June 2006 really surprises me — 2

Believe it or not I do not spend all my days combing my archives, but with the new month I first checked that I did have a June 2006 archive and then, having found it, surprised myself! So this is the second of up to 3 reposts! I may add in some pics…

Crash-tackling the stereotype

Some of you remember my fifteen minutes of fame in 2002. There had been mutterings around The Mine about “Asians” and “coaching” (cheating?) and not playing Rugby…

How amused I was then last night to get an email from one of my (“Asian”) coachees to say he couldn’t attend this week as he would be playing Rugby League in The Shire.

He’s an athlete too.

As time goes by… Meeting Madam and a Buddhist.

It has been a week for running into people, one way or another. Delenio will know who I mean when I mention that I saw G, a former colleague, especially in many a GPS debate, a couple of days ago. He looks different, healthy and very friendly. He’s pretty much done with teaching and is very much into Buddhism these days. He hadn’t heard about my becoming involved with South Sydney Uniting Church, but could relate to the need for a spiritual home. He certainly seems to have found his, and that is great.

By the way, I do not put great store on the exclusive truth claims of any religion, including my own; as soon as religions seriously go down that track you can be sure they are wrong. But that’s a matter for another day.

Tonight I saw Madam in Elizabeth Street, and this will mean most to The Rabbit, after whom she asked. She was pleased to hear about the English teaching. She is still doing some catering, she tells me, has some Japanese students staying with her, and is enjoying the freedom of not running a cafe. She seems to be over her Bulgarian period. (Mind you, I liked him.)

Her cafe was a bit like Rick’s. If smaller. Much smaller. And there was no piano. But it was as much a haven for all kinds of refugees as Rick’s ever was. I am sure The Rabbit remembers it with as much affection as I do.

Ah, Cafe Max. I haven’t really taken to its replacement.

chris_and_dim
Cafe Max – Madam and Dimmi 2003

Rick’s Cafe Casablanca

I really love the movie Casablanca, which is the same age as I am, or pretty close…

And now it appears, so I saw on ABC’s Foreign Correspondent tonight, that an American named Kathy Kriger has brought it to life in the city the movie celebrated. It looks great, and the Rick’s Cafe website is just a delight. She has a blog too: Salon Privé.

Welcome to my Salon Privé and please take a seat at the table. This is a dinner conversation and all the usual subjects are welcome: politics, food, music, film, design, religion, travel, drink, business, gossip, shopping…ok, even sports. So make sure your glass is topped up, and let’s start the meal…

Do yourself a favour: go there online like me or, if you are very lucky, in actuality. Looks like a great idea beautifully done.

I found this suitably humbling…

I have said quite a bit about refugees and asylum seekers at various times: those links search my Big Archive. But I was suitably humbled by MyScribbles writing about June 20: World Refugee Day.

June 20 was the World Refugee Day. Did anyone notice it? Despite being an Afghan refugee and a member of the largest single refugee group in the world, I didn’t notice it come and go. Although I do not believe in the symbolic efficacy of the day, I do believe that if such days are marked properly with awareness programs, a real change can be brought about in the lives of refugees.

I believe that in an overwhelming number of cases, people become refugees when the profits of a multinational corporation are at stake or when a number of immoral, corrupt leaders play dirty politics on the international arena. However, I also strongly believe in the power of the collaborative strength of the human beings as an agent for real change. Therefore, when a day such as this is used to educate the general public and urge them to take action, it can have a real impact on the lives of the refugee population of the world…

I am not going to improve on this teenager’s statement. Visit his page and read the rest.

Later

MyScribbles’ Refugee Day entry was read aloud at this morning’s service at South Sydney Uniting Church. Vlad had also alluded at some length in his reflection to The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2003).

If you go to MyScribbles and read his previous entry, No Radical Islam, Only Radicalized Muslims, you will find a statement that may cause you to do a double-take:

The creation of Al-Qaeda by the United States was a step in the direction of creating one such group. Al-Qaeda not only interpreted Islam militantly, but also used it to radicalize and inspire many Muslims to join them.

But he does have a point. As Wikipedia says:

Sources differ on the origin of the name. Robin Cook, the late British member of Parliament and former foreign secretary, wrote in 2005 that “Al-Qaida, literally ‘the database’, was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians.” [1] Supporting this most likely origin of the name, Dr. Saad Al-Fagih, a surgeon at Peshawar (where the recruiting happened) explained that creation of the computer database (Al-Qaeda) was necessary to fix problems associated with a lack of documentation about the fighters who were recruited. [2] Some others have said that the name means simply the base as well as claiming that the organization chose its own name.[3][4]

The origins of al-Qaeda can be traced to a few weeks after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, when a cadre of non-Afghani, Arab Muslim fighters joined the largely United States and Pakistan-funded Afghan mujāhidīn anti-Russian resistance movement (a guerrilla war against Soviet occupation forces and the Soviet-backed Afghan government). Osama bin Laden, a member of a prominent Saudi Arabian business family, led an informal grouping which became a leading fundraiser and recruitment agency for the Afghan cause in Muslim countries; it channelled Islamic fighters to the conflict, distributed money and provided logistical skills and resources to both fighting forces and Afghan refugees.

