29 September 2012

Murk and Mitty

Posts in this blog over several years have noted incidents of 'stolen valour', ie people appropriating military honours and illicitly enjoying the respect due to those who have served under fire.

One example was Rex Crane, who received both esteem and substantial Commonwealth support. Michael Nicholson pretended to be a colonel and, using fake identity papers, gained entry to Randwick Barracks.  Reg Newton spun tales of derring do as a secret agent. Gordon Tisdell was recurrently but undeservedly featured in The Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald and even in the London Independent as a heroic Vietnam veteran.

Tisdell was quoted by AAP on Anzac Day 2010 (as a self-identified survivor of the Battle of Long Tan) as stating "You remember the times you had in the army and the mates you went away with. Some of them didn't come back". Later that year he was revealed to have not served in Vietnam – or indeed in any war. Rather than participating in fighting against the Vietcong, he spent his time on a dairy farm at Gloucester, New South Wales. I've commented elsewhere that dairy cows are fierce beasts, no doubt, but we can reasonably assume that they do not attack you with knives, grenades and other things that kill.

In his response to queries by SMH journalists Tisdell explained that -
I've never been a fraud in my life. I was just wearing my relatives' medals ... Defence came here today to see me. They said I'm not allowed to say anything. They brought the photographs out and showed them to me. They said not to say anything otherwise I get six months in jail.
There is now a large literature about people who have preyed on our good nature (or our howling credulity) in concocting ‘extreme memoirs’, including supposedly factual accounts of how they were victims of satanic rituals or other horrors, were fed by wolves or otherwise deserve our compassion and our dollars. An example of such identity exploitation is Norma Khouri, whose Forbidden Love: A Harrowing True Story of Love & Revenge in Jordan (New York: Random House 2002) recounts the author's life in Jordan, from which she fled after the honour killing of her closest friend. The book was an international best-seller, with Khouri touring the world after gaining temporary residence in Australia, appearing on network television in the US and in numerous interviews when not "in hiding" out of supposed fear for her life. Alas for the truth. Khouri was revealed to have a US passport (having lived in Chicago from 1973 until 2000 after leaving Jordan when she was three), a husband and two children (rather than being a virgin) and several US siblings.

In 2001 a panel of special masters from the California Commission on Judicial Performance(CJP) found that Judge Patrick Couwenberg of the Los Angeles County Superior Court "misrepresented his educational and military backgrounds to various sources, including the governor who appointed him". Couwenberg was charged with
(1) misrepresenting his educational background on his Personal Data Questionnaires when seeking judicial appointment; (2) falsely representing, in the course of seeking a judicial appointment in 1996, that he was a Vietnam veteran; (3) misrepresenting his educational background, legal experience and affiliations on his 1997 Judicial Data Questionnaire; (4) falsely representing to the judge who was to introduce him at the public enrobing ceremony that he was a Vietnam veteran who had received a Purple Heart; (5) falsely representing to attorneys that he went to Vietnam, had a master’s degree in psychology and had shrapnel in his groin received in military combat; (6) falsely telling a newspaper reporter that he was in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969; and (7) making false statements about his education and military experience in letters and in testimony to the commission during its investigation of his conduct. 
Couwenberg’s lawyers said that he deserved an opportunity to remain in office on the basis that his statements were not malicious but were "the product of a psychological impairment". The CJP found that Couwenberg lied to the commission in sworn testimony by claiming to have participated in covert operations with the CIA in Southeast Asia in 1967 and 1968. Couwenberg claimed that some of his misstatements were intended to be humorous and that others were typed onto official forms by his wife, based on statements he had made to her 20 years earlier

In the latest incident the Brisbane Times reports that the Hines twins - John and George - have been charged under the Defence Act 1903 (Cth) with falsely representing to be a returned soldier, sailor or airman and improper use of service decorations.

John Hines is reported as indicating that he will contest the charges, on the basis that he served in a specialist unit titled Military Assessment Surveillance Keep (MASK) in the 1960s. That unit was supposedly secret, advanced as the reason for why Hines does not appear in conventional Defence records about surveillance activity in Australia, Vietnam, Borneo, Mozambique, Cambodia, Nigeria and Thailand. Hines also claims to have spied on former prime minister Harold Holt. "I wasn't really comfortable with doing surveillance on the Prime Minister but those were my orders."

The brothers were reported to police after attending this year's Anzac Day parade in Brisbane in an unconventional uniform and medals.

Hines is reported as stating that it would be ridiculous for someone to make up his background.
I have nothing to hide ... to know about us you would have to be at a pretty high level," he said. "What sort of person would write a 1700 page manuscript over a couple of years, get uniforms made up, wear all these medals and go and stand out like a beacon at an Anzac Day parade purporting to be a regular Australian soldier? "I have never said and I have never written anywhere that I was part of the regular Australian army. MASK was backed by the Australian government, not the ADF, the UK government and the American government.
What sort of person indeed.
I'm a sensible type of person, I'm not a thief or a bloody axe murderer, I lead a normal life, I'm not a frustrated person, I've been a policeman I know the law, I'm not about to break the law and do something on such a grand scale and purport to be service man from the regular army.
The Times reports that
Hines said it took him so long to emerge with his story because he signed a "40 Year Secrecy Act" when he first joined MASK. 
There is of course no such Act in Australian law.

The ANZMI imposters watchdog site quotes Hines as stating that -
I had a Pension Hearing before the DVA where I produced an old rusty Battle Axe in a glass frame (which was MASK’s primary close quarter fighting weapon) with the words embossed into the metal ‘M.A.S.K. Special Forces – 1966’. It was a training axe. I spoke about MASK for quite a while, but the Female Chairperson hardly looked at me and the case was over before it started. 
Unofficially I have been told that I'm the highest decorated soldier in Australia - ever. CARO and MAS don't have anything past my CMF records and even some of them have been altered.