Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What next for David Hicks?

John Howard physically struggled against triumphalism following the guilty plea entered by David Hicks today. The Albrechtsens of the Australian media showed no such restraint, and shall no doubt be sharpening their knives for the Left for months to come.

One of the biggest problems during this case has been to separate the principle from the situation. To support a fair trial and humane incarceration for Hicks is not to argue in favour of his guilt or his innocence - it is to emphasise the inarguable fact that nothing disqualifies anyone from a fair process, whether they are defending a parking fine or mass genocide.

The situation is very reminiscent to that faced by the Labor Party in the 1950s, when the Menzies government launched the Communist Party Dissolution Act, a referendum proposing to ban the Communist Party from Australia. Opposition Leader H.V. Evatt - a pivotal figure not only in the formation of Australian foreign policy but in the creation of the United Nations - successfully argued against the ban, which was narrowly defeated.

Evatt's courage and audacity in this battle cannot be underestimated. The Petrov Affair was gripping the nation, and anti-Communist hysteria would shortly contribute to the split of Evatt's own party and the creation of the DLP. Defending the right of the Communist Party to exist would have been seen in almost the same light as defending the right of Al Qaeda to exist. Nevertheless, Evatt - no fan whatsoever of Communism or the Communist Party itself - was able to objectively separate the principle of defending freedom and democracy from the specific circumstances. To twist the now-familiar argument, banning the Communist Party would mean the Communist Party had won.

Like that battle, the David Hicks issue has never been one of guilt or innocence, but of the defence of democratic principles. Losing sight of this and personalising the issue is something of which both sides have been guilty. Hicks and other Guantanamo Bay detainees have repeatedly been referred to as `terrorists'. They have also been described as completely innocent. Either description misses the point.

Debate will probably rage forever more on whether Hicks' plea truly represents his guilt, or was simply designed to expedite his return home. While it's a shame we are now unlikely to hear the case for or against him outlined in court, it's entirely likely that the military commission process wouldn't have helped to reveal the truth either.

The inarguable fact remains that Hicks was held and tried in unjust circumstances, and that the Federal Government did little to redress this. For this, they still remain culpable.

13 Comments:

At 11:55 am, Blogger Damian said...

The inarguable fact remains that Hicks was held and tried in unjust circumstances, and that the Federal Government did little to redress this. For this, they still remain culpable.

Spot on.

And it is this very inarguable point that the Albrechtsens of the commentariat refuse to engage with.

 
At 1:49 pm, Anonymous Guy said...

I can't believe the hysteria of the conservatives at Hicks' decision to plea guilty - "ha ha he was really a terrorist all along".

For me at least - and I suspect for most - the question of innocence or guilt was always neither here not there. This question was always about just legal processes and very valid criticism of a system whereby someone can apparently be held without charge for five years.

That the conservatives fundamentally fail to engage with this argument tells you something about how much their point of view is driven by ideology over and above any sense of what is just and what is not just.

 
At 9:00 am, Blogger TimT said...

Guy, there's an absolutely fundamental flaw in your argument:

the question of innocence or guilt was always neither here not there. This question was always about just legal processes...

Any 'just legal process' recognises innocence and guilt if it is to qualify as 'just'.

I will freely admit that the process by which Hicks was tried was fundamentally flawed, and that the conventional right-wing argument ignores this. But by the same token, the left-wing argument completely ignores the fact that Hicks trained with the Taliban, siding with them and Al Qaeda against the coalition, and was more than willing to kill people from his own country. He's hardly the martyr people have made him out to be.

 
At 10:34 am, Blogger Minotaur said...

But again, the point is not whether he was a martyr or a villan - but ensuring that a fair process took place to confirm whether he was one or the other.

 
At 11:02 am, Blogger TimT said...

I'd say that to many of Hicks advocates, ensuring that he was made to look like a martyr was very much the point.

 
At 1:48 pm, Anonymous Guy said...

TimT, regardless of what he has or hasn't done, everyone has a right to a fair trial and not to be detained for five years without charge.

He may have been involved in planning the 9/11 attacks for all I know. I don't think you can equivocate "left" necessarily with the Green Left Weekly view, for lack of a better description.

Nor do I think it is fair can judge the outcomes of the process by judging the people who are supporting Hicks. Some absolutely crazy people might well support bringing Hicks home - but that hardly invalidates the argument for bringing him home.

 
At 2:16 pm, Blogger TimT said...

Indeed Guy, but doesn't it strike you that the media coverage of the Hicks trial has been somewhat over the top? Why focus on Hicks, for instance, as opposed to, say, the seven Australians currently on death row overseas?

The moral posturing taken by the media over this issue is ridiculous. The most important thing for them is not 'justice' in an abstract sense, but the extra papers they are able to sell by portraying Hicks as a maligned innocent, a victim of circumstance - as well as capitalising on the substantial publicity provided by protesters, etc.

 
At 1:25 pm, Anonymous Guy said...

TimT, I reckon the media's reaction to most things is sensationalist and absurd. In this respect, the focus on Hicks is not surprising. :)

 
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