See also “What is al-Qaeda?” by Jason Burke, and Burke’s book Al-Qaeda: the True Story of Radical Islam (Penguin, rev ed. 2004). The first edition (Tauris, 2003) was called Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror.

Congratulations to my young Afghan friend

On my WordPress dashboard I just noted:

Fastest Growing WordPress.com blogs

1. MyScribbles: Write-ups of an Afghan
2. THEOcracy
3. hot BODS’ abode
4. The Rambling Men
5. Canucklehead
6. Evolving Trends
7. Brechi Reborn

Well done!

See also from this year How 15 years ago my blog reached into Afghanistan and encouraged at least one teenager…

Post Script

In the previous post in talking about Lord Malcolm and Lillian Crombie, I linked to the page I posted at the time of Malcolm’s death, 1 June 2007. Looking at it again I noticed among the many comments this one:

 MyScribbles: Write-ups of an Afghan Says:
June 16, 2007 at 3:54 am May he rest in peace. I offer my condolences to his family and friends.He must be feeling proud of having friends like you who remember him and pay such nice and sincere tributes to him after his passing away.

Yesterday was World Teachers Day

So watch this!

On Facebook yesterday Sydney Boys High — the school I last worked in — posted on the retirement of the Deputy Principal, and on the twenty year service in tandem with Dr Jaggar, the current Principal. I was working at the school until the end of 2005, with an odd job or two between then and 2010.

Dr Jaggar on the right — not sure about the other one!

On Facebook I said:

International Teachers Day conversation 1 at Diggers — with Leo Tobin, who was around the teaching traps down here in the Illawarra even before I was. Many a story we swapped about Wollongong High and Brian Downes, the legendary “Basher” Downes! 50 years of memories.

Conversation 2 — by phone — with Kim Jaggar, Principal of Sydney Boys High on his 21 years in the job there. On ticklish issues like what to do about students running away to join ISIS! (Kim was absolutely brilliant and those kids are now OK and no longer kids!)

So much that man has accomplished in the old place.

On that “ticklish problem” (in 2015) see Bringing it home.

So imagine my feelings when Prime (7) News rather prominently featured this story last night:

TWO brothers blocked from leaving Sydney Airport under suspicion they were heading to fight in the Middle East were award-winning students at the prestigious Sydney Boys High public school.

The boys, aged 16 and 17, were prominent members of sporting teams at the selective school, one of eight Great Public Schools (GPS) in Sydney, with the older brother also excelling academically and in debating…

That is as it appears on the Daily Telegraph website this morning as the Channel 7 version has disappeared. (The front page was devoted to a particularly bizarre murder trial that finished yesterday.) Last night on Facebook I commented:

I hate the way this is being framed. The school is simply NOT one of Sydney’s most exclusive schools. It’s a state school like any other but academically selective, old and (oddly) competes in GPS sport. I went there. I taught there. I know many of the current staff. The principal is undoubtedly the best I ever worked for. I fear that the way this plays in the media will block real understanding of what might have got into the heads of the two brothers, assuming the allegations are accurate. Coincidentally I have blogged recently on matters relating to ten years ago, but can’t and won’t say anything about this latest, except to utterly support the school.

There are also over one thousand students at SBHS. It has a very well developed, supportive welfare system; I was myself on the welfare committee when I worked there.

To cut the long story short, despite media and other pressure, the school supported the students involved. They have both moved on from that flirtation with being jihadis, and are doing well.

9 September brings pause

Yesterday I recalled the wonderful events of September 2000, both here and on Facebook, but of course there was another anniversary concerning the following year. How different an anniversary that one is, even though the events this time were far away. All our lives have been marked one way or another by those events.

Today I will look back at my blog for September 2001, which is still preserved in the Internet Archive. But briefly back to the year before. I was in both years still working at Sydney Boys High. Here I am with members of the Class of 2000.

2000

So last night SBS showed the PBS documentary about George W Bush. Excellent it was too. Certainly brought back those times, confirmed much we had known or thought, but added perspective. There is another episode next week.

That clip is an excellent preface to these preserved memories of mine.

02 Sep 2001

Spring again and another Yum Cha

“Although it is Spring and Father’s Day, it was a bit cool and windy today. A good Yum Cha took place at the East Ocean Restaurant with the Empress (of course), Malcolm, Sirdan, James, PK (with whom I have had some good talks recently), Bob (a rare visitor) and myself. It is interesting as this diary has been faithfully kept for the best part of eighteen months to look back at Yum Chas past: last September for example Sydney was gearing up for the Olympics and was just getting into the mood; we had a couple of Olympic visitors at that Yum Cha.

