Book Review -  "Enemies Within"

admin's picture

BOOK REVIEW

"Enemies Within"

By Mary-Louise O’Callaghan

BOUGAINVILLE - YET AGAIN SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT FOUR "BOOKS" AND FOUR FILMS MOST OF WHICH (TOO) FEW WILL READ OR SEE

By Max Watts

In late August I drove a rented car almost non-stop 14 hours from Adelaide to Canberra to make Mary-Louise O'Callaghan's book launch: Of "Enemies Within", her book about (or is it on?) "Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the Sandline Crisis: The Inside Story" (1). I like Mary-Louise O'Callaghan, and I'm glad I (just) made the launch, got an - interestingly dedicated - review copy, but I am sad that "Enemies" isn't the book about the Bougainville war, not the book I personally have been, and still am, waiting for.

In a way the sub-title says it. Or doesn't. It doesn't mention Bougainville, the tail that wagged the dogs (2), Papua New Guinea, and Australia.

"Enemies" is a partly good book, a partly complete book - including many, even important, details. But unfortunately it is, I repeat, only partly complete.

Where "Enemies" is good it is - as the little girl in the story - very very good. I learned much (3) about what happened in Port Moresby during those ten days, March 17 to 27, 1997, which shook that world. Left days, in which the feared Sandline mercenaries became - fearful, fear filled, 'defait', Chan was deflated, and peace in Bougainville brought much closer.

But in other - essential - parts of the book - particularly Bougainvilliae - Mary-Louise seems 'just not there'. Absent. Almost completely. Or - worse - repeats long discredited Australian/PNG propaganda.

And there is, too often - for my taste - what I think people nowadays call: "Post-modernism". All 'discourses' - I still am not sure just what that means - 'are equal.' Or perhaps what "their" journalism professors describe as "balanced", the "separation of editorial comment from reporting". "Impartiality", I think, here is carried too far. To the point of equalizing good and evil. The killers and the killed, the oppressors and the oppressed.

Here I find "Enemies" inconsistent. After all, Mary-Louise is often on the side of the angels, "our", my, side. Mercenary chief Spicer was "the latest in a long line of men who had alighted on Bougainville's shores with malevolent intent." (p.4). Amen. Hear, hear! I couldn't have put it better. But in so much of the book she forgets, puts aside this honest partiality. She forgets there are (at least two) sides in this conflict, or - worse - goes (unconsciously?) over to the other one. The "Right," the evil one. The malevolent Spicers, the murderous Ijapes, corrupt Haveitas, deviously war-mongering Chans are lengthily portrayed as no worse, indeed often better, than good freedom fighters Ona, Kauona, populist peacenik Peti Lafanama, or war-ending, life-saving, Singirok.

And - without comment O'Callaghan describes PNG Captain Siale Diro's 'knowledge' that "judgments weren't for him to make; his job was just to do as he was told. This was basic to any soldier..."

No. Of course Not!!! Not only was such blind obedience to orders condemned at the Nuernberg War Crimes Tribunal after World War II; it is in basic conflict with "our" side. The left. The "good." Soldiers, as Brecht wrote, can think for themselves, and - as we have described in "Soldiers in Revolt" (4) and "Left Face - Soldier Unions and Resistance Movements in Modern Armies (5) not only can, but do "act." Sometimes in their own - and our - interest.

And that, after all, is what this entire book, "Enemies Within," is about. O'Callaghan well describes the many "thinking officers." It's not only about commanding PNG Brigadier General Jerry Singirok coming to the conclusion (thinking!) that the mercenary operation "Contravene ... is totally destructive against human lives and the environment" (p.40) and then acting accordingly. Risking, thereby, at least his job, maybe much more.

O'Callaghan shows that the effective resistance against the Sandline murderers, against Chan and his "two stooges," Ijape and Haveita, against the continuation of the Bougainville war did not, could not, depend on only one General, but needed the Majors and Captains such Walter Enuma, who had to face up to, overcome, the pro-Chan Colonels.

