Hicks case exposes ‘war on terror’ sham


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Green Left Weekly

Hicks case exposes `war on terror' sham

30 March 2007

After five years of solitary confinement in a small metal cell, David Hicks 
pleaded guilty on March 26 to one of the two charges brought against him by US 
military prosecutors on March 1, to finally get out of the notoriously brutal US
military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Hicks¹s case has revealed just what a sham 
the US-led ³war on terror² really is.

For five years Washington, backed to the hilt by Canberra, has claimed that 
Hicks was one of the most dangerous ³terrorists² being held at Guantanamo. He 
was charged with offences that carrying life sentences.

Now, under the plea bargaining deal, his US military prosecutors are talking 
about him being able to be ³home before the end the year². Indeed, on March 31, 
Hicks was sentenced to seven years¹ imprisonment, with all but nine months of 
the sentence suspended. He will serve most of this in an Australian civilian 

Commenting on the Hicks case, the March 29 Washington Post observed: ³This case 
so far has been less about who Hicks is or what he did than about starting the 
Bush administration¹s military commissions Š Commission officials have praised 
the case as showing a transparent and fair system; human rights groups have 
painted the commissions as a sham with still-unwritten rules.²

It is not just human rights groups that have condemned the military commission 
system. It has been rejected as contrary to international law by all of 
Washington¹s imperialist allies ‹ all except Canberra.

In testimony before a congressional committee on March 29, US defence secretary 
Robert Gates admitted that trials at Guantanamo Bay ³lack credibility² with ³the
international community². Because ³of things that happened earlier at Guantanamo
there is a taint about it², Gates said, alluding to detainees¹ alleges of being 
subjected to torture.

Of the 385 detainees still imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Hicks is one of only 10
to be charged with any ³criminal offence², and the first to be tried by a 
military commission. By contrast, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged architect 
of the September 11, 2001 attack on New York¹s World Trade Centre, has not been 
charged with a crime, though he has been in US custody for years and has taken 
responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks on US citizens.

While much of the Australian media has reported that Hicks pleaded guilty to 
³providing material support to terrorism², he in fact pleaded guilty to a charge
of ³providing material support to terrorists², namely Saudi Arabian millionaire 
Osama bin Laden¹s al Qaeda group.

The charge sheet alleged that in 2001 Hicks had undertaken military training at 
an al Qaeda camp in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, not that he had provided 
material support for any terrorist act.

A secondary charge of ³attempted murder² of US soldiers was dropped after the 
retired military judge, who supervises the military commission system, concluded
there was ³no probable cause² to justify it.

In February 2004, PM John Howard stated on ABC TV that ³it¹s fundamentally wrong
to make a criminal law retrospective². But this is exactly what has been done to

The only offence he was charged with ‹ ³providing material assistance to 
terrorists² ‹ was introduced into US law in October 2001. But it could not be 
applied to Hicks ‹ a non-US citizen who was captured by US-backed rebel forces 
in December 2001 after serving as a soldier in the army of Afghanistan¹s Taliban
government ‹ until the US Congress passed the 2006 Military Commissions Act 

In direct contravention of international law and the US constitution, the MCA 
made jurisdiction of the ³material support for terrorists² offence retroactive.

Of course, neither the US Congress nor the Bush administration has any intention
of using the MCA to launch criminal prosecutions against the US government 
personnel, including the CIA officers, who helped bin Laden set up his terrorist
training camps in Afghanistan in the 1980s during Washington¹s jihadi war 
against the Soviet Union.

The aim of the MCA is to legitimise US President George Bush¹s military 
commission system ‹ kangaroo courts intentionally designed to convict as ³war 
criminals² anyone captured resisting Washington¹s illegal 2001 invasion of 

This invasion was a prelude to the real goal of Washington¹s ³war on terror² ‹ 
regime-change invasions to (re-)impose US corporate ownership of the 
nationalised oil resources of the ³rogue states² of the Middle East, beginning 
with Iraq, and then later, Iran.

From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #705 4 April 2007.

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