The Australian Government has long acknowledged that Hicks could not be tried in this country for any crime. And time, I trust, will prove Hicks is not guilty even of any of those “crimes” listed in the George W. Bush-inspired US Congress’s phoney retrospective legislation embracing what constitutes crimes against the nation that has ordained itself the policeman — and a corrupt one at that — of our planet.
The US’s “terror” laws, in the long run, cannot hold water; well, not unless democracy becomes so totally deranged that US legislators decide that it is OK to define crimes after the fact and that every nation on the planet is subject to its fiat — which means we will all venture forth each day never knowing whether our next action will, some day, be retrospectively legislated as a crime against the US.
MEANWHILE, back at home, where, despite John Howard and his cohort, a little more sanity does seem to prevail, two more damaging blows have been struck at the vitals of our cancerous body politic:
• One of the great voices of reason and decency, Carmen Lawrence, has decided to depart federal parliament, a forum already desperately short of the qualities of decency, honesty, integrity, humanity and all the things we pay eternal lip service to yet rarely vote for, and now tend to believe are only in our dreams.
• And, inspired by hate-mongers that represent a frighteningly malignant lump in our society, Pauline Hanson, has launched her latest salvo, this time in a book defiantly titled Untamed & Unashamed.
Won’t buy it. Wouldn’t read it. Just listening to her witless ignorance in a conversation with Fran Kelly on Radio National’s breakfast program the day before the book’s launch was enough: the Oldfield issue aside (who gives a flying wotsit whether they did or didn’t?), it was soon clear it was going to be more of the tripe she has been peddling since the 1990s; tripe upon on the back of which John W. Howard has since ridden to multiple infamous victories. (Got to give it to this perceptive little man, he’s acutely in touch with all the indecency that motivates that vital 10 per cent of the constituency that elects governments.)
“They have chose [her word] to come to my country … ,” preached anti-immigrationist Hanson to Kelly about non-Christians who have chosen to live in Australia; and, she asserted, “there are Christian Moslems”, provoking a despairing, vain protest from Kelly that there aren’t “Christian Moslems”.
That I am even bothering to talk about this woman has me worried. Why can’t we all simply ignore the ghastliness of her utterances? Sure she’s free to say what she wants; the questions are, should we listen and, even more importantly, should we encourage her to say more by giving her a tax-paid public platform?
If she wants to air her views, surely she should make the effort of tapping out her message and lodging it with a medium such as this, where we’re all free to rave on within the rules of libel and slander and, now, of our silly, knee-jerk “anti-terror” laws.
MUCH more disappointing than Hanson’s attempt to rise from the political dead, is that someone of the stature of Lawrence is to be lost from politics. Even though her voice has come only from the back bench in recent years, it has always been one of reason and good.
We all know that Lawrence, like every other woman who has aspired to high political office — Bronwyn Bishop (god forbid she might have made it) and Joan Kirner perhaps the best known among them — was quickly nobbled when she got too big for the boots that blokes seem to think only they should wear.
The way male pollies find common voice when someone without balls gives them the idea that she might, in the metaphorical sense, have them, is worth an academic study of its own. A finding might be that men — from time immemorial used to getting their own way via a bit of biffo — are now constrained from resorting to the physical. So they resort to dirt and ridicule to maintain their control.
Twenty-one great years in politics, Carmen. Sadly, if you ever had any hopes of national leadership, they disappeared when you were nailed for what you admit was a mistake, made on the run, about a woman who decided life had lasted long enough.
If you had been a bloke, that error would soon have become history. But you’re not a bloke — so you were not as forgivable, either by your parliamentary peers or voters. Your case may be one of those exceptions that prove the rule of national amnesia.
Quite reasonably, being impressed by neither the decency or structure of politics today, you are choosing to leave the political stage. We will miss the sanity and reason of your arguments and wisdom.
Fortunately, it seems we are not going to lose sight of you completely. You say you are going to establish an institute to research “processes of persuasion and indoctrination” and investigate factors that contribute to the development of “fanatical ideas and extreme behaviour, including violence”.
