This probably won’t be a very popular subject nor do I envisage my point of view being popular either however I will try and not let that deter my resolve to say my bit on the matter.
Recently David Hicks has hit the headlines in Queensland again because his new book “My Journey” is up for the premiers literary award and out comes the media of ignorance wanting to shut him down and quieten his voice. I am reminded at this time of a quote from John F. Kennedy “Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors“, what do we have to fear from this book? does it go against the establishment so badly that we must silence it?
For myself it’s not weather I agree with what David Hicks did or not, honestly for me it’s not about that, it’s a question of what we did, what Australia did and what we supported. How can we deem the actions of one individual to be wrong and then deem the actions of our Nation to be right when materially they were the same.
The only thing David Hicks was successfully convicted of was “providing material support for terrorism” and that was in a hostile United States military commission that many internationally still take acceptation to and probably with good reason but that in itself is probably a subject all in it’s own so I won’t go into that. I have a feeling this will be long winded as it is.
What I do want to go into however is the topic of material support for terrorism, why it troubles me and how I see it pertaining to David Hicks. My take on David Hicks is the dude’s just not that bright, do I believe he wantonly wanted to go off and support terrorism? no not at all. I feel he was misguided and impulsive without a good steering influence on his life, seeking a place to belong and latched on to something he thought he could believe in.
David Hicks is portrayed to be a bad bad man, so bad the United Stated had to create retrospective laws to charge him with. Lets then start at the beginning of Davids terrorist activities according to the United States statement of facts as per his charge sheets.
Albania 1999, David joined the ranks of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) after seeing their struggle in a documentary in Japan and decided to travel to Albania to join them where he completed a 4 week military training course. The United States saw the KLA as a terrorist group until 1998 when it was de-listed and the UK and US opened diplomatic relations with them. So by the time David Hicks arrived he was on the right “Team“.
During the months David was with the KLA it transformed itself into the Kosovo Protection Corps working with NATO and being armed by the United States, in fact the former head of the KLA went on to become the Prime Minister of Kosovo. After being little more then a tourist David returned home to Australia, at no time did David pick up arms or enter the battlefield in Kosovo.
By this point we can see David temptation for adventure? and wanting to do something that he thought would make a difference no matter how misguided he may be? David next took interest in East Timor and tried to enlist in the Australian Army but was rejected due to his poor educational levels having left school at the age of 14. I think this in itself speaks volumes, did David truly grasp where the path he was traveling would take him?
By the end of 1999 David was on the move again and in November traveled to Pakistan to study Islam and take up with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in early 2000.
The LeT has an interesting back story that we will take a look at, firstly though I would take note that the LeT wasn’t listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States until December 26th, 2001 and similarly not by Australia until April 11th, 2003 well after the war on terror commenced and after the attacks of September 11th, 2001 which precipitated it.
Why is that? How was David Hicks to identify these groups as terrorist if we didn’t? What indicators where available to say these guys might be on the wrong side? Maybe it was just for the first time in his life people accepted David. I wish it was just sloppy intelligence but alas the truth is more sinister then that. The LeT were an instrument of Pakistan supported by the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan with close links to the 12th Infantry Division of the Pakistani Army founded to take up arms against India after 1990 as hostilities increased.
It was more then likely with the 12th Infantry Division that David Hicks toured with and mentioned in his letter of August 10, 2000 to his mother that he had been the guest of the Pakistan Army for two weeks in their war against India having been able to fire hundreds of bullets across the boarder legally.
So the LeT was funded by the ISI, and where did funding for the ISI come from? Pakistan? no, unfortunately the ISI’s funding came from the United States and Saudi Arabia using Pakistan as an intermediary to launder the funds. WTF right? Why would the United States do this? To answer that we have to go back in time to 1978 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
The United States in a move to weaken Soviet Russia as part of the cold war strategy in 1979 began to fund anti-government militant groups (can you say terrorists) through the ISI. During the Soviets decade long occupation of Afghanistan from 1978 – 1988 the United States and Saudi Arabia injected in excess of $40 billion to these anti-government militant groups under the banner of Mujahideen including what would go on to become the LeT, the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda. By 1987 over 65,000 tons of United States munitions per year was being handed over to the likes of Osama bin Laden, and Mohammed Omar who went on to be the founder of the Taliban by the ISI. While the United States provided the funding and weapons through operation cyclone, the training of the groups was carried out by the Pakistani Armed Forces and the ISI.
