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David Hicks - The Right Question

David HicksIntroduction

David Hicks is an Australian Citizen who was apprehended by Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001, “sold” to American Military for a bounty and transferred to Guantanamo Bay where he was detained for five years as an “enemy combatant”. During those five years he was subjected to ill-treatment and torture and finally released subject to conditions after a conviction for acts of terrorism based entirely on a confession extracted under pressures of his detention.

In the course of five years’ detention without charge Hicks received no consular and diplomatic support from the Australian government. In fact, it’s alleged that the US was prepared to release Hicks earlier, without conviction but didn’t because the Australian Prime Minister (John Howard) insisted on a conviction for political reasons.

Australian Values

A subject often discussed in Australia is the notion of much-lauded “Australian Values”. Australians believe that theirs is a classless, egalitarian society where everyone gets a ‘fair go’. For example, a preamble to the application form for intending migrants provides a more comprehensive “official statement” of these values as follows:

Australian society is also united through the following shared values:

  • respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual;
  • freedom of religion;
  • commitment to the rule of law;
  • Parliamentary democracy;
  • equality of men and women;
  • a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good;
  • equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background.

The preamble goes on, imperiously, condescendingly…

This form contains a statement, that you must sign, that confirms you understand and will respect the values of Australian society (as explained in the booklet) and will obey the laws of Australia. This includes acknowledging what would be required if you later applied for Australian citizenship.”

However, in a news report recently aired on Australia’s own ABC News Radio, concerning David Hicks, he was identified as a “convicted supporter of terrorists and terrorism”. This is an outrageous dishonesty by the Australian state media suggestive of their complete acceptance of the standards of totalitarian states where people are imprisoned without due legal process for political reasons, confessions are extracted by torture and convictions are obtained in mock trials.

The above statement of “Australian Values” suggests a great deal of idealism, yet paradoxically, idealism is less fashionable in Australia than wide ties and in fact, idealism is generally regarded as a weakness of character reflecting unsound opinions.

Asking Questions

With the recent broadcast of David Hicks’ first television interview since his release the subject of his detention and conviction is re-opening. Among the questions he was asked was “Does he still have idealism”. This was a key question because most of the circumstances leading to his detention arose from decisions and commitments he made and actions he took arising from idealistic beliefs he held. There are few people in the western world of comfortable consumerism who even understand the meaning of putting one’s own life on the line or are willing to make minor sacrifices for their ideals. In Australia the principal foundation for disparagement of David Hicks is the general view that idealistic people say and do stupid things arising from their idealism and when it gets them into trouble they deserve all they get. One public figure making this very point on public air time went on to contend that “David Hicks can think himself lucky that he hasn’t been tried for treason”.

John Howard was widely criticised in Australia for not giving diplomatic support that was rightfully due to David Hicks. However, neither this nor his scurrilous misrepresentation of refugees coming to Australia by boat in the allegation that they threw their “Children Overboard” was sufficient to cost him an election; that outcome took a significant rise in interest rates to motivate the mortgage belt to political consciousness, just as it will be the cost of carbon and putting pokies clubs at risk by taking action on gambling that will destroy the current Labor government rather than the ostensible “boat people” fiasco. Climate change action and a socially responsible approach to gambling belong to the world of idealists and fools who incur unnecessary costs and strike at the hip pocket nerve.

The question Australians are beginning to ask, which for them distils the essence of the David Hicks issue is How did our government allow this to happen?”.

But this is the wrong question. This is the question that puts all the blame on government and averts attention from the deeper and more important question, which is “How did THE AUSTRALIAN PEOPLE allow this to happen?”.

How did a nation of over 20 million people who decorate themselves in the admirable robes of a shared and deep commitment to such things as “the rule of law”, “respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual” and “a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play” allow one of their own countrymen to be so thoroughly abused by an allay they don’t want to upset?

One could suggest that perhaps their (US-owned) employers have requested that they confine their adherence to these legendary Australian Values to their lunch breaks.


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