And O'Callaghan does describe how - when it came to the crunch - un-named rank and file soldiers acted independently.

At that decisive moment, on that Tuesday-Wednesday night of March 25-26, 1997, the future of Papua New Guinea, of the Bougainville war, depended on the here un-named soldiers (not, any longer, on their officers).

Chan had just won - with what inducements? - a vote of confidence in Parliament. He, Ijape, Haveita, seemed to have weathered the storm. They could, perhaps with new support from Australia replacing the already expelled Sandline mercenaries, try to restart the Bougainville war. Even the "left-wing" officers, Majors Enuma and Toropo, did not want to continue their action and now ordered the soldiers around the Parliament to go "back to the barracks."

In reality this order would have left the new allies of the soldiers, the students, workers, demonstrators, facing, unprotected, the tender mercies of the pro-Chan police. The blockade around parliament would have been broken, the people defeated, dispersed. But now the PNG soldiers "thought for themselves", realized that "(Our) officers have compromised themselves!" (p.340). They refused the orders. To withdraw.

These thinking soldiers acted, independently, without, even against, their officers. They remained around the parliament - to protect - the people (p. 343). It was only then that Chan, Ijape, Haveita realized the game was up, agreed to "stand aside." Here O'Callaghan does not editorialize, neither praises nor condemns these soldiers, whom elsewhere she calls "renegades." She only concludes: "As dawn broke, the troops remained at the gates." (p. 344)

So far, so good. Me, I, would have emphasized this moment, added: "The soldiers remained with the people. On the left." But it's her, not my, book. Essentially - even this important detail is included.

In much of the book, sections dealing with Papua New Guinea, Australia, "Elsewhere," there are - as far as I can see - only few -unimportant -"boo-boos" - such as moving "Britain's use of 30,000 Hessian mercenaries" from the American Revolution of 1776-1783 to the "American Civil War" of 1861-1865 (p. 89).

But - when she comes to Bougainville Mary-Louise sins - massively - by omission. And by her often uncritical acceptance of the pervasive Australian propaganda about the root cause of the conflict, Bougainville.

It is not possible, I believe, to write a definite, satisfactory, book even only about the Sandline affair, the debacle, defeat, of a certain policy, without a better understanding of those Bougainvillians who "fought the system," fought and beat the world's largest multinational mining corporation, Rio Tinto, the PNG army, and - of course - "Australia."

To note here one glaring omission: There is (as far as I could find) no mention of Francis Ona's immediate support of General Jerry Singirok's Operation Raussim Kwik, Ona's declaration that Singirok's anti-mercenary, anti-Chan coup has enormously helped to end the war, bring peace on Bougainville closer.

But that is only a detail. The problem is much more fundamental. "Enemies Within" shows how even sympathetic, perceptive, authors, experts, decision makers, can - dare I say it bluntly - succumb to, be misinformed, misled, by their own propaganda. Often to their own misfortune.

I have, frequently, wondered why sometimes people make - quite voluntarily - historic decisions, which later are seen as obviously against "their own interests." Two macro-examples: Hitler's choice, quite unnecessary, to attack the Soviet Union in 1941. Four years later this brought the Red Army to Berlin, himself, fortunately for us, to his death. Or the Japanese decision to bomb Pearl Harbor, bring the United States into the war, which definitely sealed the fate of fascism. Had "they" but known... they wouldn't have done it!

Why did they? Obviously, they didn't - know. The information used by the "decision makers" was faulty, incomplete. Wrong. Slanted, usually by their own propaganda, in the direction of "wishful thinking."

To come down somewhat in scale, but remain with the principle: Believing your own propaganda can be harmful to your interests!

