Monday, January 08, 2007

supersoft target: Salusinszky refuted

with imre around, the critical life's a breeze

I've heard various acquaintances slag off at Imre Salusinszky, a media pundit I'd never really encountered in his political manifestation until the other day. All I'd heard was his not particularly interesting but innocuous views on Bob Dylan, the Stones and such.

The other day, though, he was on the radio semi-debating the David Hicks issue with Major Michael Mori, the military lawyer who's attained heroic status here in Australia. Salusinszky's arguments were so demonstrably bad that they've provided me with an easy day's writing in rebutting them, so I'll take the line of least resistance and put off the much more onerous [but someone's gotta do it] task of exploring the politics of water resource management to another day.

Salusinszky's line was that Hicks is a racist, a member of al-quaeda and a traitor [these are his own words] and that, considering all the more serious injustices that need to be righted in the world, the plight of Hicks is not something worth losing too much sleep over. He also claimed that the defenders of Hicks were largely driven by anti-Americanism.

Mori in response focused on the legal issues, including the fact that the US administration doesn't allow its own citizens to face these tribunals but considers them good enough to try foreign citizens [what was I saying about British foreign policy arrogance in the time of Palmerston?]. He didn't deign to answer Salusinszky's claims, but the clear implication was that those supporting Hicks were doing so on the basis of rights and justice rather than on the basis of personal sympathies.

I want to answer Salusinszky's claims more directly – again because it's a soft job. First, the question of Hicks' alleged beliefs about Jews and or other ethnic groups is of course irrelevant to the issue of whether or not he should be held in solitary confinement for a number of years without trial. Neither are these alleged beliefs relevant to the charges brought against him, which include attempted murder as I recall.

Much more seriously, Salusinszky alleged that Hicks is a member of al-quaida. Now, as far as I know, al-quaida members aren't issued with a gold membership card and they don't pay subscriptions or membership fees. Membership of al-quaida is presumably determined by examining contacts, movements, conversations. I would imagine such membership isn't easily established. Hicks of course has been in close imprisonment for five years, so it's his activities before this that are in question, and surely the best way to determine whether those activities constitute or might conceivably constitute membership of al-quaida is through thorough examination in a court of law.

All sorts of allegations have been made against Hicks, though the specific charges are conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder and aiding the enemy. It should be noted that these are vague charges – the enemy isn't specified, and could conceivably be anyone who isn't 'with' the current US administration in its vague, multi-dimensional war on terror. Conspiracy is also a vague, catch-all term, and could be applied to anyone careless or stupid or drunk enough to shoot their mouth off in front of the wrong people or to be caught in the wrong company. Yet even considering the vagueness of these charges, the fact that Hicks has been held captive for five years without ever having been brought to trial – in a case which, if won, would be a huge feather in the cap of this US administration, has always indicated to me that the evidence is very weak, if not non-existent. After all this time, this evidence is unlikely to grow.

I can only assume that, in claiming that Hicks is a member of al-quaida, Salusinszky is engaging in media speculation, even though he's stating it as fact. If it's speculation, it strikes me as irresponsible, as he's assuming something that has yet to be proven. If it's fact, he needs to contact the appropriate authorities, tout de suite, and present himself as a key witness in the case, or at the very least, to provide the contact details of his informants.

Finally Salusinszky accused Hicks of being a traitor. Not many people are charged with treason these days, not in western democracies at least, and the reasons are pretty obvious – it's a highly subjective and easily politicized term. The Vietnam war saw divisions, here and in the US, in which the same people were being described as traitors or heroes, depending on the political persuasions of the describers.

Hicks is generally described as a traitor because, as this indignant writer to The Australian argues, he was "a footloose adventurer, willing to betray his antecedents by embracing Islam and hot-footing it to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban.'' Needless to say, being a footloose adventure is neither treasonous nor illegal, it's almost in the nature of children to betray their antecedents, and embracing Islam, while deplorable in my own view, is a personal decision anyone can legally and rightfully make. As to his willingness to fight with the Taliban, the extent of such willingness, and the legality or otherwise of his decisions in this matter [given that the Taliban government was in fact recognized by the US and Australian governments at the time of the September 11 attacks, and so could not be described as 'the enemy'] needs to be determined by a court of law. It continues to be unlikely that it will ever be so determined.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

pavlov's cat