Sydney Morning Herald columnist, Paul Sheehan, interviewed me last weekend at the Q Society’s International Symposium on Liberty & Islam. Today he writes about my speech regarding the ADF’s approach to religion, particularly Islam, and the fact that it holds the religious belief of our enemies in higher regard than the Christian faith held by most soldiers and Australians.
The full text of my speech can be found here.
Major Bernie Gaynor jnr has served three tours of duty in Iraq but he is going to be thrown out of the army this week, or next, or very soon. And he is not going quietly.
Last week, I attended a conference in Melbourne called the Symposium on Islam and Liberty in Australia, organised by the Q Society, and Gaynor was one of the speakers. I also interviewed him at length about why a patriotic, articulate Australian intelligence officer, now serving in the Army Reserve, has become an unbearable presence for the Chief of Army, among others.
In his blog, Gaynor describes himself as ”a conservative Catholic who writes what normal men dare not speak out loud”. I put it to him that his commentary online and on Twitter had evolved into a provocation to the army.
”Absolutely,” he replied.
Everyone listening to his speech in Melbourne quickly understood why, and I quote: ”It is my unpleasant duty to inform you that the Australian Defence Force has a fundamentally broken approach to religion, an approach shaped partly by the triumph of bureaucratic administration over battlefield considerations but mostly by plain old political correctness.
”Political correctness has cost lives on the battlefield and resulted in completely flawed campaign strategies … [The ADF] has spent the last decade at war with people who fight for their religious beliefs. And part of the problem that comes with fighting people who are motivated by religious belief is that you need to have soldiers equally motivated to oppose them.
”As a Catholic, I understand why people are motivated to do things based on religious belief, rather than what would seem to be rational on a purely secular level. As an intelligence officer, it is a valuable insight to have … but the ADF has a fundamentally flawed understanding of Islam.
”Just look at Iraq. I was one of the last Australians to serve there. All the politicians and military hierarchy were saying the withdrawal of Western military force was based on success. And yet al-Qaeda today controls more of Iraq than it ever did while Western forces were in the country, or while Saddam Hussein was in power.
”The Iraq war was a failure because no one can say why we were there, who the enemy was or what the mission was … This has cost lives and wasted a decade and a half of war. In a strategic sense, Iraq and Afghanistan are no better for the blood shed by Australian soldiers.
”In Afghanistan, the government has a constitution based on Islamic law and teaching, just as the Taliban’s regime was. So the efforts of the last decade to remove the threat in Afghanistan from Islamic groups has directly led to the creation of an Islamic state.”
If it were possible to be more provocative to progressive sensibilities, Gaynor found a way. He then turned to the Muslim community in Australia: ”The community’s participation rate in the ADF is low. There were 88 Muslims in uniform in mid-2013. That means that, while there is one Australian in uniform in every 400, there is only one Muslim in uniform for about every 6000 Muslims in this country.
”This is not because the Islamic community is peaceful. I think there are now nine Australian Muslims who have died in Syria. On a per capita basis, that is equivalent to the ADF losing over 400 soldiers in Afghanistan. So while the Islamic community is 15 times less likely to contribute to our nation’s defence, it is 10 times more likely to see its sons die on the battlefield … for a cause that hates Western life, history and culture.”
While this is fire and brimstone, what got him into career-ending trouble in the army was his run-in with the gay community within the military. In early last year, Gaynor criticised a law that would prevent Christian schools from barring gay teachers. He lodged a formal complaint about ADF personnel being allowed to take part in uniform in the Sydney Mardi Gras. He cited the military’s ban on engaging in political activity while in uniform.
He quoted references to political activism in the constitution of the Mardi Gras. He referred to a tradition of ”religious and political vilification” at the Mardi Gras, especially of the Catholic Church. He pointed out that Catholics made up almost 40 per cent of Australian military personnel.
The details go on and on but, in March last year, Major General A. J. Campbell, DSC, wrote requesting his resignation from the army: ”In short, army does not share your views, which are both offensive and divisive and not in the interests of army or our people.”
The chairman of the Defence Force Gay & Lesbian Information Service, Squadron Leader Vince Chong, weighed in with a complaint that Gaynor’s conduct ”compromises a person’s ability to work within the diverse workforce of the Australian Defence Force, which includes transgender personnel, personnel from Islamic backgrounds and women”.
Although internal investigations dismissed the complaints and charges against him, largely because he was expressing personal views while serving in the reserves, the army has moved, in the absence of his resignation, to terminate his commission.
”While I was having this battle,” Gaynor told me, ”Defence issued a policy that if any uniformed personnel participated in an event that vilified Islam they would be severely dealt with. We now have the absurd situation where the ADF protects the religious beliefs of Islam, while tolerating the vilification of Christianity, the religion that most soldiers identify with.”