Go to it Dr Lawrence. And when you start to compile your list of the likely, and names such as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein crop up, don’t forget those other fanatical practitioners of “extreme behaviour, including violence”.
On your list, I’d like to see our own prime minister for aiding and abetting the main perpetrators of the mayhem and death that have lashed Iraq, US President W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.
As I remember, the bloodshed they inflicted on Iraqis came after a very thorough process of “persuasion and indoctrination” of the minds of their fellow legislators despite majority public disapproval.
That’s how much authority you get when your opinion is only taken notice of once every few years — at election time.
Australia — so much a lesser sovereign state for the depredations upon its character by Howard and his ilk this past decade — is desperately in need of a bit of clean air in its dirty lungs.
So it’s truly depressing when we see untamed, unashamed Pauline Hanson trying to get back into parliament at a time when a mind such as Carmen Lawrence’s is bidding it farewell.
And, from the Philadeplphia Inquirer:
Yes, the military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay finally got a guilty plea on a terrorism charge, from a 31-year-old Australian.
Don’t let anyone try to convince you that that result somehow justifies the affront to American values that is the Gitmo detention camp, with its dubious tribunals now getting geared up.
David Hicks pleaded guilty late Monday to being an al-Qaeda wannabe, having reportedly attended a training camp and met Osama bin Laden. Big fish, he was not.
What’s more, his plea seemed to be driven by a desire to do anything possible to get out of Guantanamo, which his father described as an ``absolute hell.’’ Hicks will be jailed for a time, but back in his own country.
Quite a triumph for the home of the free and the land of the brave.
The legal process leading to the surprise guilty plea was passing strange. Far from demonstrating that the military trials would be conducted fairly, this bizarre proceeding included a judge booting Hicks’ two civilian lawyers off the case.
Some of the detainees at Gitmo are clearly malevolent enemies of America, such as terror-kingpin suspect Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has claimed credit for everything but being John Wilkes Booth’s handler.
But the administration has never been keen on careful procedures that might discriminate between the truly dangerous and those whose detentions were only the product of the chaos of war.
The open-ended Guantanamo detentions remain deeply troubling, all the more so due to the Bush administration’s refusal to grant foreign prisoners the right to make habeas corpus appeals to the federal courts. Don’t just take the word of rights groups for that: Check with Robert M. Gates, the American defense secretary.
On the eve of the Hicks trial, administration officials confirmed that Gates argued for closing Guantanamo because the terror-suspect legal proceedings had given the United States such a black eye overseas.
Gates hasn’t won the day yet within the Bush administration, but give him credit for trying. He also succeeded in derailing a misguided plan to build a $100 million courthouse and detention center at Guantanamo. That would have given the clear impression that the detention camp was a permanent fixture, when even Bush claimed otherwise.
Detainee defense attorneys, including those working pro bono out of Philadelphia law firms, view the restoration of habeas corpus rights - an 800-year-old tradition in Anglo-American law - as key.
Congress should pass a measure to restore that fundamental human-rights protection. That is not only the right thing to do, but it might bolster Gates’ bid to close the detention center as well.
You see, the Bush administration has a habit of backing down on points that it formerly claimed were vital to national security, whenever federal courts are about to rule against it. If habeas appeals were restored, authorities just might decide to empty Guantanamo.
If Congress restored habeas rights, Bush might veto. Then it might be up to the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold this fundamental principle of American justice.
Congress or the courts: Whoever does it, someone who cares about America’s future has to uphold the values of due process and impartial justice that distinguish this nation from its enemies.
NOT enough can ever be said about the mistreatment of the unfortunate David Hicks. Yet our widespread and chronic amnesia is already setting in here in his homeland: Hicks has been sentenced to serve another year (in addition to the five he has already served under torturous conditions at Guantanamo and elsewhere), and yet no one seems to remember that, despite his guilty plea, he is guilty of no crime, especially one that warrants seven years incarceration. (He might be reasonably detained as a prisoner of war, but even Bush’s “war on terror” is a highly suss concept.)