Osama bin Laden was a close ally of Hamid Gul, who was a three star general in the Pakistani Army and also the head of the ISI. During the Mujahideen bin Laden was a key player in the arranging of training camps and the funneling of war assets into Afghanistan.
Anyone watch the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” staring Tom Hanks? Cause it’s entirely about this very subject, hell they are so proud of it they made a Hollywood movie. Tell me again who is guilty of providing material support to terrorists?
So when we talk about the LeT it’s impossible to ignore the links to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda as they all had the same father Uncle Sam and shared the same up bringing. David Hicks has always maintained he hadn’t heard of the term Al-Qaeda until after his capture and I am inclined to believe him since our very own highly educated Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) didn’t see fit to mention Al-Qaeda in any of their annual reports to the government prior to 2001-2002 as an external threat.
They just simply weren’t on the radar, and the United States while knowing exactly who and what they were didn’t want to bring too much focus on their would be children. To this day it is believed that Pakistan still support the LeT via the ISI even though officially after the attacks of September 11, 2001 they too declared them an illegal terrorist group.
In January 2001 when David Hicks was funded by the LeT and introduced to the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Taliban was seen by Australia as the de facto legal government of Afghanistan going so far as having diplomatic recognition for the state. Indeed after the twin towers attacks the United States made diplomatic demands of the Taliban to hand over the leaders of Al-Qaeda or face attack. It wasn’t till after this ultimatum was refused by the Taliban on September 21, 2001 that the Taliban government was deemed in need of removal by the international community and a United Nations resolution passed.
When David Hicks moved from Pakistan to Afghanistan, he was moving from the legal army of one nation to another. David can’t speak the language, nor has a grasp of international relations or politics so his grasp on what was going on around him would have been limited at best. Between 1996 and 2001 Al-Qaeda was a state within the Taliban state, most of the camps used by the Taliban were setup by bin Laden as part of the Mujahideen so it’s of little surprise that David Hicks found himself in a training camp with links to Al-Qaeda after all many a CIA agent had used and visited these same camps, hell even the odd US Senator did.
On September 9th, 2001 David had left Afghanistan and returned to Pakistan to visit a friend it was during this visit he saw the coverage of the twin towers attacks on the 11th and frankly I think David shit himself. He immediately returned to Afghanistan to retrieve his passport which he had handed over to the Taliban when he arrived in January so he could go home.
I am of the opinion things quickly escalated around David and he was caught in a tide hard to swim against. Much is made of the fact he was given an AK-47 and choose to go to the Airport to guard a Taliban tank for all of two hours. For starters everyone over there carried an AK-47 even farmers and if I was looking to get home being at the airport rather then in the mountains would seem a pretty good bet to me. Seriously he guarded a tank for two hours, maybe he was keeping up appearances? I don’t think I’d want to stand up in the middle of the Taliban and say hey um guys thanks but if it’s all the same to you I will go home with the good guys now. He’d probably be shot on the spot as an infidel.
We know that between September 11th and his capture on December 9th David did not fire a single shot, was not involved in any action against Australia or her allies in fact David spend most of the time on the lamb hiding trying to work out how to extradite himself from this mess. His final act was to sell the assets he had ie his AK-47 to catch a Taxi back to Pakistan to try and escape, when David was captured he was unarmed no where near the fighting and was looking to go home.
When David was sold to the United States he was declared an enemy combatant, which is a historical term referring to members of the armed forces with which another state is at war. What followed is a legal travesty and a insult to every Australians basic human rights, David Hicks was held without charge from 2001 till 2004 and even then the charges laid against him where deemed to be unconstitutional by the United States supreme court and reversed. It wasn’t until 2007 that new revised charged were filed. That’s more then 5 years without facing legal justice.
The Geneva convention lists a prisoner of war as a legal combatant of which the main provision makes it illegal to torture prisoners and applies from the moment of capture to the time they are released or repatriated. When looking at the definition of a legal privileged combatant under the convention it states they are members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government.