During the Bougainville war, particularly from 1990 onwards, Australian propaganda, disseminated by the establishment media and the government (such as ABC correspondent Sean Dorney and Foreign Minister Gareth Evans) insisted on two points:

1/ Australia(ns) were not actively fighting against Bougainville

2/ The enemy, the BRA (the BIG was almost un-mentionable) was irrelevant, weak, criminal and already almost defeated.

Both were lies, false, but to a large extent they produced misconceptions which were - at various times - believed by their own propagators, decision makers in Canberra and Port Moresby.

And - unfortunately - both resurface, in "Enemies Within."

In order to maintain Australian war propaganda it was necessary to impose an information blockade against Bougainville. As Mary-Louise writes so precisely: "The blockade also served to hide the war... no independent observers ...only rarely was a journalist mad or persistent enough to make it across to the island" (p. 9).

But although Mary Louis O'Callaghan was based in the neighboring Solomon Islands and for ten years traveled regularly to PNG, she was not amongst these mad, persistent, journalists or observers who did make it into free, unoccupied, Bougainville during the war. Fair enough. Neither - for to me quite sufficient reasons - was I! But she does not admit this in her book. And, with the single exception of top photographer Ben Bohane, she fails to mention a single one of these madly persistent journalists, observers, and filmmakers in either acknowledgments or index.

Mary-Louise does write: "I was to return to Bougainville again and again" but this is never Free, only PNG/Australian Occupied, Bougainville. This slight of language is ubiquitous, constant in all "official" reports, but I had hoped for better, more precision, from MLOC. I insist on this failure, for during the Bougainville war there was constant obfuscation of this issue. Australian establishment media and the government always presented trips to PNG-occupied areas as "going to Bougainville." They passed silently over the fact that these journalists, observers, Australian Parliamentary delegates, doctors, aid workers, etc. utterly failed to visit those Bougainvillians against whom "Australia" and PNG were fighting, those living in free, "behind the blockade" areas.

Others, madly persistent, did. But O'Callaghan seems to ignore them. There are no entries in her index, no mention, of any of the three Gillespies, Rosemarie and two of her children, who spent, together or separately, more than two years behind the blockade. Certainly observing, reporting, filming. Nothing about film makers/journalists Jason Cornelius, Francis O'Neill, Wayne-Coles Janess - who escaped death by centimeters when his assistant Joachim Mature was shot, badly wounded, by PNG soldiers at Kobuan near Arawa during the October 1994 "cease-fire!" Nothing about Mandy King, Fabio Cavadini, Dom Rodrigues and his cameraman Carlos, Canadian-American "RYP" (Robert Young Pelton), and and and... Nothing about Morrisey Tua, Bougainvillian journalist, sole wounded survivor of seven unarmed blockade-runners murdered swimming in the water. Nothing about "observer" Marist Brother Bryan Leak, who survived a machine gun and grenade attack by an - Australian flown - Iroquois helicopter while ferrying sick women and children to Solomon Island hospitals. As a journalist I am astonished that amongst the 38(!) entries referring to PNG defense minister Mathias Ijape journalist O'Callaghan does not note Ijape's specific orders in January-February 1997 to capture or kill fellow-journalists Andrew Marshall and Wayne Coles-Janess, to destroy their equipment...

And Mary-Louise O'Callaghan, who is well placed to know, fails totally to mention what amounted in practice to a "D-notice", a strong suggestion (!) to the Australian mass-media, particularly television, to a de facto ban any presentation of the war which infringed on these two cardinal principles: the denial of Australian participation - particularly by Australian mercenaries such as the helicopter pilots, and the internal strength, successes, of the "rebel" Bougainvillians. "Hell in the Pacific", about the misdeeds of the Australian CRA could be shown on prime time by Channel 4 in Britain; it and similar films were not considered fit for Australian audiences by commercial channels, the ABC nor even - till the war was almost over -SBS (7).

