a little east of reality

Thursday, April 27, 2006

kovco bungle

Remember the soldier I wrote about a couple of days ago, Private Jake Kovco? He is the first Australian soldier to die in the current Iraq situation. Well things are going from bad to worse.

Firstly there is plenty of speculation over his death. The news had been that he was accidentally shot while cleaning his rifle. Some people speculated that it might have been suicide. It turns out there were three people present, but not looking at him at the time of the shot, so the plot thickens even further. The Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said today:
"He wasn't in fact cleaning his weapon.

"It was near him in his vicinity and he made some kind of movement which suggests that it discharged.

"There was obviously a live round in it which there should not have been and that's as much as I should probably say at the moment."
Doesn't really do much to explain it, but maybe he doesn't want to conjecture before the official inquiry is completed. Kovco's cousin, Adam Blackman, said in a radio interview:
"The things in the paper about him accidentally shooting himself, we all knew in our family that he did not do that."

"We need closure to this.

"I can see the way everybody is talking, the government and everything, we're never going to be told the truth about what happened to him.

"The story changes and changes and changes."
Then came the news that they had managed to SEND THE WRONG BODY HOME! The outrage over this was compounded when it was learned that the Dept of Defence had decided to use a private contractor to organise the transfer of the body. One thing that had me raising my eyebrows was this little outburst from Blackman:
"It's shocking. It's a disgrace. The government and the Australian army should be ashamed of themselves.

"John Howard, you're nothing but a shocker."
For those of you not familiar with Aussie slang, the insult 'shocker' probably sounds a bit weird. It's basically like saying "unbelieveably bad/hopeless". Now seriously, I can't stand John Howard (our Prime Minister). I think he's a smug SOB who's made some terrible decisions in office that have hurt the Australian people and diminished their lifestyle and future prospects for a happy, financially secure and environmentally sound life. So generally speaking I'm high fiving anyone giving the guy a hard time. But this is ludicrous! Does he really think it's the Prime Minister's job to tell the Defence Force how to ship home the body of one of their own soldiers? To personally prevent human error from occurring in the transfer of a body located oversees? Puh-lease! Why the hell aren't they this demanding of him as a leader when he's raising the cost of public education or overturning a century of progess in industrial relations law?

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley naturally had something to say about the bungle, suggesting that the return of bodies of service personnel should be handled by the military, as was the case in Britain and the US.
"This is a dreadful mistake that should never have happened," he told reporters in Sydney.

"I'm not going to seek to politicise this. All any Australian feels is just simply the utmost sympathy for Shelley Kovco and her family."

"Never again must any Australian casualty be handled by private contractors.

"Never again must circumstances occur where our honoured dead are brought home by anyone other than the services for whom they fought."
Nope, no politicising there at all. Mm. Though I agree with the sentiment of what he's saying, the private contractor in question is Kenyon International, a company that has been involved in the recovery of bodies from more than 300 disasters during its 75-year history of operation. It's not like they just send the body home by Kuwaiti Express Post.

Anyway, I do feel for his family. They don't even really know what happened with Jake, and having the body of another soldier (who incidentally hasn't been identified, except that he was European) sent home to them must have just added to their pain. It implies a certain amount of carelessness over all they have left of him, which is obviously upsetting.