Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Neither Hero nor Villain



















One of my sons gave me a copy of David Hick's book - Guantanamo - My Story - for Christmas.

It's over 450 pages long, but I found it hard to put down, and read it in two days.

As a piece of literature, it's a well-written and compelling story. It's comprehensively footnoted, and compiled without the benefit of a ghost writer. Hicks certainly has a story to tell, and without making any moral judgement of his conduct, you'd have to be some kind of rabid denier of the fact not to admire his physical and mental toughness.

Many men would have been driven to gibbering insanity after the five years of what he went through after he was handed over to the Yanks for a bounty of $1000 US by the Northern Alliance.

So the simple task is reviewing the book. It's a good read, and an inspiring account of human endurance. Essentially it's a story about hope and devotion. The determination of Terry Hicks (David's father) and his Marine lawyer, Michael Mori, is amazing.

Both these individuals were driven by principle, not politics, and making a judgement about their conduct is simple as a result.

To make judgements of the other players, including the Bush administration, the Australian government, and those supporting Hicks at home, is not so simple. Their involvement especially that of the Howard government is driven by politics and it's abundantly clear that Hicks became a powerful symbol.

The fact that he was a human being, and an Australian citizen counted for nothing once the politics engaged.

The other complication is that the mainstream media, both here and in the US, took sides, rather than reporting the facts.

Miranda Devine's piece in the Herald Sun on October 21st 2010 is a good example. She is critical of Dick Smith for his financial support of Hick's defence. Her complete lack of research on Hick's conduct is evident when she claims Hicks was "in uniform".

One of the major points of the US indictment was that he wasn't in uniform, and was therefore an "unlawful combatant".

Miranda obviously hasn't done her homework - even the basics - such as reading his indictment.

This standard of reporting is indicative of the ignorance displayed by many journos writing about him, and this is demonstrated by both sides of the political divide.

There are some ironies throughout the narrative. At one point early in the piece, Hicks attempted to join the ADF because he wanted to go to Timor. He was refused on the basis of insufficient educational qualifications. Yet his motives to join up were the same as those that attracted him to Kosovo. In a strange twist, he was at that time, of a similar mindset as many young diggers serving now in Afghanistan. Strange but true.

The one element of this whole sorry scenario that sticks in my craw is the way in which he was abandoned by the Howard government. His Australian passport was worthless, and it doesn't fill me with any confidence in our national government (no matter what persuasion) looking after its citizens when they get into trouble overseas. To my way of thinking, even if you were Jack the Ripper, you are entitled to Australian consular support if you run foul of the authorities overseas. Australia was the only country that totally abandoned its citizen. The Brits (for example) got all their people out.

It seems that once international politics come into play, legal principles (including habeas corpus) are tossed out the window.

His treatment at Guantanamo could only be described as subhuman. He presented an affidavit to the International Red Cross through his lawyer Michael Mori describing what was done to him, so the Australian government was well aware of what was going on.

The fact that no action was taken at the time represents a surrender of our national sovereignty and still makes me ashamed to call myself Australian.

At least some of the senior military involved (including Major Mori) put duty before politics.

Colonel Moe Davis who was appointed to serve as the third Chief Prosecutor in  the Guantanamo military commissions resigned from the position and retired from active duty in October 2008 over political interference in his role.

Lieutenant Colonel Mori, now serving as a senior military judge, took the navy to court in September 2010, alleging that his 2009 promotion was delayed due to bias by the selection board.

Like Davis, Mori made the mistake of putting duty before politics.

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