Monday, April 02, 2007

David Hicks: The Latest Bush Outrage

Just when I was so jaded that nothing the Bush Administration did could shock me, they have once again proved me wrong. The latest outrage is the sentence agreement for Australian-born David Hicks, one of the terrorism suspects detained at Guantanamo.

Make no mistake; Hicks is no innocent. He was brought before a commission at least in part because the Administration believed it had an actual case against him. He has established terrorist affiliations. In 1999 and 2000, he attended terrorist training camps with Lashkar-e-Toiba, a Pakistani militant group seeking to drive India from Kashmir and participated in the fighting in Kashmir. He also appears to have trained with Al-Qaeda, although the details are controversial. At the time of the US invasion of Afghanistan, Hicks joined the Taliban forces and was captured.

Hicks recently pleaded guilty to "giving material aid" to terrorism. A panel of officers deliberated for two hours and imposed the maximum sentence of seven years. But after they left the courtroom, the presiding judge suspended all but nine months of the sentence and allowed Hicks to serve the time in Australia. The suspension was subject to some revealing terms. Hicks must withdraw all allegations that he was mistreated at Guantanamo, renounce his right to sue the US government, and agree not to talk to the press for one year. That bad enough in itself, considering that Hicks has previously alleged that he was beaten (sometimes while blindfolded and handcuffed), saw others similarly beaten, had his head rammed into asphault, was drugged, underfed, deprived of sleep, and held in solitary confinement for months at a time with no opportunity to leave his cell.

But now even more disturbing revelations have been made about the plea agreement. Apparently the deal was made between Major Dan Mori, Hicks' lawyer, and Susan Crawford, the top military commission official without so much as consulting the prosecutor. The lead prosector appears to have been taken completely by surprise by the lenient sentence, which he would never on his own authority have agreed to. The deal appears to have been made at the request of Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a close Bush ally, whose inability to secure the return of Hicks, as an Australian citizen, has been hurting him politically. In order to help Howard's electoral fortunes, Dick Cheney appears to have used his influence with Crawford. Significantly, Hicks' prison term will expire around the time of Australia's elections; the gag order will extend some time beyond them.

Unlike many Guantanamo detainees, Hicks was a real terrorist, albeit small fry. Any reasonable Administration would have had him tried by an impartial court and sentenced to a reasonable term for a small-fry terrorist, under high-security but humane conditions. This Administration, instead, holds him for five years without charges, subjects him to who knows what kind of abuse and then, in hopes of boosting a friend's electoral prospects, meddles in the judicial process to secure a grossly inadequate sentence for a deadly terrorist, with a focus on keeping their worst conduct concealed. Was there ever a more perfect example of all the Administration's worst offenses, all combined? I suppose we should applaud that one victim is out of their clutches and will be delivered to the more humane Australian penal system. Otherwise the deal is an outrage in every aspect.

The Administration has long justified its human rights violations as necessary to keep us safe. Well, now a man they claim to be a deadly terrorist will be unleashed on the world in less than a year, and the Administration seems a good deal more interested in hushing up what has been done to him than in keeping him off the streets. And if it is willing to subvert the judicial process to help a political ally in anything so grave as a terrorism case, what does that say about its willingness to manipulate an ordinary political corruption case for partisan gain? Perhaps I should not be so shocked or outraged by this deal. It is simply the Bush Administration true to form, placing short-term political advantage before all else.



Blogger derrida derider said...

While I agree wih most of what you say, you are overstating what Hicks was accused of, let alone what he actually did. He was never accused of firing a shot at anyone, and on the other hand some of the crimes he confessed to are literally incredible - for example, he confessed to surveying the US Embassy in Kabul for a terrorist attack (the only problem here is that the embassy hadn't yet been built at the time he was in Kabul).

Well, I suppose it's hard to keep track of those sort of details when you're being waterboarded. Personally, I would have admitted to being on the grassy knoll in Dallas.

Oh, and as an Australian I'm as ashamed of my government's part in all this as you must all be of yours. I can only hope our High Court is more prepared to uphold the rule of law than your Supreme Court has been.

12:20 AM  

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