typing is not activism….

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David Hicks: Habeas Corpus as Habeas Corpse (or The Blatant Packaging of Self-fulfilling Bulls$%t as Truth)

with 3 comments

So David Hicks has now been crucified on words forced from his mouth. Senior politicians say this is proof that they were right all along. The outcome of ‘the Hicks’ dilemma’ (and no, that doesn’t mean George Bush’s presidency – well, not entirely) might be best considered through the lens of other works of creative fiction – The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is certainly instructive on the matter of spin-based, unchallengeable and politically-motivated detention.

'borrowed' from Mr. Fish, cartoonist for Harpers.

In his aptly titled poem, The Hollow Men, T.S. Eliot wrote in 1925 ‘this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper’. The comment seems particularly apt if by ‘world’ we mean ‘way of life’ and by ‘whimper’ we mean the noise made by a media largely caught between irrelevance, silence, or fawning indulgence of political chicanery.

But if we go to recent ‘junk culture’, a more appropriate comment on the public management of David Hicks’ fate can readily be found. Through the atrocious-but-compelling Star Wars prequel trilogy, George Lucas did at least comment on the unchecked powers of the WTO, and the rise of a theocratic monoculture driven by US imperialism and military aggression.

Lucas’ princess, Padme – whose name interestingly symbolizes ‘wisdom’ in the Tibetan chant of ‘om mani padme hum’ – says at one point, “so this is how liberty dies – to thunderous applause”.

And the applause has been thunderous – Howard, Downer, Costello, Turnbull, etc. Has a prisoner ever been required to legally absolve foreign persecutors of any wrongdoing in their confession, to have it hailed as meaningful by their own government? Has a jury staffed by government employees – as Hicks’ was to be – ever been accorded credibility by reputable journalists? Does the potential inclusion of evidence obtained by torture, third-person hearsay, and admitted without challenge create a new standard for anybody with alleged links to terrorism – as many environmental and animal rights campaigners in America already are?

Even federal opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, who proclaimed in his compelling essay for The Monthly that a free society’s greatest measure is in its compassion for the downtrodden and persecuted, has been disconcertingly silent so far over the outcome of the Stalin-esque Military Commission charade.

To forego another five years of legal limbo, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, and abuse in his Guantanamo storage container, Hicks would have likely confessed to killing Anna Nicole Smith, JFK, and Phar Lap. Even Americans have reacted sceptically not only to Hicks’ confession, but to that of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed – who claimed responsibility for organizing every attack on that city’s World Trade Centre and about 30 other Al Qaeda operations.

If the aim of ‘the terrorists’ was to destroy democracy, instill fear, silence dissent, and undermine liberty through the spread of fanatical ideologies, they must be celebrating the Hicks’ verdict with the same fervour as our Prime minister, Treasurer, and certain media empires. In Australia, 2007, it is perhaps appropriate that Howardocracy has more in common with science fiction than great literature.

As a footnote, one can only hope that more journalists and non-journalists alike will make time to see the dry but inspiring film Good Night and Good Luck. Produced by the same production company started by Jeff Skoll of eBay fame – which also produced the incendiary Syriana – the film tells the story of how pioneering journalist Edward R Murrow challenged the accepted role of media in both political affairs and news coverage. He proposed that sometimes there simply are not two balanced sides to a story, that sometimes the dominant discourse – in his case that of junior Senator McCarthy and the red cancer of communism – is quite simply wrong. Murrow’s courage in standing up to abuses of power played a lead role in their mitigation.

In the ongoing saga of Hicks, it seems to me that both his father and Major Michael Mori have shown similar courage, and their efforts have no doubt been significant in seeing that he’ll be foreseeably released – even if it happens, conveniently, just after the federal election. One can only hope that their enduring legacy will be inspiration for others to speak truth to power. For all that may be remembered of actual stupidities, from the persecution of the Jews, to the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem witch hunts, and the McCarthy era of fellow travellers and reds under the bed, the perpetrators of institutionalized injustice have never been in such a position as they are now. Global domination supported by a largely tolerant media, intergovernmental cooperation, and manipulation of law in the modern era might well prove devastatingly effective.

As a society which, however ironically, has always prided itself on the idea of ‘a fair go’, how Australia reacts to the packaging of one man’s torture and manipulation will surely inform what we deem acceptable treatment, at least for our own citizens, in future. There is a bigger lesson here than ‘don’t wait at bus stops in Afghanistan’. In short, better that we see ourselves as Hicks now, than devolve to hicks later.


Written by typingisnotactivism

April 3, 2007 at 10:13 pm

3 Responses

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  1. If you are correct, and D Hicks found G. Bay so horrible that he would sign anything to get out; we can look forward to the other 300+ inmates doing the same. Don’t hold you breath!


    April 10, 2007 at 5:21 pm

  2. hey Randy, glad you disagree. What strikes me as unrealistic in what you’re saying is that:
    1. Hicks, as one of the lucky hand-picked super-special first 10 to go before the Military Commissions, is not much of a good-luck gauge for those who come after. And there is hardly anything in 5 years of solitary detention without charge and the scrapping of the Geneva Convention to feel good about for anybody.
    2. He’s a citizen of a nation allied to the prosecutor, and this is meant to be a sweet deal. It’s unlikely that people who didn’t do anything but have brown skin or a name that ends in a vowel will be so ‘fortunate’.
    3. Those 300+ other inmates won’t get to do the same. The precedent his case sets is that somebody already held for 5 years without charge can be awarded at least another 7 if they don’t challenge the charge against them which is retrospective and the sentence for which is based on 3rd party hearsay, ‘confession’ under torture and threat of death, and evidence which cannot be challenged by the defense. His ‘plea bargain’ was extra-judicial and sets no precedent on which those who come after him may rely.

    But glad you disagree. 🙂


    April 10, 2007 at 8:21 pm

  3. The Carnival of the Decline of Democracy: April 14, 2007

    Hell’s Handmaiden is happy to be the first ever guest host for The Carnival of the Decline of Democracy and it looks to be a good issue.

    –visit the URL for more, if you think democracy needs more obits asap– (ed)

    Hell's Handmaiden

    April 15, 2007 at 1:56 am

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