“Twenty years ago this month myself, Rob (rest his soul), John Hawke and a couple of others began the young writers’ magazine Neos. (Simon H. was there in the background too.) The magazine went on until 1985, attracting a pretty fair reputation, including one Literature Board Grant and Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Award for services to youth. My mother was particularly proud of that. Funnily, it was also a time when my own life was at a low ebb, but I survived.

“It was towards the end of that time that I “came out” at last, and also began my current principal means of employment….

11 Sep 2001

Thoughts of a survivor: Guest article by Ian Smith, the Dowager Empress of Hong Kong [RIP 1953-2010]

“It is difficult to give advice to any one regarding HIV/AIDS. However here are a few thoughts from a long-term survivor.

“Do not panic. This is easy to say, but the best thing you can do, is ignore the virus as much as possible, within reason. If you are on medication, never miss a dose. Always have safe sex to avoid passing the virus to someone else, and keep alcohol and other recreational drugs down. By this I do not mean give everything up, just try cutting down. Think, ‘Do I really need that E tonight?” If you do, take only half, or less. This has the advantage of saving money. It also has the advantage of not damaging your immune system as much….

12 Sep 2001

Dies irae

Horrible. What more can I say?

“When I was seventeen the following poem (I print here the first and last stanzas only) was one we did; ever since it has recurred to me when the world has displayed yet another atrocity:

SEPTEMBER 1 1939

W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

*

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleagured by the same
Negation and despair
Show an affirming flame.

13 Sep 2001

Local but global…Australia and asylum seekers

“In the background as I write the TV here in Sydney is still devoted to full coverage via CNN etc of the horrendous events of a few days back; rightly so. Perhaps later I will dare to say something.

“Meantime the bizarre events surrounding the Australian Government’s treatment of asylum seekers (mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan) continues. Being relatively sane, I do not advocate open borders, but the current saga is odd to say the least. I still smell electoral advantage as a motive: why even Pauline Hanson has complained that the Government has been stealing her policies (and her voters?) The level of public discussion–at least in pubs and on talkback radio–has often been frightening in its ignorance and, indeed, racism….

17 Sep 2001

An evil man

“Much may (I think) rightly be said about the folly of American foreign policy, or its arrogance–and America has sometimes set a nasty hypocritical tone to an outsider like me: supporting corrupt and tyrannical regimes, engineering the downfall of governments they do not like (as in Chile), callously speaking military-talk about “collateral damage”, and so on. On the other hand, this is a country free enough to allow those thoughts to be expressed, as they are by many: Noam Chomsky to name one. Dissent is more viable in America than in most other nations. The world is paradoxical.

“On the other hand, having just watched an excellent documentary on ABC (Australian that is) Four Corners on Osama bin Laden: oh my God! What an evil bastard that man is.

“I find myself looking again at the model of a post-Cold War world given in Samuel P Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations (1996) and find it compelling and prescient. I still feel he draws the lines too starkly, and disagree with his proposed policies, except maybe to pull back from insisting on the “Westernisation” (as distinct from “modernisation”) of the rest of the world. Huntington also presents a very flawed view, a straw man view, of multiculturalism, something he does not understand in the way it has been understood in Australia for example. He does not give sufficient credence either to the fact that cultures actually can change, compromise and meet. In a sense he is agreeing with the extremists who so bedevil this world. Nonetheless, it is one of the best available models for making sense of what is occurring at this moment…..

27 Sep 2001

Last for a while….

“….Another influence is reading Four Quartets (T S Eliot) again, and finding it actually resonated, as it didn’t when I was eighteen! And Bishop Spong is an inspiration that one can be spiritual without believing one hundred and one impossible things before breakfast, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll. One does not have to subscribe to an infallible teacher, an infallible book; one looks within and perhaps joins with like-minded people. I am still looking…

Some say my teaching is nonsense
Others call it lofty and impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
the nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who have put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that grow deep.

I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate towards yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.

“That is from the Tao Te Ch’ing, not an infallible book, that offers the best theology: “The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.”

“Taking a break from diarying now for a week–a discipline I am imposing on myself. See you later. Sweet dreams to all my readers, especially you….”

Notice I was still calling it “diarying”, not “blogging!”

Blogging the 2010s — 104 — November 2010 — c

In this month, though by now in Wollongong, I was working on my last assignment as an amateur unpaid journalist on the South Sydney Herald — and it was of national import! I remain proud of my swan song.

In the matter of David Hicks

In 1999-2000 at least two young Australians were wandering about Pakistan. One of them was David Hicks.

david-hicks

The other was M.

m99

Both of them passed through places such as Quetta and Peshawar.

There is a picture of M in an arms bazaar in Peshawar dramatically holding an AK47. Both of them were in the Pakistani part of Kashmir at times. M’s six months in Pakistan (in two stages) was mere travelling; David’s was that and rather more. M took no courses and visited no camps. M has nothing to confess to; David famously confessed in order to be sprung from Guantanamo. I doubt that confession is worth much.