Mary-Louise well describes the Australian evacuation of Martin Miriori, Bougainville Interim Government/BRA representative from Honiara. She does not mention the Bougainvillian Diplomat Moses Havini, nor his wife Marylin, who compiled the most comprehensive, detailed, 2 volume history of atrocities committed during the war, almost all by the PNG/Australian side.

Has she read thru these "case histories"? Or the scores of "Statutory Declarations" compiled by Rosemarie Gillespie? There are 9 references in "Enemies" concerning the Kangu Beach "massacre", during which PNG soldiers were killed and captured. How many (how few!) about the many hundred previous massacres - without quotation marks - of Bougainvillian civilians, men, women, children, babies? Mary-Louise calls the 5 PNG soldiers captured at Kangu Beach "hostages", not Prisoners of War. She hardly mentions what happened to hundreds of captured BRAs....

I analyzed some parts of "Enemies Within" linguistically, and find a persistent - perhaps unconscious - bias against the Bougainvillians, always called rebels, never freedom fighters nor even revolutionaries, a bias in favor of the PNG/Australian side.

March 1996 - "Chan lifts ceasefire." In Free Bougainville he hardly observed one, but this is not mentioned. To "resolve the Bougainville conflict" means, in clear, to defeat the Bougainvillians fighting for their independence against Rio Tinto. A "negotiated settlement" is the surrender of the basic Bougainvillian demands: Independence, and no mine. Yes, the blockade was "eventually eased," but - unmentioned by MLOC - not before the BRA blockade runners became well armed and sunk their attackers. The entire question of the blockade is obfuscated: "as the BRA unilaterally declared independence Papua New Guinea had first imposed the blockade..." In fact the blockade was planned and started in April 1990, weeks before Independence was declared on 17 May...

O'Callaghan never mentions the April 1990 secret "Plan" for the reconquest of Bougainville, certainly devised with Australian participation, which was adhered to for many years. It described the blockade - above all of medical supplies and news - and the creation of anti-BRA Resistance forces, six months before these "spontaneously" sprung up in Buka, later Siwai (8).

Marie-Louise, as if trapped by Australian/PNG propaganda, seems to ignore sources from inside Free Bougainville. The Gillespies - including the then 16 years old Kirrallee, lived for many months in Free Bougainville; never endangered by "wild raskols.. calling themselves BRA militants"(p. 10). PNG minister Barter is tormented by the "quite desperate situation" on Bougainville, the destruction, absence, of electricity, schools, aid posts (p. 103). Nowhere does Marie-Louise mention that Barter - until January 1997 - never looked behind the blockade. Neither Barter nor she seem to have seen any of the video-films (7, 9, 10, 11) shot inside the free zones, showing schools, even colleges, hydro-electric plants, medical stations, reforestation projects... General Sam Kauona's wife Josie (12), others, point out that life in the bush taught them much, above all to rely on themselves. Many visitors to free Bougainville found life there anything but pathetic.

There is a persistent misrepresentation by Australian/PNG propaganda of why a potential earlier end of the Bougainville war: the October 1994 Arawa "Peace Conference," failed. Unfortunately O'Callaghan accepts the totally biased version that the BRA/BIG leadership reneged on its commitment, simply failed to come to the talks. In fact BRA general Sam Kauona had accepted a rapid cease-fire over the objections of his field commanders, who wanted to continue their successful actions against the then partly defeated PNG army. The BRA/BIG and Chan had agreed in Honiara that the conference would be prepared by the two sides as "equals," with a neutral peacekeeping force. However, these conditions were almost immediately "forgotten" by Chan. By the 20th September he was running these preparations quite unilaterally, without any BRA/BIG participation. Chan now ignored the repeated and increasingly unhappy complaints of Sam Kauona and other BRA/BIG spokesmen. Port Moresby and Canberra took over the entire conference, soon dominated completely by Australian and PNG forces. - Of course Australia was - as far as the Bougainvillians were concerned - in no manner "neutral". By breaking all earlier agreements the Bougainvillians were, well before the actual beginning of the talks, utterly disappointed.

