What would you say if a government kidnapped someone in a foreign country, who had by their own admission done nothing against their own country, nor broken laws in the country they were kidnapped from, nor of the country they came from, locked them up in solitary confinement for 5 years, tortured them incessantly, refused to give them independent medical treatment, access to their family, lawyers of their own choosing, and refused to charge them with any criminal acts in defiance of their own legal system and constitution? What would you call that government? Would you call them a rogue state, a terrorist state?
I would. Australian David Hicks, and scores of others, have languished in these conditions for five years in defiance of the Geneva Convention, all international and American or Australian domestic laws, and common decency, in Guantanemo Bay, because someone in the American military decided Hicks, who trained with the Taliban before they were invaded was a terrorist. Only now have they charged him and under a military legal system that is probably illegal itself.
It's time to release Hicks. He did not fight America, nor contribute to the terrorist acts against America or the other countries subjected to Al-Qaeda terrorist acts, so far as anyone has been able to establish, or even reasonably implicate. He didn't even break Australian law at the time (and cannot be retrospectively charged under later laws passed here in the post 9-11 frenzy). He was stupid, and probably intending to be violent, in a religious decision to support the Taliban government, which at the time was a legitimate government. But you cannot convict him of what he was going to do. Our legal tradition is plain - criminal acts must be committed (including conspiracy to commit) before punishment can be applied.
Moreover, there is no independent scrutiny, by independent judicial oversight or access to the information even by the Australian parliament, of the information brought against Hicks. His own lawyers are not privy to that information. This has all the hallmarks of the Star Chamber, the infamous legal blight on British common law. It is a fundamental destruction of the basis our freedoms in law. And the Australian government is complicit in this.
The real terrorists in Hick's case is the US military and government. And the failure to apply even the basic standards of treatment in the incarceration of the Gitmo "detainees" (as if they were merely inconvenienced by not getting to a party on time) marks this American regime as a rogue state. It's time to stop allowing these atrocities to continue. Canadian citizens, British citizens and German citizens have been kidnapped, tortured and abused by this militaristic regime. It's not just injustice for brown people any more, guys. [I know that is shocking, but they get away with it because the American public thinks that Arabs and central Asians don't matter.]
The Taliban was a dreadful government, and they did support and enable the terrorists. I applaud the invasion of Afghanistan. It was necessary to ensure that terrorist states do not get away with supporting this sort of crime. But not everyone involved in them was guilty of that behaviour. The logic required to say Hicks and the others must be terrorists, even though they personally never committed any such act, makes all American citizens who work for the military or government in the past five years responsible for Abu Ghraib. Imprison them all, I say!
What to do about these guys? Well, if there were evidence they had acted in illegal (really illegal, not just "Bush and Co. don't like them") ways, charge them according to existing laws, open laws. Closed courts can be held if there is operational secrecy required, although it's hard to see how that might be the case now, after all this time. There are laws against organised crime, murder, arms and drug trafficking, and anything else needed to prosecute real criminal acts. But this farce is just unconscionable.
It is beyond all our own finest traditions to do this. We have become the enemy. Release these bastards or put them in the real legal system. If you can't, then you have no right to "detain" them, now or in the past.
Nicely said John. It appears that the US, a country which takes pride in its 'freedom' and assigns the motive 'hatred of freedom' to those it considers terrorists, is only interested in preserving the freedom of those who agree with their policies, so much so that they will take preemptive steps to restrict the freedom of those who might prefer other beliefs.
Australia: internment during the world wars
The internment policy may have been wrong, but did it make Australia "a rogue state"?
"injustice for brown people any more, guys. ... the American public thinks that Arabs and central Asians don't matter."
Those racist Americans.
It was Cronulla, a suburb of Sydney, not Detroit nor Paterson, New Jersey, that a little over a year ago was the site of an ethnic riot between whites and Muslim Arabs.
