activism, Di Natale said: “At the time of the assault on Fallujah under the command of now-Senator Molan … coalition forces used hunger and deprivation as a weapon of war against the civilian population.” This is a charge Molan strenuously denies.

Di Natale asked Defence Minister Marise Payne whether she was concerned that Molan’s views influenced his approach to the campaign in Fallujah.

The most extreme attacks came from Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt, who said that if there were a proper inquiry into the Iraq war “like there has been in other countries, I think you would find Jim Molan would probably be up for prosecution rather than praise for his role in the atrocities in Fallujah”.

Bandt added: “When you share white supremacist videos and then you justify it by saying: ‘Oh, I’m doing it to stimulate debate’ — and that is the line that came out of his office — you are a coward, you are a complete coward.”

Bandt subsequently apologised for his remarks, and then further extended the apology yesterday.

Everything the Greens have said here is wrong. They have not only been unfair to Molan, they have turned reality on its head. They have proved that far from being progenitors of more ethical politics, the Greens are a narrow, sectarian group imprisoned in their own prejudices.

Here are a few key facts. Molan was for a time the defence attache in Jakarta. He was there for the fall of Suharto in 1998 and the East Timor independence referendum in 1999. In East Timor he personally oversaw the evacuation first of Australian personnel and later UN staff, including many Indonesians. In June 2000 Molan organised the evacuation of 800 Australians from Solomon Islands.

In 2004 he was appointed chief of operations under US General George Casey for the entire US-led UN coalition in Iraq, during which time the second operation in Fallujah took place.

One year ago, long after he left the military, Molan re-posted on to his Facebook page two videos that had come from the British First group and showed apparently Islamist violence in Europe.

Let’s interrogate these matters.

Adam Bandt may think Molan “a coward, a complete coward”. It is probable that Bishop Carlos Belo, and some Philippines nuns, have a different view. At the time of the fall of Suharto, Molan’s wife had to self-evacuate with the ­couple’s four children from an ­extremely dangerous part of Jakarta to a safer area.

Jakarta was roiling during this time under extremely violent rioting, an at times heavy-handed military and police response and some rogue military snipers who were shooting people indiscriminately. I spent a little time in Jakarta myself during this period and for a little while it was a terrifying city.

Molan, as defence attache, was on the streets every day morning until night, as were eight other members of his team, getting a sense of what was going on so that the Australian government could respond effectively and the ­embassy would know when and how to carry out the evacuation of Australian nationals.

Molan is tall and blond. He was a highly visible target.

But Dili was much more dangerous. Molan took four members of the Jakarta defence attache team with him to Dili to organise the evacuation of Australians, then later of UN staff. He and the four others drove a vehicle each and went round Dili picking up Australians and others who ­needed to leave. This was at a time when murderous, pro-Indonesian militia were rampaging through Dili murdering and burning.

Molan also had to talk the ­Indonesian military, whom he knew very well, into accepting an Australian peacekeeping force and not firing on it, and disciplining the militia not to fire on the Australians, either.

In Bandt’s world, none of this may excuse a man from cowardice — it probably doesn’t compare with the moral gravity of having to choose, say, between skim milk and soy for a $5 latte in Carlton — but it is possible that some East Timorese have a different view.

There was one especially tense confrontation on the tarmac at Baucau Airport. In one of those desperate coincidences, a group of pro-Indonesian militia were to be flown to West Timor on the same day that UN expatriate staff were to be flown to Darwin. The Indonesian UN staff were also there to be evacuated. The international staff, heroically, were refusing to leave unless their Indonesian colleagues joined them.

Then it turned out that Bishop Carlos Belo, the Nobel Prize winner, was there. He had to flee his Dili home because it had been ­attacked and burnt to the ground. The militia had declared they would kill Belo. Molan was in command of no force although there were some Australian security personnel discreetly placed on the evacuation planes.

The militia commander at the airport kept drawing his pistol. In hours of tense, difficult conversation and negotiation, Molan got the UN staff out, including Belo.

There is no doubt that Molan saved Belo’s life. One night in East Timor Molan had a long conversation by phone with John Howard. He had to convince Howard that the Indonesians would not fire on an Australian peacekeeping force and the deployment of the force should go ahead.

On another occasion Molan was speeding towards the airport with half a dozen Philippine nuns in his car. A pro-Indonesian gunman on a motor bike with a rifle slung over his shoulder was chasing Molan’s vehicle and trying to take his rifle off his shoulder, presumably to fire. A sudden block on the road forced Molan to screech to a halt, the gunman hit the back of Molan’s transport and his body pitch-forked into the back of Molan’s vehicle, among the nuns. Molan could see the man’s neck was broken. He could also see a crowd beginning to gather. So he reached back from the driver’s seat, pushed the Indonesian body out the back, and sped off to the airport. Once there he unloaded the nuns, who flew to safety, smashed out the rest of his back windscreen, and resumed evacuation operations.

No doubt, though, Bandt is the best judge of a man’s cowardice.

ENDS - that's only a bit of Greg's column.  To read about Jim's service in Iraq and much more go to The Australian here.