Perversion of Justice

April 2007

In a plea bargain, worthy of George Orwell, the Australian prisoner David Hicks is transferred from US custody to Australian custody. This whole case has been a travesty from beginning to end.

Sit down dear children and let me tell you a story... Once upon a time, there was a man named David Hicks from Australia. Given a strict upbringing, he was greatly affected by the notion that injustice and evil persisted in the world and when still a young man, he sallied forth from his comfortable land into the lands of strife in the Middle East to battle for what he thought was the cause of right and truth.

In plainer terms, children, he took arms against one country on behalf of other countries. He was a warrior for a cause; he was on a quest as noble and as senseless as that for a Holy Grail. Neither the country he fought with, nor the countries he fought against had much to do with his native country. But he fought, as best as he could, for something.

Then, children, this self-appointed knight errant had the misfortune of fighting on behalf of some people who were attacked and overcome by the vast imperial might of the United States and he was captured. Note, he was not arrested or charged with any crime. He was captured and he was detained.

The detainee, David Hicks, was stolen away from the Middle East in utter secrecy and imprisoned in a place without law: a special detention center set up in the US Military base in Guantanamo, Cuba. He was still neither arrested nor charged with any crime. He was given no visitation, nor access to legal representation. His fate was very similar to that of a Crusader in 1107 AD in the care of an Islamic dungeon. He benefited from no part of 900 years of progressive juris prudence.

Years after his capture, his name appeared on a partial list of prisoners being detailed without trial in Guantanamo. Some of his countrymen and family began to wonder whether this name on the list was their David. They had friends and money and ultimately diplomatic pressure to find out the answer to their questions: he was. He had still not been arrested or charged with any crime, although he now had a long laundry list of crimes that he had been accused of over the course of his incarceration.

The Australians have lots of law in common with the United States, including the concept that someone is innocent under the law until they are convicted of a crime by a jury of their peers. Mr. Hick's supporters from Australia started to call on the US to give him due process of law. The US government did what they usually did: they first denied anything, then they denied some of everything and then they stonewalled. This took several years.

In the end, the worked out a "deal" which demanded that Mr. Hicks must plead guilty to some of the lesser crimes he'd never been formally accused of in order for his return to Australian custody for some period of time in jail. Faced with a totally indeterminate sentence in a place where torture is allegedly commonplace, or the prospect of freedom after a brief stay in an Australian jail under the rule of civilized law, Mr. Hicks chose the latter.

The most amusing part of this story comes next, dear children, when the Attorney General of the United States, the President and Vice President of the United States, and about 99% of the US Press Corps joined in saying "See, he plead guilty, so everything he endured at our hands was justified because he actually was guilty." This is the same kind of circular logic employed by the Spanish Inquisition. "If he wasn't guilty, we would not have confessed on the rack." I'd like to know who, given similar circumstances, would not have confessed. You'd have to be several shades of insane to protest your innocence and stay in jail forever.

"'Sometimes,' she said, 'they threaten you with something something you can't stand up to, can't even think about. And then you say, "Don't do it to me, do it to somebody else, do it to so-and-so." And perhaps you might pretend, afterwards, that it was only a trick and that you just said it to make them stop and didn't really mean it. But that isn't true. At the time when it happens you do mean it." (from 1984 - George Orwell)

Mr. Hicks will be out of jail soon. I wonder whether his idealism has survived his ordeal. I don't agree with his political convictions or his actions, but that's irrelevant. What is relevant is that I am just as much at risk as he was. I may be hauled away at the whim of a bureaucrat at any moment on the flimsiest pretence and there is nothing I can do about it. Such is the meaning of "security" in the newspeak of the twenty-first century.

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