Guilty' puts end to the Hicks myth
By pleading guilty to terrorism this week, David Hicks has plastered egg all over the faces of his supporters - the naive hysterics who believe he is a tortured innocent as well as those glory-seeking civil rights lawyers who have attached themselves to his case.
The egg was coming, anyway, as the prosecution finally had an opportunity to lay out its allegations before the United States military commission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But even as they wiped the yolk from their surprised brows yesterday, apologists for the 31-year-old Muslim convert, aka Mohammed Dawood, had found another way to spin this piece of bad news to their advantage.
"There's no way that this can be seen as a genuine guilty plea," the Greens senator Bob Brown told reporters, ignoring the fact that an innocent man would do anything to have his day in court.
"[It is] simply a plea for release for exit from the inhumane Guantanamo Bay gulag."
Singing from the same songsheet were newspaper letter pages bulging with outrage: "By accepting a plea deal to escape the Guantanamo Bay hellhole, a bit player who hurt nobody becomes a self-confessed war criminal," wrote Lesley Pople of Cremorne.
Thus you see the spin: Hicks only pleaded guilty to get out of the gulag, not because he is guilty. And even if he is a teensy bit guilty he's not a big scary terrorist, like Osama bin Laden. He's just a bit player. A small fish. Which is what most terrorists are. You don't find big fish like bin Laden or Khalid Sheik Mohammed strapping on backpacks full of hydrogen peroxide.
But with Hicks pleading guilty to the charge of providing material support to a terrorist organisation, we can only hope for some respite from the mythology that has grown around him.
No more "Free David Hicks" posters in cafes across the "intellectual" suburbs. Getup! might stop running ads portraying the self-confessed terrorist with the receding hairline as a cherubic nine-year-old. It might even think about returning the $500,000 it received last year in public donations, much of which it spent on salaries and expenses, as Australian Securities and Investments Commission documents reportedly revealed last month.
Maybe now Hicks's supporters might stop referring to him as "gaunt" since courtroom artists in the prison camp have revealed how porky he has grown on meals consumed on the US taxpayer.
Maybe now his lawyers might even drop the pretence that Hicks's hair is long because he needs to wrap it around his eyes to block out an "inhumane" light in his cell 24 hours a day, even though US authorities keep saying the "security light" is so dimmed at night you can't read a book by it.
Maybe now, we can put the American system for dealing with terrorist detainees in perspective, instead of falling for the line that it is the moral equivalent of al-Qaeda.
One such line came from Steven Miles, an America bioethicist who appeared on ABC's Lateline this week complaining about conditions at Guantanamo Bay. One of the techniques was to put "nude pin-ups on the chests of prisoners, having them take them off and then match them up with pin-ups on the floor". Another interrogation tactic was to make the detainees watch movies such as Die Terrorists, Die.
Responding on the program to the allegation that interrogation is designed to manipulate detainees' emotions and weakness, the US chief prosecutor, Moe Davis, said: "I would certainly hope so. I mean, that's the purpose of an interrogation is to obtain intelligence information to prevent the next 9/11 or the next Bali bombing."
Maybe now that he has confessed to being a terrorist people might start remembering the real David Hicks.
Here are the inconvenient facts:
On October 5, 2001, the Australian Government announced it was committing troops to the war against terrorism. By this stage, according to the charge sheet prepared by US prosecutors, Hicks had been at Kandahar airport for about two weeks with other al-Qaeda fighters. He had been issued with an AK-47 rifle and then "on his own armed himself with six ammunition magazines, 300 rounds of ammunition, and three grenades to use in fighting against the US Northern Alliance or other coalition forces".
It was a full two months before Hicks would be captured in Afghanistan.
On October 22, 2001, the first deployment of our Special Forces Task Group left Australia for Afghanistan.
This was about the time Hicks "decided to look for another opportunity to fight in Kabul", where he had heard fighting would be heavy.
On or about November 9, 2001, Hicks met a terrorist friend "who requested Hicks go to the front lines in Konduz [in the north] with him". Hicks joined a group of fighters including the "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, who were "engaged in combat against coalition forces".
After the front line collapsed, Hicks spent the rest of November in Arab safe houses in Konduz, still with his AK-47. By late November, there were reports that an advance party of Special Air Service soldiers was in Afghanistan. On December 3, 2001, Australian SAS troops were confirmed to be in Kandahar. That was about the time Hicks was arrested, in a taxi heading from Konduz to the Pakistan border.
It's worth remembering that on February 17, 2002, an Australian SAS soldier, Sergeant Andrew Russell, was killed in Afghanistan after an anti-tank mine exploded. While his death occurred two months after Hicks's capture, it nevertheless highlights Australia's very real exposure on the front line.
Hicks was not a misguided child who only went back to Afghanistan to retrieve his clothes, as some of his supporters maintain.
He was a well-trained terrorist, an al-Qaeda "golden boy" who had watched footage of the September 11, 2001, attacks which killed 3000 innocent people, including Australians, on a friend's TV in Pakistan, who "approved of the attacks" and went back to Afghanistan to fight the US and its allies with his terrorist mates. He was the enemy traitor when Australian troops were on the ground.
'Guilty' puts end to the Hicks myth - Opinion - smh.com.au