How do we know an election is looming?

David Hicks arrived home in Australia yesterday, after more than five years in detention at Guantanemo – for most of the time without legal charges, without trial, without access to legal representation except when it suited his gaolers, without sunlight for most of the day, and with few exceptions, without visitors. Without the human rights afforded by the Geneva Convention. Instead, he had the ludicrous title of “enemy combatant”, not prisoner of war; he had a light on in his cell 24 hours a day making sleep difficult, if not impossible – but we are told he was not subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment; he had one hour a day out of his cell in the open air – at any time, day or night, decreed fit by his gaolers; he was held in solitary confinement; and if his story is true, subjected to torture.

We are told that this young man is a dangerous terrorist – but the best charge that could be laid after FIVE years, was that of giving material support to the enemy.

I don’t believe in terrorism as a means to an end; I don’t have any time for religous fundamentalists of ANY persuasion who try to dictate the way I live my life; I don’t have any time for any government which practises or condones extraordinary rendition, which condones torture, which denies that captives taken in armed conflict are prisoners of war and which denies the rights afforded by the Geneva Convention. I therefore have no time for George Bush, John Howard or Tony Blair. I am ashamed that the government of my country could be so short sighted as to engage in sycophantic, brown tongueing of another foreign power. I am even more ashamed that my government would follow another country into war for no good reason. I am amazed that ANY government would think that it could IMPOSE democracy on another country – did they never hear of social change as a bottom up process? Did they not study the culture of the country they invaded – a culture based on tribal loyalties that go back thousands of years. Did they never consider the consequences of their actions, or were they blinded by the oil in their eyes? Did they never consider that their denial of the Geneva Convention, and their use of semantics to condone their behaviour would have implications for the treatment of their own fighting men and women in times of war?

Regardless of his plea of “guilty”, David Hicks has been a pawn in the power play of Australian politics. The sudden haste to charge, try and repatriate David Hicks has been a cynical exercise coordinated by the US and Australian governments, due solely to the growing dis-ease within the Australian community about his lengthy incarceration in inhumane conditions. We are not meant to notice that there is a Federal election looming, that John Howard is lagging in the opinion polls, and that the Hicks affair has been a growing source of concern to many members of the voting public. Dream on, John Howard, dream on.

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