NB: The following post is assembled from comments I posted earlier at Oz Politics Blog.
Even antiwar websites have been reporting David Hicks's plea bargain using terms like “the Australian Taleban”. Howardistas in the media like Gerard Hendersen have successfully defined not just attitudes to Hicks, but also much of the language in this debate. Cliched tags like “Muslim convert” and “Al Quaeda sympathiser” leap out from all directions and are rarely subject to scrutiny.
We hear that Hicks is looking chubby, has dark circles under his eyes, cried when he met his father, was sodomized by US guards, has to grow his hair long to block out the lights which are rarely or never switched off. Are these things important? Sure, but the real issue is that an Australian citizen has been not only abandoned but actively vilified by his government, setting an extraordinary dangerous precedent which undermines the very fabric of our society.
We have become accustomed to such outrageously cynical abuses of power by the Howard government. We feel a certain familiar sense of numbness as we struggle to verbalise our outrage.
But I fear that the Australian public - who have repeatedly voted for a War Criminal - will soon be all to happy to forget about David Hicks.
The Hicks case covers the US and Australian governments in ignomy, but the Australian public must also bear it’s share of the burden of guilt. We abandoned Hicks. We let him rot. Even those of us who actively campaigned on his behalf for many years did not do enough. I know about the Amnesty campaign, GetUp campaign, etc. And sure, they all helped put pressure on Howard, and maybe without them Hicks would be in Gitmo another ten years. But this sure doesn’t feel like any kind of “victory”, does it?
When his Dad told Hicks about all the public pressure on the Howard government over his case, Hicks replied: “So why am I still here?” Hicks ultimately went for a plea deal not only because he had been abandoned by his government, but also because he was abandoned by the Australian people.
This is what we have become. John Howard is a reflection of US.