I have been reading David Hicks’s smiley-happy005smiley-happy005[6]smiley-happy005[8]Guantanamo: My Journey (2010).

One telling item concerns the picture of Hicks above, much used to confirm his evil activities. In fact it was taken in Albania where Hicks volunteered for Kosovo, ultimately seeing no action and under the overarching authority of NATO.

CIMG5056

He and some slipper-wearing mates are in fact clowning around with some empty weapons. The picture does not show Hicks in action on behalf of the Taliban in Afghanistan, though that is what viewers of the cropped pic were led to believe. An excellent example of framing changing meaning.

No, Hicks isn’t a hero, but neither is he the demonic supporter of terrorism we were led to believe. Some have no doubts that he is eevil: Miranda Devine for example. On the other hand see two good posts by Irfan Yusuf who knows rather more about the context of Hicks’s activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan than Miranda seems to: COMMENT: Why David Hicks matters … and OPINION: Artful dodger does himself no favours on David Hicks …  The Artful Dodger is John Howard and Yusuf is referring to Howard’s response to being confronted by Hicks on Q&A.

A recent episode of the ABC’s Q&A almost became a battle of the memoirs. John Howard was the sole guest, his appearance fitting very neatly in with his publisher’s promotion schedule. Howard was buoyed by audience responses to his mantras about the economy and his gentle pokes in the eyes of Peter Costello and Malcolm Fraser.
Then, out of the blue, David Hicks’s face appears via webcam. Contrary to the image Howard and others drew of him as a raving terrorist, Hicks calmly and in a dignified manner posed Howard his question.
Hicks wanted to simply understand why his own government showed indifference to his incarceration and torture at Guantanamo. Hicks also wanted to know what Howard thought of military tribunals. Hicks even ended his question with a polite “thank you”. Osama bin Laden would have been pulling his beard out at Hicks’s demeanour toward Howard.
It was obvious that Howard was rattled by Hicks’s very appearance, let alone by questions Howard avoided for so many years in office. At first, Howard played politician by avoiding the question, instead reminding us of how lucky we were to have a free exchange on an ABC that members of his government tried ever so hard to restrict and intimidate.
Howard also reminded us that there was …

… a lot of criticism of that book from sources unrelated to me and I’ve read some very severe criticisms of that book.

Also worth looking at: It’s right to write about Gitmo stay by Cynthia Banham; For the first time, David Hicks tells by Chris Johnston; David Hicks’ journey by Kellie Tranter…..

In the matter of David Hicks — 2

On the 8th I mentioned that I was reading David Hicks’s recently published account of his life. I now find myself preparing a review for the December South Sydney Herald.

In addition to the reviews linked to the earlier post I have been examining other resources on the subject of David Hicks. Any review of his book must include reference to the documentary The President Versus David Hicks. David Stratton:

The troubling documentary ‘The President Versus David Hicks’, which screened on SBS earlier this year and is only now getting a cinema release, is in effect a profile of David Hicks’ father, Terry. Faced with a situation no parent should have to contemplate, his son imprisoned for years by a foreign power which won’t allow his family access, his own government refusing to intervene on behalf of its citizen. Terry Hicks sets off, accompanied by film-maker Curtis Levy, to follow in his son’s footsteps in an effort to find out what happened to him.

We discover that David, a seemingly average Aussie kid from Adelaide, son of a broken marriage and with a failed relationship, and two children, behind him, converted to Islam and determined to fight what he saw as injustice towards Muslims, first in Kosovo, then in Kashmir and finally Afghanistan, where he became increasingly radicalised.

Terry Hicks is a wonderful character, a real Aussie battler, and very tolerant of some of the less attractive things he discovers about his son during his odessy. The film was made before David Hicks was formally charged, but it still raises once again all the questions about justice, respect for international law and the apparent indifference of Australian authorities to the fate of one of their citizens. This is a documentary which every concerned Australian should see…

The letters used in that documentary are glossed over somewhat in the recent book….

There has also been an opportunity to look again at the thoroughly admirable Michael Mori….

I’ve often wondered what became of Mori later. Here is the answer from Wikipedia.

Following Hicks’ departure from Guantanamo Bay to complete his sentence in Yatala Prison, South Australia – on or about May 20, 2007 – Mori was re-assigned as a staff judge advocate, or legal adviser, to the commanders of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. He has twice been passed over for promotion since taking on the Hicks case.[6]

Mori was presented, in June 2007, with an honorary membership of the Australian Bar Association for his defence of David Hicks.[7] In October 2007, he was awarded a civil justice award from the Australian Lawyers Alliance as “recognition by the legal profession of unsung heroes who, despite personal risk or sacrifice, have fought to preserve individual rights, human dignity or safety”.[8]

In September 2010, Mori took the navy to court, alleging that his 2009 promotion was delayed due to bias by the selection board.[9]

Now that guy is a hero!

