A Step in the Right Direction in Australia

November 24, 2007 at 5:37 am | Posted in Australia, Cheney, corruption, David Hicks, Gitmo, Torture | 2 Comments

Looks like Howard will lose in Australia. This is a good sign, a step in the right direction for Australia and the world. Too long have Bush supporters held many nations hostage.


(courtesy of AFP: Torsten Blackwood)

Why is Australia important? Because of David Hicks. Who is he? He was an Australian caught in Afghanistan, sent to Guantanamo Bay, tortured, and then, magically, released to Australia this April with a gag order that he not speak until AFTER THE ELECTION, which just took place. As Andrew Sullivan wrote in April:

So Cheney goes to Australia and meets with John Howard who tells him that the Hicks case is killing him in Australia, and he may lose the next election because of it. Hicks’s case is then railroaded to the front of the Gitmo kangaro court line, and put through a “legal” process almost ludicrously inept, with two of Hicks’ three lawyers thrown out on one day, then an abrupt plea-bargain, with a transparently insincere confession. Hicks is then given a mere nine months in jail in Australia, before being set free. Who negotiated the plea-bargain? Hicks’ lawyer. Who did he negotiate with? Not the prosecutors, as would be normal, but Susan J. Crawford, the top military commission official. Who is Susan J. Crawford? She served as Dick Cheney’s Inspector General while he was Defense Secretary….

It was a political deal, revealing the circus that the alleged Gitmo court system really is. For good measure, Hicks has a gag-order imposed so that he will not be able to speak of his alleged torture and abuse until after Howard faces re-election. Yes, we live in a banana republic. It certainly isn’t a country ruled by law. It is ruled by one man and his accomplice.

Thankfully though, the Australian newspapers brought up this deal over the past month, just before Howard’s attempt to get reelected without an actual accounting of what happened to this poor pawn.

Cheney, Howard ‘did deal on Hicks’

US Vice-President Dick Cheney agreed to a deal with Prime Minister John Howard to release former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, a US media report says.

The report, published in Harper’s Magazine, cites an unnamed US military officer saying that a military staffer was present when Mr Cheney interfered directly to seal Hicks’s plea bargain deal.

“He [Mr Cheney] did it, apparently, as part of a deal cut with [Australian Prime Minister] Howard,” the unnamed source is quoted as saying.

“I kept thinking: this is the sort of thing that used to go on behind the Iron Curtain, not in America.

“And then it struck me how much this entire process had disintegrated into a political charade. It’s demoralising for all of us.”

After five years of detention in Guantanamo Bay, a deal was sealed for 32-year-old Hicks to serve a nine-month prison sentence in Australia, subject to him pleading guilty to a charge of providing material support for terrorism.

Hicks agreed to the deal in March and is now due for release from Adelaide’s Yatala Prison at the end of the year.

After the deal was announced, Mr Howard denied any involvement in the plea bargain.

“We didn’t impose the sentence, the sentence was imposed by the military commission and the plea bargain was worked out between the military prosecution and Mr Hicks’ lawyers,” Mr Howard said in March.

Mr Howard also rejected claims by Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown in March that the Prime Minister wanted Hicks not be released until after the election.

Howard and Cheney in ‘iron curtain’ deal

We haven’t heard much about ex-Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks since he returned to Australia — thanks largely to the gag order imposed on him until the election is safely out of the way.

Until now, the strategy has worked a treat. Hicks has been out of sight and out of voters’ minds.

Whether the issue still has any traction could be tested with the allegation in Harper’s magazine that US Vice President Dick Cheney orchestrated Hicks’ early release — for John Howard. The piece quotes a US military officer, according to news.com.au:

“One of our staffers was present when Vice-President Cheney interfered directly to get Hicks’ plea bargain deal,” the unnamed officer told Harper’s magazine…
“He did it, apparently, as part of a deal cut with Howard.
“I kept thinking: this is the sort of thing that used to go on behind the Iron Curtain, not in America. And then it struck me how much this entire process had disintegrated into a political charade. It’s demoralising for all of us.”
In a sense, news of a possible interference is hardly a shock. When Cheney visited Australia in February, Howard was very keen to see Hicks’ trial brought forward, and applied pressure to the VP accordingly, noting “I have asked that within the constraints of the separation of powers in the United States system between the executive and the judicial process, the trial be brought on as soon as humanely possible with no further delay.”

Those constraints melted away with surprising ease due to the unusual plea deal orchestrated by Cheney protege and US military convening authority at Guantanamo, Susan Crawford. With the stroke of a pen (literally), and apparently without consulting the prosecution, she wiped out Hicks’ charges (as reported by Crikey at the time).

But Cheney distanced himself from the Hicks process during his Australian visit. “We can’t interfere with that process,” he said. “It’s a judicial process. We can’t influence it. That would be a violation of the procedure.”

He then added. “But I do expect that in the not too distant future that … will get resolved. I can assure you we will be doing everything we can to deal with these matters in as expeditious manner as possible.”

The Harper’s allegations are not a good look for Cheney, who has a reputation for getting employees (or former staffers) to do his political dirty work.

For Howard however, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, speaking as it does of his pulling power with the US. Either that or he offered something in exchange for Hicks’ expedient return. But what?

This is a good step for Australia. We now wait for the gag order to be released, and Mr. David Hicks to speak. We cannot rely on him however, as he is not a willing player. He was probably tortured. But how much more does he really want to be in the spotlight? Probably not at all.

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2 Comments »

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  1. Howard was a schmuck of major proportions. May his name live in infamy in the annals of Australian history.

  2. Actually compared to his successor .. I don’t think Howard is too bad. At a local level the economy under Howard has always been strong. There’s a reason he’s been Prime Minister for 11 years. His recent loss was bigger than expected and has actually surprised a few people. It had more to do with internal policies and a failed campaign than anything else. I am quite skeptical that the incoming government are going to do this country much good. The Labour Party do not really have that good a track record in leading the country – except when Bob Hawk gave the whole country a day off when we won the America’s Cup.

    One thing is for sure, I can’t wait for David Hicks to be allowed free speak. His detention in Guantanamo was a gross injustice. The whole saga if anything shows how the American Government uses the most devious methods to get what it wants. Saying that, I am not so sure the whole Hicks thing had as much an impact on whether Howard got re-elected or not.


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