… with the WSWS – Interview published on World Socialist Web Site WSWS, by Richard Phillips, December 7, 2013.
(In late 2001, David Hicks, a 26-year-old Australian citizen, was captured in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance, sold to the US military and then illegally transported to Guantánamo Bay. He spent five and a half years incarcerated in the military prison where he was subjected to sleep deprivation, beatings, solitary confinement, and was injected with unknown substances.
Hicks was repatriated to Australia in 2007, after being made an offer he could not refuse—plead guilty to “providing material support for terrorism” or spend the rest of his life in Guantánamo. The plea deal, which included seven months in a high-security South Australian prison, a one-year media gag and other violations of his legal rights, was orchestrated by the Howard government and the Bush administration.
Last month Hicks lodged an appeal with the US Court of Military Commission Review to overturn his “terrorism” conviction. It follows last year’s US civil court quashing of the “material support for terrorism” convictions of Salim Hamdan, a former Guantánamo prisoner. Hamdan’s convictions were invalid, the court ruled, because they did not exist when he was captured by the US military in 2001.
Hicks spoke with the World Socialist Web Site last month about his appeal and why he is concerned about the growing attacks on basic legal rights and press freedoms).
WSWS: Why have you decided to appeal?
- David Hicks: I believe it’s important that this doesn’t happen again to another Australian. There has to be some accountability and the government should learn from the mistakes made in my case. There should also be some sort of official inquiry into what happened to me. We’ve asked for that on a number of occasions but the government is not interested. People like Bush, Cheney, Howard, Downer and others have to be brought to account.
WSWS: You say “mistakes”.
- DH: War crimes. The Australian government hasn’t even responded to action taken to the United Nations three years ago by Professor Ben Saul, head of the Sydney University’s international legal department. He submitted about 90 pages of alleged breaches of the law in my case.
WSWS: Could you explain why you pled guilty in 2007 and what is an Alford Plea? … //
… WSWS: Do you take confidence from the emergence of whistleblowers like Assange, Manning and Snowden?
- DH: Yes. It’s amazing, refreshing. It’s like a light in the darkness.
WSWS: What’s your comment on US support for Al Qaeda and other jihadist forces in Libya and Syria? Washington claims these elements are fighting for freedom and democracy.
- DH: The US does fight for freedom around the world but freedom for it to do as it likes—freedom for the US and nobody else.
- How can I sum this up? My head is so filled with books and reports about the US going to war for economic and political control purposes. I’m convinced that America is in decline, which seems to make it even more desperate in the decisions it makes.
- You have countries like Iran, which wants the right to develop its own nuclear power, as so many other countries have or are in the process of doing. This is not illegal. But just because they want their independence from the US global system it’s demonised. I’d like to think it won’t happen, but one day Iran may be bombed for this. This sort of thing really drives me nuts. It really annoys me.
- With regard to Syria, the mainstream media always puts the blame on the Syrian government and never says anything about the role of the US and its allies. The US, who may be fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, takes these people and sends them to Syria to use terrorist tactics. I’ve seen Syrian rebels on YouTube pulling organs out of bodies and taking bites out of them. And we’re told that these are “our guys.”
- The biggest and most pressing issue that all Australians should be concerned about is the Asian pivot, and how our so-called friend is dragging us into serious conflict, the real possibility of war with China, this country’s most important economic partner.
- Australians should be told about this, at the very least. There should have been a national debate or referendum about whether we wanted US marines stationed in Darwin. Do we want US air bases? Do we want US forces in Perth or anywhere within our jurisdiction?
- The US has detailed plans about how to organise a naval blockade on China and is basically issuing orders about what they want Australia to do. People need to be educated about this, and have their say, but it’s all being done behind our backs.
Not freedom but treason: Erdogan slams Turkish media over whistleblowing, on Russia Today RT, Dec 8, 2013;
No charges ever pressed: Assange marks three years of UK detention, on Russia Today RT, Dec 7, 2013;
Astronomers discover accidental giant planet that should not be, on Russia Today RT, Dec 7, 2013;
Cameron’s visit to China, on Socialist Unity, by John Wight, Dec 7, 2013.