I also have looked into Lex Lasry QC on Hicks’s trial: David Hicks Trial. The Parliamentary Library has a useful chronology: Australians in Guantanamo Bay…..

In the matter of David Hicks — 3

My South Sydney Herald project continues; the deadline is three days time.

Now I have discovered something about David Hicks’s guilty plea: it was what in US law is known as an Alford Plea: that is, a plea you make when you don’t necessarily believe you are guilty, or in fact believe you are not guilty. Now isn’t that interesting?….

In the matter of David Hicks — 4

This is the article to appear in December’s South Sydney Herald. The blog and the SSH hardly overlap, hence this preview….

Mr Howard vs David Hicks

A friend of mine was in Pakistan at the same time as David Hicks, and in many of the same places: Peshawar, Quetta, Pakistani Kashmir. There’s even a photo of my friend in Pashtun costume holding an AK47. That was a joke photo taken in a Peshawar arms bazaar. My friend went east and met the Dalai Lama. David Hicks went west and met Osama Bin Laden. My friend came home much sooner.

When David Hicks memorably confronted John Howard on Q&A in October he asked two questions: was I treated humanely? and was the Military Commission process fair? Howard answered neither question, applying the airbrush liberally  to what really happened to Hicks between 2001 and 2008.

After distracting us with a motherhood statement about what a great country we have to allow Hicks to bail him up like this, Howard spun first into irrelevance: “Now, having said that, can I simply say that I defend what my government did in relation to Iraq, in relation to the military commissions….” How did Iraq get into this?

He went on: “We put a lot of pressure on the Americans to accelerate the charges being brought against David Hicks and I remind the people watching this program that David Hicks did plead guilty to a series of offences and they, of course, involved him in full knowledge of what had happened on 11 September, attempting to return to Afghanistan and rejoin the people with whom he had trained. So let’s understand the reality of that David Hicks pleaded guilty to.”

TONY JONES: Mr Howard, on this question of him pleading guilty, Mr Hicks says in his own book that his military lawyer, David (sic) Mori, was told by your staff that Hicks wouldn’t be released from Guantanamo Bay unless he pleaded guilty. Was that your position?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I’m not aware of any such exchange but, look, I mean, there been a lot of criticism of that book by sources quite unrelated to me and I’ve read some very, very severe criticisms of that book…

Howard’s late-blooming desire to see Hicks returned to Australia had everything to do with VP Cheney’s visit to Australia in February 2007, when the deal that led to Hicks’s “conviction” was stitched up, and behind that was the 2007 Election. Howard knew the issue was losing him votes.

Colonel Morris Davis, the prosecutor in the case, recalls that in January 2007 he received a call from his superior Jim Haynes asking him how quickly he could charge David Hicks. (Now an attorney for Chevron, Haynes had in 2005 told Davis: “Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. We’ve been holding these guys for years. How are we going to explain that? We’ve got to have convictions.”) David Hicks was eventually charged on 2 February 2007, even though the details about how the commissions should be conducted weren’t published until late April. (Interview Amy Goodman and Col. Morris Davis 16 July 2008.)

Davis resigned from the Military Commission after prosecuting David Hicks, stating that “what’s taking place now, I would call neither military or justice.”

Howard assured us that the US had a long tradition of Military Commissions. He failed to mention that this particular Commission had been struck down by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Hamden v Rumsfeld in June 2006 so that what David Hicks was dealing with was a reinvented version, but as much a kangaroo court, to quote a senior British judge, as the previous edition.

More  airbrushing. And there’s more.

David Hicks’s guilty plea was an odd beast, an Alford Plea, something peculiar to US law. It is the plea of guilt you make when you don’t believe you are guilty but do believe the court is likely to find in favour of the prosecution. I may also add that David Hicks was never at any stage charged with or found guilty of terrorism. Some of the charges in Gitmo seem to have been invented specifically to justify the imprisonment of people there. Mr Howard passes over such technicalities.

Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, summed up his view of Guantanamo in an article published in November 2010.

…no intelligence of significance was gained from any of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay other than from the handful of undisputed ring leaders and their companions, clearly no more than a dozen or two of the detainees, and even their alleged contribution of hard, actionable intelligence is intensely disputed in the relevant communities such as intelligence and law enforcement. This is perhaps the most astounding truth of all, carefully masked by men such as Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney in their loud rhetoric–continuing even now in the case of Cheney–about future attacks thwarted, resurgent terrorists, the indisputable need for torture and harsh interrogation and for secret prisons and places such as GITMO.

Curiously, one item in Hicks’s book that even he had doubts about has just been shown to be exactly as Hicks tells it: the existence at Guantanamo of a “Camp NO”, so called because it didn’t officially exist. Murders took place there, according to Marine Sergeant Joe Hickman (Harpers: “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle.”)

