The David Hicks guilty plea can easily be understood: He was brutally tortured to make his confession. The American government is the source of all evil in the world. It is the real terrorist organisation. Hicks was just a good Aussie kid on an adventure. Shame America Shame.
Now that doesn’t happen to be my version of events. But if you simply read the op ed pages or the letters’ pages of our leftist media (the Melbourne Age will do), that is the clear message being presented. The terrorist cheer squad is working overtime to turn Hicks into a national hero, a national living treasure.
Of course they have it wrong on just about everything. All those claims, for example, about how frail, skinny and gaunt Hicks was were blown out of the water when he appeared in the courtroom looking more like one of the teletubbies than some starved detainee.
But the America-is-always-wrong-and terrorists-must-be-excused crowd still insist he is innocent, and the Western nations are the real terrorists.
But the truth is, Hicks himself has said enough about his activities to dispel these notions. As Victorian Liberal MP Bernie Finn put it recently: “I must offer a word of caution to those seeking to elevate Hicks to national hero status. David Hicks was not in Afghanistan to judge the Kabul beach babe contest. He was there fighting for one of the most oppressive regimes on earth, which is and was a supporter and promoter of terrorism both locally and internationally. He was there in Afghanistan to kill Australians and its allies. To those who say give David Hicks a fair go, I say give our Aussie military a fair go.”
Janet Albrechtsen nicely summarises some of the facts about Hicks in her Australian column today (“Gun-toting jihadi was not an angel,” March 28, 2007). She begins this way: “Finally David Hicks, also known as Abu Muslim al Australia, aka Abu Muslim Philippine, aka Muhammad Dawood, has pleaded guilty to the charge of providing material support for terrorism. And now watch as the real PR campaign goes into angelic overdrive. His vociferous cheer squad will proclaim his innocence, declaring the plea was the only way for Hicks to get out of Guantanamo Bay.”
Assuming Hicks will be home soon, and may spend a short time in prison, this may well be offset by the celebrity status he will enjoy for years to come. Thus we need to be reminded of some hard truths: “Before the book deals, chat shows, newspaper and television profiles get under way, it’s worth putting emotion to one side. Forget about the photos of an angelic nine-year-old with freckles and a crooked fringe. Forget about the ads where his father, Terry Hicks, declared his love for his son. Let’s come back to the inconvenient aspects of the Hicks saga, those that never make it on to a ‘Free Hicks’ billboard: the law and the facts.”
As to the law: “Military commissions have long been sanctioned by US courts as a proper means for trying those alleged to have committed offences against the laws of war. . . . In June 1942, German saboteurs landed on a deserted beach on Long Island, New York, intent on terrorising the US’s home front. They were arrested and tried by a military commission. The US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of that military commission and the penalties (in that case, executions) it ordered. Last year the US Supreme Court once again upheld military commissions as an appropriate means for trying those captured and charged with breaking the laws of war, specifically in relation to the war on terror. The court demanded congressional approval. That has been given. So that’s the law.”
And the facts: “Hicks has pleaded guilty to his extensive links to terrorist organisations and his activities in Afghanistan, where he met Osama bin Laden and completed al-Qa’ida training courses. The specification Hicks admits to sets out the extraordinary detail: he travelled to Afghanistan with the help of Lashkar-e-Toiba to attend al-Qa’ida terrorist training camps. He was schooled by al-Qa’ida in weapons familiarisation, landmines, tactics, basic explosives, guerilla warfare, ambush, camouflage and surveillance.”
She continues: “He then moved up the ladder to urban tactics training and surveillance of the US and British embassies in Kabul. The specification Hicks admits to traces how he went to Pakistan, only to return to Afghanistan after the September 11 terrorist attacks, joining al-Qa’ida forces at Kandahar airport, later travelling to the front lines in Kunduz to fight coalition forces. He was captured by the Northern Alliance in December 2001 while trying to flee to Pakistan.”
But wait, there’s more: “Long before his admission yesterday, Hicks has made plenty of other, earlier admissions: training with the Kosovo Liberation Army in Albania and fighting with Lashkar-e-Toiba, where he ‘got to fire hundreds of rounds’ into Indian-controlled Kashmir. In letters home to dad, he called himself a ‘well-trained and practical soldier’. He admitted to preparing for martyrdom because ‘the highest position in heaven’ goes to those who ‘go fighting in the way of God against the friends of Satan’.”
Moreover, “Hicks has called the Taliban regime ‘the best in the world’ and congratulated the regime for running ‘the country by strict Islamic law’, making particular mention of the death sentence and ‘all Islamic punishments’. He urged ‘an Islamic revolution’, hoping that the Afghanistan model would ‘spread throughout the Muslim world’ so that ‘Western-Jewish domination is finished, so we live under Muslim rule again’.”
These are the facts we must not lose sight of. Says Albrechtsen, “Hicks’s admission is a vindication of the Howard Government’s steadfast position that he ought to be tried, not freed as his supporters have long demanded. Hicks has admitted to siding with the enemy. He was never an unfortunate victim of circumstance. Bringing him home, where he would escape trial, was always ridiculous. But then the law and facts have never been part of the Hicks campaign. His team of grandstanding Gitmo lawyers and extended human rights supporters always understood they needed a strategy of obfuscation, mystique and delay.”
She concludes, “Hicks will be brought home to serve out his sentence. When that happens, and following his release, let’s hope the facts are not forgotten.” Quite right. All the hype about Hicks must be balanced with some reality here. The appeasers of terrorism have had a good run in the media, seeking to put a “human face” on their latest poster boy. They have gone on and on about the need for justice. I just wish they were as concerned about justice for the victims of terrorism.