As to the actual conference - Australian/PNG propaganda declares till today that the BRA/BIG, in bad faith, refused to "come out" of the bush, under the (phony) pretext of a "lack of security." In fact not only was BRA Field Commander Ishmael Toroama shot at when he did attend; the unarmed Australian cineaste Wayne Coles-Janess was almost killed by PNG soldiers, his off-sider Joachim Mature badly wounded, at Kobuan 7 kilometers from Arawa - in the middle of the conference "cease-fire." These "incidents" find no place in the book, in fact none of the film makers - Dom Rotheroe, Mandy King, Fabio Cavadini, Coles-Janess, Jason Cornelius, who risked their lives and equipment - often specifically targeted by PNG government ministers - to film in Free Bougainville are ever mentioned by MLOC, though there are several positive references to the "official" apologist for the war, ABC correspondent Sean Dorney (who never set foot inside free Bougainville).

As in my macro-examples above the internalization of initial propaganda statements, the failure to consider information coming from the other, for the Canberra and Port Moresby governments, the enemy side, produced an ill-informed, unrealistic, analysis of events and directed decision-makers towards self-defeating, counter-productive, actions.

Of course, contrary to Chan's illusions and complaints, "Australia", that is the Australian Labor Government, in particular one-time UNESCO candidate Gareth Evans, had long fully supported the war against Bougainville. "Australia" had helped develop the April 1990 secret "Plan" (8) for the reconquest of Bougainville, had supplied the money, arms, helicopters, patrol boats, advisers and - above all - the essential mercenaries - the helicopter pilots. This plan had assumed that the destruction of the BRA could be accomplished within a few months. It was religiously followed for three, four, years, but had definitely failed by August 1994. It was only then, and particularly after the March 1996 election of a new, conservative, government, not married to the war, as had been Gareth Evans, Hawke, Keating, that Canberra told Port Moresby "We can't win, we'll have to negotiate".

But as the Australian propaganda, both at home and in PNG, had always totally downplayed Australian participation in the war, Chan could now - quite unjustly - blame a lack of Australian support for their joint failure to destroy the BRA. He also, as Mary-Louise almost says, had himself sabotaged any possibility for a real peace conference in October 1994, when he ignored all the earlier commitments, accords he had made with Sam Kauona, the BIG, and conducted himself as if the Bougainvillians had lost, not won, the battles of August 1994. This self-delusion, plus a still-not traced slush fund of at least half a million US$ which ex-Minister Ben Sabumei has disbursed to PNG's elites, drove Chan and his "stooges" into the arms of the Sandline mercenaries. And only a totally unrealistic analysis of the strength (or rather: assumed weakness) of the BRA could make Chan, Ijape and Haveita believe that Spicer and his men would not only recapture Panguna, but - this time - hold it and - utter fantasy - get it back into production as a working mine, against the will of the Bougainvillians. Mercenary chief Spicer even pretended, and Chan pretended to believe him, that capture, holding and restarting the mine could succeed just by scaring the BRA, there would be no need for the also-planned aerial killing of the entire surrounding population.

The accusation, by Chan, that "Australia" had failed to provide the training which would have allowed the PNGDF to win victory in Bougainville is a gratuitous insult not only to Australian, but also to the American military, whose "Special Forces" had been training PNG soldiers since 1992. Only self-delusion could allow Ijape and Chan to believe that the mercenaries had a "magic" solution, which would defeat the BRA where all else had failed.

Unfortunately Mary-Louise makes no comment as to how Sandline had operated in Sierra Leone, with, for instance, the aerial destruction of sometimes even friendly villages. Nor does her biography of retired Lt. Col. Tim Spicer include any mention of the murders his soldiers committed in Northern Ireland, of his justification thereof, even after two of his men were sentenced to life imprisonment by a British court in Belfast, truly a rare event. However I was happy to furnish these details to Melsol in Port Moresby, who passed them on to Brigadier General Singirok. Perhaps this, and the fact that Mrs. Francis Ona is one of his Wantoks, relatives, helped the General make up his mind... and conclude that firing 1000 60 mms rockets into Guava and the surrounding villages was not such a good idea.