Nearly 200 men remain imprisoned at Guantánamo. In June 2009, six months after Barack Obama took office, one of them, a thirty-one-year-old Yemeni named Muhammed Abdallah Salih, was found dead in his cell. The exact circumstances of his death, like those of the deaths of the three men from Alpha Block, remain uncertain.

Those charged with accounting for what happened—the prison command, the civilian and military investigative agencies, the Justice Department, and  ultimately the attorney general himself—all face a choice between the rule of law and the expedience of political silence. Thus far, their choice has been unanimous.

Not everyone who is involved in this matter views it from a political perspective, of course. General Al-Zahrani grieves for his son, but at the end of a lengthy interview he paused and his thoughts turned elsewhere. “The truth is what matters,” he said. “They practiced every form of torture on my son and on many others as well. What was the result? What facts did they find? They found nothing. They learned nothing. They accomplished nothing.”

I have been reading Guantanamo: My Journey very carefully for around four weeks. I have also done a lot of fact checking. I especially recommend the report on David Hicks’s trial by Lex Lasry QC, available on the Internet, which includes the texts of all the charges and the final plea bargain. Hicks had a choice: stay in Gitmo or sign the admissions and go home. What would you do after more than five years? And no, Mr Howard, he was not treated humanely, and no, the system was eminently unfair.

Former Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Danna Vale (Liberal, Hughes) got it right as far back as November 2005:

… The longer Hicks is in Guantanamo Bay, his imprisonment without trial will begin to creep like an incongruent shadow, jarring the Australian consciousness

Let’s get real. The case of David Hicks clearly fails the commonsense test. It fails the commonsense test not only in the educated minds of the legal profession, but in the gut feelings of ordinary Australians who believe in a fair go, and who believe that truth and justice and that old hand-me-down from the Magna Carta that says men are innocent until proven guilty, still deserve some currency in our world. Just like you, just like me, as an Australian, he is entitled to a fair trial without further delay. And, after four years in Guantanamo Bay, if the Americans cannot deliver this to David Hicks, in all fairness, we must ask that he be sent home.

In one of the more considered reviews of David Hicks Guantanamo: My Journey (William Heinemann 2010) Sally Neighbour claims that Hicks has airbrushed some parts of his story. At least she has read the book. I too find it difficult to believe he first heard of Al Qaeda after his capture, but endorse his recommendation of Jason Burke’s Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam as the best on the subject.

By contrast look at Miranda Devine’s recent review of Hicks’s book,  a sustained sledge against Dick Smith who assisted financially with David’s defence. Beyond that she descends into emotive claptrap or sheer ignorance, the latter being her inability to believe Hicks became a Muslim by looking up a mosque in the yellow pages and then meeting an imam. She doesn’t seem to have mastered Islam 101: one can become a Muslim simply by repeating “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet” to another Muslim. No course necessary. On this I absolutely believe Hicks, who, incidentally, no longer considers himself a Muslim.

One telling item for Hicks in the book is the famous picture of David with the rocket launcher. We all remember how this was used to demonise him and purported to show him in Afghanistan. It turns out to be cut from a photo taken in Albania of three friends playing around with empty weapons. Yes, he took part in the Kosovo war, but never saw action. Another photo shows him saluting the NATO flag, under which he was really serving then.

Guantanamo: My Journey is a book we need to read. I am glad it has been published. Like Sally Neighbour, there are some things I would like clarified, but I now believe it to be mostly truthful. Hicks was a bit of a fool, you know, even if a desire to aid oppressed people is quite commendable in itself. He was after all a 20-something at the time, and “under-researched” as he now says. He hasn’t killed anyone or engaged in any act of terrorism; everyone admits that.

One of the most valuable features of Guantanamo: My Journey is the extensive footnotes, a marvellously detailed documentation of the material in the book. I wish they had been set in their places at the bottoms of relevant pages rather than being gathered in the back. The book also desperately needs a thorough index.

David was pretty much a pawn. Heroes? Well, I’d nominate David’s father, and Major Michael Mori, his defending counsel, whose career after that suffered. (See The Marine Corps News 20 September 2010.)

PS: not in the article

David Hicks is accurate in his depiction of the Tablighi. I know this because I have taught one and did considerable research about Tablighi Jamaat at the time. With regard to Lashkar-I Taiba, Hicks may have polished the image somewhat, but it is fair to say that what he says about that organisation in the areas he found them may well have been true at that time and place. The organisation was not yet a listed terrorist organisation in Australia. Certainly David’s depiction of the Taliban is much less admiring in the book than it was in his letters home as seen in the documentary The President versus David Hicks. On the other hand Hicks’s explanation about his letters reflecting what he was seeing and reading at the time in the Pakistani press may well be true. It is also notable that Terry Hicks seems to take David’s rhetoric in those letters with something of a grain of salt. The book leaves no doubt about what David feels about the Taliban now. His account of the training he received in Afghanistan and Pakistan may be true but I do have some doubts about this.

