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30 June 2006

The President ... is as powerful a monarch as Louis XIV ... and is not subject to the processes of any court in the land ...

cartoon by Spooner for The Age

Ah, screw it, I give up. I can't find this guy's e-mail addie anywhere on the website of Australia's national broadsheet The Age. I want to write the guy an e-mail but I can't.

So I'll just filch his column, post it on Vleeptron, and maybe he'll notice and contact me to complain.

Oh, I'll say I'm sorry and offer to buy him a pizza.

But I want to tell him what a great column this is.

Why should anybody care about a loop job like David Hicks?

Mr Shaun Carney, an Associate Editor of The Age, tells us why.

It's called The Rule Of Law. Our President Bush suspended it, and ceaselessly tells the American people why he suspended the Rule of Law, and why he doesn't care who objects, and promises to keep suspending the Rule of Law for as long as he's the worst president we've had in living memory, and for as long as he's the worst "Commander-in-Chief" we've ever had during a national emergency or two.

Yesterday five justices of the United States Supreme Court told President Lawless that he had to stop acting as if he were Above The Law.

And five is enough to mean that one of our three co-equal branches of the federal government demands he Straighten Up and Fly Right. The Supreme Court just told the president to Obey The Law. Or Else.

(Or Else what? Watch This Space.)

A little peek at the future.

In 2008, our Constitution says we must hold a presidential election, and Bush can't run for a third term. Our Constitution says that in January 2009, a new guy (or mebbe a lady) will take the oath and be sworn in as the new President of the United States.

If you were Bush, and you were as self-hypnotized as Bush says he is that the entire safety of every citizen of the USA depends on his being Above The Law during a national emergency -- would you gracefully and happily turn your powers over to The Next Guy or The Next Gal? Would you gracefully and quietly go back to Texas and spend your days polishing up your Presidential Library?

Hmmm ... maybe, if the guy who wins in 2008 is another right-wing Republican pscyho loop job. Like his brother Jeb, the Governor of Florida -- just an example.

But what if the 2008 winner is a Democrat who ran on a platform of restoring respect for the U.S. Constitution and the Rule Of Law? What if the 2008 winner is sitting on a new Democratic majority in both houses of the U.S. Congress, after a flip in '06 and/or '08?

If I were as megalomaniacal as Bush -- I wouldn't go gentle into that dark Texas. America needs me! Only I can save America! America will be doomed if it votes mistakenly for some kommie pinko sissy liberal Democrat. And personally, I'd be convinced that it wasn't a fair vote, but that the Democrats won by rigging the election. I can't let them take over the reins of power if they stuffed ballot boxes and hung pregnant chads in some politically corrupt state.

More than that, Bush on several occasions has made it clear that he has a historically unique special mandate to be our President. A mandate from God. God specifically wants George Bush to be President of the United States.

If I were God, do you think I'd care about the U.S. Constitution? God is Above The Law. God IS The Law. God chose George Bush to be President. Four more years, says God -- or that's what The Voice of God in Bush's Head will be telling him.

By the way, this "There's a war on, I'm the President, I'm Above The Law" crap has been pulled before. Richard Nixon's lawyer specifically argued before the Supreme Court that, during a presidency, the President has the same powers as Louis XIV of France -- the original "We Are The Law" absolute monarch. Here is what Nixon's lawyer, James D. St. Clair, said to the nine justices:

"The President wants me to argue that he is as powerful a monarch as Louis XIV, only four years at a time, and is not subject to the processes of any court in the land except the court of impeachment."

This cartoon from The Age pretty much shows how the Supreme Court (unanimously, I think, 9-0) replied to Nixon's lawyer. A few months later Nixon climbed aboard the Marine helicopter and waved goodbye, the first and (so far) only president ever to resign while in office.

How can you compare a total fuckup (I don't exactly know what the Ozzie word "bogan" means, if you do, please Leave A Comment)

WIKIPEDIA: Bogan (pronounced ... to rhyme with slogan) is an Australian and New Zealand English slang term, at times derogatory, for a person who is, or is perceived to be, unsophisticated or of a lower class background. The stereotype includes having speech and mannerisms that are considered to denote poor education and uncultured upbringing. Mostly applied to white, working-class people.

Any discussion of the meaning of the term is likely to be controversial. Australians tend to have an image of their country as culturally egalitarian; by contrast, Britain and the United States are often stereotyped in Australia as obsessed with cultural and economic class respectively. The presence of an insulting stereotype for poor people is obviously in conflict with this self-image.

Like the British term chav and the American term white trash, the term is supposedly based on behaviour rather than class alone. It may be contrasted to the term 'povvo', which assumes that poverty as such is worthy of insult.

Further, the stereotype assumes a correlation between subcultural practices of particular working-class people (eg style of dress, accent, and musical tastes), and anti-social behaviour. It should thus be considered a slur.

The term, and the attendant stereotype, are far more acceptable in Australian culture than equivalent slurs. A person who used the term in the media, for example, would be unlikely to face similar consequences to if they had used a term such as nigger or kike. The popular Australian TV comedy Kath and Kim derived much of its humour from this stereotype. A TV comedy based on equivalent stereotypes of Aboriginal people, for example, would have been highly unlikely to be aired.

While it has been used as a derogatory term, the word 'bogan' is becoming much more accepted, particularly among bogans themselves. Many people proudly claim to be bogans, making a statement on their musical preferences, lifestyle and morals.

like the pathetic Australian David Hicks to Our Great and Mighty God-Chosen War President? What can possibly link these figures together?

Shaun Carney knows, and says so with such wonderful, amazing clarity.

It's the Rule Of Law. If we live under it, David Hicks is still pathetic -- but he's somebody, a recognized human being, and the Laws of the United States of America, and the Laws of Australia, say so, and require he be treated according to these laws.

Three associate justices (led by Clarence Thomas, who was such a sore loser he read his dissent from the bench, something he's never done before) say the hell with the Rule of Law, this president can ignore it, and this president should ignore it. We're at War, the president needs the unlimited powers of a Strong Man to defend the USA. Like Louis XIV, liked Mussolini, like Hitler. Bush is Above The Law.

Five associate justices said: No. The President is not above the law.

~ ~ ~

The Age (national Australian broadsheet)
Saturday 1 July 2006

Sacrificing David Hicks

by Shaun Carney

David Hicks must surely be the most celebrated Adelaide bogan ever.
All that ink, all that air time, all the legal work done on his behalf. The protests, such as the mock prison cage set up on a Manhattan street. The high-level diplomatic representations. Now, even the loftiest jurists in the world's most powerful nation, the members of the US Supreme Court, have, by extension, considered his fate.

Many among us have, to varying degrees, made a mess of our lives. But Hicks has earned the right to be the poster boy for that particular subset of humanity. He could have evaded capture by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in late 2001 by staying out of that country. Instead, having taken off earlier, he went back in to get his meagre belongings.

That's when he was nabbed and eventually handed over to the United States. And his life, bad enough before -- with his poor schooling and ridiculous, possibly murderous adventures with al-Qaeda and the Taliban -- has been an utter nightmare ever since.

There can be no doubt that Hicks is the chief author of his own misfortune, which was to be consigned to a dismal existence in detention at Guantanamo Bay, and so much more. But he is not the sole creator of his own story.

It was Hicks' bad luck to hail from a country whose elected political leadership not only does not give a stuff about him or his legal rights, but appears to actively want his life to be broken as some sort of example or sacrifice. Or something.

If Hicks had been, say, a Saudi Arabian or a British citizen when he was captured, he would not be in Guantanamo Bay now. He would be back in his homeland.

I do not like what David Hicks did. I do not like the way he lived his life. I think many of his choices were stupid and wrong. In Afghanistan he made a conscious choice to do the bidding of very bad people. The Taliban are evil and Hicks appears to have taken up arms on their behalf. At the very least, he hung out with them and fashioned himself a fellow traveller.

Morally, there is no defence for that. But we long ago left behind the practice of deciding what to do with our citizens based solely on our judgement of their morals.

Instead, we have laws; they are the spine of our society. Laws are to be applied equally, free of political preferment and interference. If there is anything we are defending in our ongoing battle against the terrorists who try to attack our way of life, it is that.

Hicks has not broken any Australian laws. Prime Minister John Howard acknowledged this in a radio interview yesterday. "If he's brought back to Australia he can't be effectively charged because the crimes he committed were not, according to Australian law, crimes at the time he committed them," he said.

"It was not a crime back in 2001 to do as he admitted he did, and that is train with al-Qaeda and rejoin al-Qaeda even after the terrorist attacks (on the United States) on the eleventh of September."

For that reason, Howard says he has no interest in seeing Hicks returned to Australia. From that decision, that attitude, held widely at the senior levels of the Howard Government, everything about the Hicks case has flowed.

Because of it, Hicks has languished for 4 1/2 years at Guantanamo, first without charge and then awaiting trial before a US military commission. It was a remarkable thing to see: one nation effectively shopping around for a forum to which it could deliver one of its own citizens -- a citizen who had broken none of his own country's laws.

Whenever Hicks' plight was raised with the Government, the Prime Minister, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer would say there was nothing they could do. Hicks was the property of the US, where he would be dealt with fairly by that great democracy.

Oh, and the by the way, they always added, Hicks is a terrible person who did terrible things. Totally guilty, you understand, even if he hasn't been charged with anything.

On Thursday Washington time, this entire approach to Hicks collapsed when the US Supreme Court ruled that the military tribunal the Howard Government was happy to see pass judgement on him did not have proper legal status and breached the Geneva Conventions.

Defiant to the end, Howard said yesterday that Hicks should be brought to trial. "There clearly has to be another method of trial -- a court martial or a civilian trial -- which conforms with the Supreme Court decision."

Reports from Washington suggest that there was a desire on both sides of Congress to refashion the military tribunals, to give them a proper legal status. However, the same reports said the Supreme Court had warned that this would not be easy because of the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, which include proper protections for defendants.

Yesterday the Prime Minister said he had no sympathy for Hicks, adding almost comically "but that doesn't mean to say his rights should not be respected."

The Government's best course would be to swallow its pride, submerge its ego or whatever else its leading figures have invested in this thing, and repatriate Hicks.

After all, the Supreme Court ruling would seem to suggest that Hicks and the other Guantanamo detainees have been held illegally. That is, the Bush Government has locked them up for an illegal purpose.

Beyond that, however, there is the issue of Hicks' punishment. Is the four-and-a-half years of hard time he has already served enough? How does this square with his former Guantanamo inmates, British citizens, who are now free?

There will be no great public outcry from the Australian public in the coming days for Hicks to be either released or dealt with in some other more humane or legally decent manner, so the Government will not feel under pressure to change its approach.

For that, Hicks can take some of the blame. His bad choices marked his cards with many of his fellow Australians. The tragedy is that the nation's political leadership, which makes laws and expects those laws to be respected, continues to be so anxious to serve up one of its own citizens for its own political and diplomatic ends.

Shaun Carney is an associate editor.

Copyright © 2006. The Age Company Ltd.


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