Is it America or the rest of the West that has had far more incidents of mosque attacks, desecration of Muslim cemeteries, and riots involving Muslims? (No, demographics alone do not explain all of the difference.) What is the socioeconomic status of Muslims and Arabs, and opportunities for their advancement, in the United States compared to the rest of West?
Question about the term "brown people":
Are other Near Eastern, North African, and Asian groups including Kurds, Armenians, Jews (including Mizrahi and Ethiopian Jews), and Indians also "brown people", or does this term only apply to certain Muslim populations? Why?
Don't misunderstand me - Australians are just as racist in this respect. But the Australian public doesn't determine whether or not the Gitmo "detainees" are held in these awful conditions.
And we treat all brown peoples equally badly, whether muslim, Kurd, Hindu or whatever. My point is that when its "one of us" we object more strongly than when it's someone else. Personally, I object to it in any case.
Whether or not Muslims do better in the US or not may have something to do with the fact that the median income there is higher than elsewhere. Also, Australia has a largish Muslim population, but nowhere as big as France or Denmark, per capita.
However, in limited defence of my country, the Cronulla riots are a Sydney-specific case. Elsewhere, Muslims seem to have been treated better. But I wouldn't bet on that remaining the case given the present hysteria. And others, such as Sikhs, have been treated badly because they are thought to be "towelheads", just as in the US.
I've heard it said by some Australians that Hicks is a terrorist and deserves to be inside. Maybe he is, and maybe he does. But until and unless that is established by a legal trial in a legally constituted court, he is simply a person being held without charge or legal representation, and that is so fundamentally wrong it makes me fume.
However, as I'm not a citizen, all I can do is sit here and agree strongly with John. I really hope that by the time I *am* able to write to my MP about it, I won't need to...
Let me trot out the old chestnut: "It could only happen in America."
No, it can happen in any country at any time. If we relax and think that our freedoms are somehow safe.
I understand what you're saying, and I didn't mean to come down on Australia. These problems are universal.
Like you said, "we treat all brown peoples equally badly." And which peoples are "brown" changes from place to place: Karen in Burma, Bahai in Iran, Darfurians in Sudan, Kurds in Turkey, East Timorese in Indonesia (and cheers to Australia for helping to liberate that country in 1999 - a decent act that Osama bin Laden has railed against).
Btw, 'So You Want to be an Anti-Darwinian' is an excellent overview.
I must say, if I heard a loud knock on my door in the middle of the night, all that would scare me these days is an american accent.
You're entirely right in the terrible illegitimacy of my government's (or at any rate the-government-of-the-country-I-happened-to-be-born-in's) treatement of those in Guantanamo and elsewhere. It honestly shames me deeply.
I disagree with your statement about the right action toward Afghanistan being invasion, however. Supporting terrorism is heinous, and should definitely have some international consequences, but the US government has harbored and aided (Cuban) terrorists since Castro's regime began at an undisputed minimum, if not earlier (Texas anyone?). Would it have been right for Norway to unilaterally invade us when JFK was president outside the jurisdiction of the UN? The taliban had little to nothing to do with 9-11, unlike Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. What good did bringing the government down do at all? We didn't go in as a surgical strike to apprehend Al Qaeda, we wanted regime change. This has led to far more unrest in that country, and a far higher chance of terrorism against us. Those "insurgents" that fight US soldiers now in Afghanistan and Iraq are patriotic freedom fighters if that definition applies to anyone. Invading a country is the principle evil in the Nuremberg trials, as it should be, because it is the root of every evil that comes after.
I would argue that the Cronulla riots were a result of 10 years of the Australian government trying to turn us into Americans. The thing that annoys me most is that because I live in Fraser, a safe Labor seat (Bob McMullan), I have virtually no voice in this. At least I can vote against Gary Humphries, after sending him a letter outlining why.
However, I think Hicks trial and conviction are a forgone conclusion at this point. There is absolutely no way the Howard government would allow Hicks to return to Australia during an election year. That means that Hicks will remain in US hands until at least November.