Miranda Devine’s characterisation of David’s account of Guantanamo as “whingeing” is quite outrageous. Says more about her than it does about him.

My spellings reflect usage in The Oxford Dictionary of Islam.

Blogging the 2010s — 88 — September 2014

My 15th September as a blogger, and my fourth in Wollongong!

Terror down under – and the Sichuan lunch

Yesterday I posted on Facebook:

Wonderful lunch (Sichuan food) at Steelers with Chris T and friends from Iran, Bangladesh and Cambodia (in part). How Australia REALLY is, should be, and will be if we are wise enough to resist the tides of panic and xenophobia…

4

Good food

uow180011

Smart company: the two on the left were at our table

We did eschew pork…

In conversation last Wednesday’s episode of SBS’s excellent Living with the Enemy came up:

immigration-episode-3_living-with-the-enemy

When Abraham arrived in Australia he knew two words in English, ‘yes’ and ‘no’, and he consistently confused the two of them.  He is now the Slam Poet Champion of Victoria and recently came third in the national titles.  He is also about to have his second book published and perform at the Glastonbury festival.  However, he still can’t get a job, is subjected to daily racism and won’t travel on the train after dark.

Nick is the founder of a fledgling political party who says allowing Africans like Abraham into Australia is asking for trouble.  He believes they can’t assimilate, are a welfare drain on the economy and have nothing to contribute to a society built on Anglo-Celtic foundations. This is one of the most explosive and moving episodes in the series.

Well, it sure was. Sad too, because you couldn’t really hate either of them and they ALMOST reached some empathy/understanding at one point – but it failed. Ironic that Nick turned out not to be Anglo-Celtic himself, but of Russian descent – but that’s Australia for you.

We did get to meet Nick’s guru, someone who was born in Canada, educated at Harvard, had a professorship at Macquarie University, and had his fifteen minutes of fame about ten years back. No, his name isn’t Tom Buchanan, though it could be. You know The Great Gatsby, of course, and Tom’s rant:

Civilization’s going to pieces. I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things… The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be–will be utterly submerged… It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.

Yeah, well…

The abolition of the White Australia policy has had similar consequences. Australians have been stripped of the ethnic monopoly over their antipodean homeland that the federation of the colonies in 1901 was designed to secure. The resultant damage to their genetic interests can also be understood as an attack on the foundation of their constitutional freedom. The word “freedom” is derived from an Indo-European root meaning “dear” or “beloved.” In its primordial sense, then, freedom is the right to belong to a community of dearly beloved people, the family being the first and most important model for every such form of association. (Significantly, slaves were denied the right to marry or to raise a family within the walls of their own household.) Every ethny is an extended family with a genetic interest in its own survival and enhanced vitality. Just as parents have a duty to care for their children, it might be said that every free person has a moral obligation to defend his own ethny.

Unfortunately, over the past half-century, governments throughout the Anglosphere have encouraged us to ignore the genetic interests of our ethnic kin through systematic campaigns of indoctrination and legal coercion….

That’s Professor Boofhead in full flight in a piece entitled Monarchs and Miracles: Australia’s Need for a Patriot King. I think you get the picture.

Next week’s episode of  Living with the Enemy looks most topical.

Almost half the Muslims in Australia live in south-western Sydney. The majority in just five suburbs centred around Bankstown.  Ben was born and bred in Bankstown, he’s seen his world change as Arab Muslims have stamped their identity on his home suburb, and he doesn’t like what he sees.

Ahmed and Lydia are a devout Muslim couple living in western Sydney. Ahmed is from Egypt, Lydia is a convert who grew up in a country pub. Lydia converted in the wake of the September 11 attacks after enrolling in a course on Islam to better understand the religion and the motivation for the terror attacks. She wanted to find out why they had happened, and what motivated the hijackers. Instead of discovering a religion of hate and war, she says, she discovered a religion of peace and justice.

Ben believes there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim.  Can Lydia and Ahmed convince him otherwise?

A must see, I’d say.

Finally:

September 19, 2014: Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek join TODAY to discuss Australia’s largest ever terrorism raids yesterday when 15 people were detained by counter terrorism police.

9NEWS

The Federal Government and Opposition have seen eye to eye after Australia’s largest ever terrorism raids, agreeing it is a time to be “determined not frightened”.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek appeared on TODAY after anti-terrorism police foiled an ISIL plot to allegedly abduct and behead members of the public.

“We’ve got to make it very, very clear that we are not going to be intimidated by terrorists,” Mr Turnbull said.

Ms Plibersek said it’s important we remember extremists are in the minority.

“This group of people yesterday are nut-jobs for sure, but are a very small section of the community,” she said.

Mr Turnbull agreed, saying “we must recognise that the vast bulk of the Muslims in Australia are good, patriotic Australians”.