Mary-Louise does not mention that amongst the placards, banners, held up both inside and outside Murray Barracks were some calling for "Peace Now," that is, peace in Bougainville, and that the PNG soldiers certainly understood that their supporters, in Melsol - a "left-wing" organization wanted to end the war. Nor does she explain the soldier’s support of Singirok in this context, rather than as a "loyal to our leader" reaction by the troops.

Certainly the rank and file soldiers in Port Moresby did not, by themselves, begin an "anti-war" action. But we have seen a similar development 25 years ago in Portugal. There too an initial anti-war, anti-dictatorial, revolt, first proclaimed by a General Spinola, supported actively by many captains and majors, spread, somewhat more slowly than in smaller Port Moresby, to the rank and file. Later, when the Portuguese officers also felt things had gone too far, and "compromised themselves" against their revolution, the Portuguese rank and file soldiers continued the struggle, often against their officers, for another 3 months (5).

Bougainvillians have fought a revolutionary war against the world's biggest mining corporation Rio Tinto, against Australian and PNG militaries and governments and some of their "paid for" local allies (the so-called Resistance). They have, at the price of many thousand dead, beaten Rio Tinto, closed the Panguna mine. And, for now ten years, have kept it closed. A rare feat, which world capital does not want to have advertised. The "Sandline Mercenaries" were but one, perhaps the last, of the malevolent men intending to subdue them, after Australian efforts, mercenaries and advisers, failed. The definite, inclusive, history of that epoch remains, still, to be written.

(1) Enemies Within: Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the Sandline Crisis: The Inside Story. Mary-Louise O'Callaghan, Doubleday, Australia, 381 ps pb, 1999 ISBN 0-86824-786-3. rrp $ 21.95

(2) In a similar context, the small half-island tail of East Timor has also "wagged" a huge dog, the country of Indonesia, helped crystallize opposition to a corrupt establishment.

(3) And I do consider myself as well informed on this subject !

(4) Cortright, David: Soldiers in Revolt, Anchor Doubleday NY, USA 1975

(5) Cortright, David and Watts, Max: Left Face: Soldier Unions and Resistance Movements in Modern Armies, Greenwood Press, Westport CT, USA, 1991. U$45.00

(6) Gillespie, Rosemarie: Ecocide - Industrial Chemical Contamination and the Corporate Profit Imperative - The Case of Bougainville. ISBN 0-646-37379-XMe'ekamui Publications, LPO Box 31, Lyneham ACT 2602, 28 ps, rrp $ 10

(7) Wayne Coles-Janess: Video Documentary: Bougainville - Our Island, Our Fight - First shown on SBS in December 1997, Ipso-facto Productions, 1-40 Smith St. Surry Hills 2010, tel: 04111 59454, fax (02) 9770 4263

(8) "An Intelligence Resume for Contingency Planning for North Solomon Island Province," Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Branch, NSP Cell, April 1990 (Confidential)

(9) Kay Bishop and Glen Ellis: Video Documentary: "Hell in the Pacific." Catma films 1993 (copy available from Max Watts, POB 98, Annandale 2038)

(10) Dom Rotheroe: Video Documentary: "The Coconut Revolution", 1999 (copy available from Max Watts, POB 98, Annandale 2038).

(11) Untitled: Selected Video Films shot by Rosemarie and Kirrallee Gillespie on Bougainville between 1992 and 1996 (unfinished film).

(12) Untitled: Selected Video Films shot by Mario Cavadini and Mandy King on Bougainville 1996-97 (unfinished film);

(12a) Personal discussions in 1999 with Josie and Sam Kauona.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment