The Chief of Army goes ‘on the record’ over hat badges and halal

The Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, has responded to the revelation that the Australian Army has signed off on a requirement for halal rations. You can read his full response here.

He’s also re-raised the issue of the hat badge worn by Australian Army chaplains. We’ll start with that thorny problem first.

The good news is that the hat badge will not be changing (at the moment), although the Chief of Army has left the door open for a change in the future.

However, the Chief of Army should be praised for his current stance. Whether or not he would have eventually made a different decision if this story was not publicised by the media, we’ll never know. But at the end of the day, a change was planned, then the Chief of Army stepped in and now it’s going nowhere.

Of course, in between the Australian public made its unhappiness about this planned change well known. Even I was surprised by the strength of the backlash after it was announced that the word ‘conquer’ would be removed and that the hat badge would be changed in order to prevent offence to Islam.

As I said in December, this whole episode shows that when ordinary Australians do stand tall and fight hard, good things happen.

However, it seems strange that the Chief of Army is upset at the media’s coverage of this story. While some outlets are still reporting that the hat badge is changing (and this is incorrect), the Chief of Army should really be focusing on Defence’s own PR problem in relation to the hat badges, and not the media’s subsequent reporting of this issue.

That’s because Defence told the media in November 2015 that the hat badges were changing ‘to better reflect the diversity of religion throughout the Australian Army’. That’s why there were stories like this:

One can only imagine that this statement was released because someone, somewhere, had decided that the hat badge was changing.

Defence’s statement also made it clear that the final ‘new motto’ had not yet been finalised.

I’m surmising here, but it would probably have been something pathetically bland like, ‘Together Many Are One’, although ‘Peace Out, Dude!’ could have been an outside chance. And it’s altogether possible that ‘Allahu Akbar’ was on the cards.

Anyway, the Chief of Army has a serious problem and it appears that he is blaming everyone else.

Either ADF PR believes that it can go about acting on a frolic of its own and making decisions about hat badges without consulting the boss. Or a decision was taken to change the hat badge by someone with enough authority to give the green light to the media team to confirm it.

Regardless, instead of pointing fingers at media outlets who have just reported the information provided by Defence, it would be better if heads rolled in the Army over this bungle.

Speaking of heads rolling, now it’s time to turn to the unfortunate issue of the Australian Army’s new requirement for Sharia compliant food.

The bad news is that the Chief of Army made it crystal clear in his statement that this was happening. He did not deny it at all.

He did kinda sorta hinted that it might not be happening as much. But he also kinda sorta hinted that it may happen much more. We just don’t know.

What we do know is that he specifically said that it is incorrect to state that ‘one third’ of rations will be halal, even though one third of ration configurations will be halal. He further failed to specify what proportion would be Sharia compliant and sacrificed to a god that Australians reject but the Islamic State accepts.

Instead, he stated that the proportion would vary based on demographic and operating requirements.

Considering that Australia’s favourite halal certifier made it well known on Channel 7 yesterday that it would be ‘offensive’ to eat non-halal products, like pork, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army may well have determined that all rations used by Australia’s soldiers there must be halal.

Who knows? In this politically-correct world I would not be surprised if that was the case. We bend over here, so why would we give any impression that we have any cultural pride over there?

After all, in 2008 I was ordered by the US Army not to say ‘Merry Christmas’ because it upset some atheist in San Francisco (I think). It was an ‘order’ that I subsequently forgot to follow almost immediately.

Well, actually, it was immediately. But that’s another whole story.

The Chief of Army’s statement on the halal rations is not really very satisfactory. On the surface, it looks like it’s designed to calm the anger by giving the impression that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

But it failed at this dismally by admitting up front that halal rations are coming.

And then it failed again by leaving open the possibility that they are coming in a bigger way than we might have first thought.

However, if it is true that only a few rations will be halal, then the Chief of Army has another issue to face up to.

And that’s the fact that the previous ration plans avoided ‘menu fatigue’ by having eight options, seven of which could be described as standard. There was one vegetarian menu that usually went to the last soldier to get to the stores point. That’s how we ensured diversity waaaay back in 2007/08.

This ration plan avoids ‘menu fatigue’ by including four halal, two kosher and two vegetarian options and reducing the number of standard menus to four as well. So unless soldiers are given halal rations, this ration plan is only going to increase ‘menu fatigue’.

As the Chief of Army said in his statement, eating the same rations day after day can be demoralising. So we should expect to see another ‘On the Record’ intervention from him on this issue in the very near future. Because he’s just backed a plan that will reduce ration choices for standard Aussie Diggers who want to eat standard Aussie ration packs.

As such, some soldiers might describe this plan as a self-licking ice-cream. It looks good but is of no use to anyone.

Others would say that the Chief of Army’s statement is just another example that they’re being treated like mushrooms: fed BS and kept in the dark.

And in the usual fashion of Aussie Diggers, they will no doubt show their appreciation of diversity by using other colourful language to describe this situation as well. As is the usual case with the language of diversity, these statements really are not fit to print. They probably won’t be halal either.

Author: Bernard Gaynor

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