So David was by the United States statement of facts defending a Taliban tank who were the de facto government of Afghanistan, this would make him a privileged combatant under to Geneva convention to which Australia and the United States are signatories.
David has claimed many a time he was tortured and signed his charge sheet under duress, I’d say 5 years locked in a hole is duress wouldn’t you?
George W. Bush stated in 2009 “This Government does not torture people. I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world. The United States does not torture. It’s against our laws and it’s against our values. I have not authorised it and I will not authorise it.”
So torture is illegal, that makes it a crime and crimes are punishable right? But it’s okay cause the United States doesn’t do it right?
George W. Bush affirmed in his 2010 memoirs “Decision Points” that he told CIA officials that they could torture terrorism suspects and that he would do it again. President Barrack Obama in a press conference to mark his first 100 days in office made an unequivocal statement “I believe that waterboarding was torture and, whatever the legal rationals were used, it was a mistake.”
President Obama went on further to say “I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British, during world war two, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said ‘we don’t torture’, when all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat. And the reason was that Churchill understood you start taking shortcuts, and over time, that corrodes what’s best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.”
Given that David Hicks is not the only person nor the only Australian to claim to have been tortured in Cuba at the hands of the United States and given that George W. Bush admits it was happening I think it’s a fair bet to say it happened to David and that it was not only illegal, immoral but also wrong.
If you were kept in those conditions, under that treatment for that long you too might be willing to say or sign anything to get out.
On August 2nd, 2005 former Prime Minister John Howard rejected the possibility of David Hicks being tried in Australia as there were no laws covering his alleged offenses at the time.
David Hicks broke no Australian laws, was tortured, held without charge for more then five years and yet we want to silence him from telling his story? Sorry however misguided he is I want to hear it. Do we really want an Australia that is okay with it’s people being treated in this manner by those that would call us friend?
When do we as a Nation, as a group of Nations stop, stand up and take note of the mistakes we’ve made and decide to stop repeating them. Even now in Libya we support a movement exactly the same as the Mujahideen with CIA operatives on the ground Libya supporting NATO’s air strikes, and well as the rebel leadership.
The United Kingdom has ordered the elite 22nd SAS Regiment to render assistance to rebels in the manhunt for Muammar Gaddafi, whom a bounty of $1.6 million has been placed dead or alive… really is this right? is this what we stand for? The crack troops have donned Arab clothing and carry the same types of weapons as the rebel fighters in a bid to blend in.
Explain to me how this behavior is any different to what David Hicks did, except David was an uneducated fool and we as Nations should know better.
When I think about the charge of “providing material support for terrorism” I can’t help remember the billions of dollars injected into Al-Qaeda and the Taliban along with the weapons to wage war. The Training Australia and the United States have long provided to Pakistan who then trained these terrorist under another name.
Who taught the Taliban to make improvised explosive devices? Where did the funds come from to train Al-Qaeda to fly air liners? It wasn’t the Soviets cause they were the enemy… lets face facts and be honest for once and drop the spin. We did it, the West we taught these people how to kill us and we gave them the money to do it. If any one is guilty of supporting terrorism it’s all of us through our fear and past actions.
It will keep happening till we learn as a society that we can’t force political change on others, it needs to be an evolution not a revolution and that it’s differences that make the world an interesting place just cause we don’t agree with someone and we have the might it doesn’t make it right to set out to destroy them and install our own vision of that the world should look like.
What have we achieved? I see David Hicks as a victim of himself, his environment our society that says it alright to do these things. He may have been wrong, he may well be guilty, but since when do two wrongs make a right? I don’t want my children learning the ends justify the means, there has to be a line in the sand you won’t cross because it’s the wrong thing to do because we as a people are unwilling to sacrifice our ideals and principals.
I used to see us, Australia, the Commonwealth as being on the side of right even in the face of uncertainly and over whelming odds.. that’s the Anzac legend that’s who we are meant be, we’re meant to stand up for those that can’t stand up for themselves. Instead I feel like we have been led into the dark, jumping at our own shadows because someone is different, we are turning into a bully taking kids lunch money in the form of oil fields.
I wonder what Weary Dunlop would say, I think we could use a lighthouse of sanity in a universe of madness and suffering once more.