Monday, November 14, 2005

the Hicks farce

I’ve been meaning to write on the David Hicks case ever since the four corners program recently. My view on Hicks as a person, from what information can be gleaned about him, hasn’t changed much since I first heard about him being arrested. That’s to say, he seems naïve, not too bright, and generally well-intentioned. The remarks of former detainee Moazzem Begg, who had conversations with Hicks, bear this out fairly well. He’s been caught up in something way beyond his depth, and you could say he was partly responsible for that, but the consequences for him have been absolutely horrendous and disproportionate.

The greatest tragedy for Hicks may well be that he has been detained throughout the ascendancy of the Howard government, though I’m not sure if Labor, under Beazley, would’ve been more humane, or more assertive against the Bush administration. But really the Howard government’s behaviour in this matter has been appalling.

Take Downer. Please. This is his first remark in the four corners program:

We do have quite a lot of information on his activities. And I can only say to you on the basis of that he's not somebody to whom I extend a great deal of sympathy.

This comment is a lame attempt to give the impression that they, with their spectacular intelligence resources, know something about Hicks that we don’t. This is pretty definitely bullshit, but it’s become standard practise for this government. No doubt they’d say the same about Scott Parkin, after all the lowdown provided by ASIO.

So Hicks spent some time in Afghani training camps (before September 11) and he wrote a few anti-American letters. For these ‘crimes’ (and let’s be clear that Hicks’ actions weren’t illegal at that time) he has been tortured, abused, held without trial for four years and totally abandoned by his government.

In an interview just after this program was aired, Downer said, in a voice of faux astonishment, that Hicks had never complained to the Australian government about his treatment at the hands of the Americans. It seems that Downer was actually trying to get us to believe that these allegations were new and a complete surprise to him, but this is absurd. The torture claims have long been a matter of public debate, and have been posted on websites for a long time. It’s hard to know what opportunities Hicks may have had, if any, to inform the Australian government of these claims. His letters, as we know, are heavily censored, and I doubt if anyone from this government has attempted to contact Hicks to ascertain the truth, or even his version of events. In any case, considering what has happened to Hicks, he would be wary of saying anything that might get him into any more trouble. Making allegations against a power that apparently has control over whether you live or die would seem to be an unwise move.

Howard assures us that the US government, no doubt through its defence department, has investigated the matter and found no evidence of abuse. This is the same government that is fighting the US senate in a bid to retain the ‘right to torture’, which is as much of an admission as you’ll get out of it that it has been exercising that right throughout the so-called war on terror. And absolutely nobody that is in any way trustworthy on such matters (and that excludes Downer and Howard) doubts that torture, through the process of ‘rendition’, is being carried out and has been carried out on behalf of the US, with the tacit approval of the US administration, since September 11 2001.

The David Hicks farce is being carried through to the bitter end. Many far bigger fish have already been set free, but the supineness, or connivance, of the Australian government, has allowed a corrupt administration and a corrupt military-legal system to use Hicks for their sport.

Still, there’s a lot of support out there, and Hicks’ US lawyers, Josh Dratel and Dan Mori, are certainly doing their best under ridiculous constraints. There’s a useful interview with Dratel here. It mentions the affidavit signed by Hicks some time ago outlining the abuse he received in detention in Afghanistan and Cuba.


At 2:45 pm , Blogger Lisa said...

He hasn't been abused, Stewart, just was the subject of some enhanced interrogation techniques!


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