“We have to get our arms around them because they are our best allies in the fight against extremism,” Mr Turnbull said…

And stop reading or even looking at the Daily Telegraph!

Brother

I posted on Facebook yesterday:

I spoke to my brother in Burnie Hospital this afternoon. He is feeling better and is positive, but there is no hiding from the fact this is very grave. We share seven decades. I assured him I would be thinking of him every minute and I am.

His daughter, who lives in The Shire, had told me of Ian’s condition yesterday morning. Ian is eight years older than I. He lives in Devonport, Tasmania.

bro

Ian in Surry Hills, April 2010

Thirty years on: my coming out, among other things

Actually I don’t have an exact date for my coming out, a torturous process that in fact took decades and cost me dearly psychologically and in other ways. But when around 1985 I actually ventured, having been out for less than a year, into a gay venue – the Britannia Hotel, then Beau’s, in Chippendale – this is one of the young men I met. With him I attended my first Mardi Gras Parade. For a while we saw a lot of one another.

Screenshot - 4_09_2014 , 8_07_59 AM

That is from a (linked to image) posting on YouTube which appeared in the Lost Gay Sydney Facebook Page. It is 1984 on a TV current affairs show which seems to have considerably more gravitas than the genre later developed. The people interviewed are very articulate. The occasion? Commemorated in NSW Hansard in March 2014 thus:

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE [7.19 p.m.]: On Saturday night I was proud to march in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras with over 100 Labor members and supporters to commemorate 30 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in New South Wales. I want to thank the hardworking Rainbow Labor Team, without whom there would have been no float. Thirty years ago this year, Labor Premier Neville Wran introduced the Crimes (Amendment) Bill 1984 as a private member’s bill, removing the criminalisation of homosexual activity from New South Wales law. Premier Wran’s bill was subject to a conscience vote for Labor members of Parliament and was passed with the support of a majority of Labor members and a number of Liberal members of the New South Wales Parliament. This was a monumental law reform from which so many other reforms have been made possible in the last 30 years. The significance of this reform cannot be overstated especially at a time where we are seeing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] people in Nigeria, Russia, Uganda, and closer to home, in the Pacific, becoming criminalised simply because of who they love. Premier Wran’s bill drew strong opposition at the time, with a conservative member stating:

    • What a pathetic and smutty epitaph this bill will be to a failing Premier.

Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile spoke of his concern that decriminalisation could mean that:

    • Those potential homosexuals, the confused teenagers or young people in our society, will assume that as this bill is passed by our Parliament it is lawful, normal and acceptable to engage in acts of sodomy in New South Wales.

But as the Australian newspaper wrote at the time:

    • Mr Wran took the bill into the House after virtually browbeating his troops into accepting that homosexual law reform was needed in New South Wales if the State was to be able to claim the title of most progressive in the country.

I pay tribute to Neville Wran for his courage as leader to bring this bill to the Parliament. I pay tribute to former Labor members such as George Petersen, Frank Walker and Jack Ferguson who had to fight within Labor and the Parliament to see this reform made a reality, yet were unsuccessful the first time. But I especially pay tribute to the gay and lesbian community members who showed true courage by campaigning against the criminalisation of homosexuality—at great risk and great threat to themselves and those they loved. Since the establishment of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution—better known as CAMP in 1970—gay men, lesbians and transgender activists had raised the profile of the issues faced by gay men and lesbians. In 1978 these same people, joined by many others, marched in what was a visibly gay rights protest to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York. This protest saw the birth of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. People like me as individuals, and indeed all of the LGBTI community organisations who followed, owe these elders a great debt. During the debate in 1984 Premier Wran said:

    • I feel that New South Wales and the New South Wales Parliament will be completely out of touch with current community standards if some substantial reform of the law is not achieved. This approach seems to me to involve not only a recognition of the reality of contemporary social circumstances, but the implication of such important concepts as the freedom of choice, and the rights of the individual and freedom from discrimination.

I often wish we had more debates that put these freedoms at the centre of our laws…

Fred Nile has not evolved at all since then…

I recall exactly where I was when that hit the news in 1984: Boyce Street, Glebe. And I recall who I was with, but there is another anniversary this month, this time 25 years – more on the day. See my post In 1983 I learned more than I knew I was learning….

Last night I forewent the delightful ABC political satire Utopia in order to watch SBS Living With the Enemy.

timthumb

The first episode in a series of documentaries, Living With the Enemy, produced by Shine and SBS, will focus on a gay couple that spends ten days living with a conservative Anglican minister who opposes gay marriage.

Gregory and Michael are gay activists and atheists and David is a father of three and an Anglican minister.

The film documents what happens when they become immersed in each other’s lives. The couple go to live in the minister’s world for five days then they swap and go to stay in the gay couple’s home.

“Living with the Enemy confronts major issues by bringing together a provocative clash of beliefs, ideologies and personalities that will have audiences shouting at the television”, Tony Iffland, SBS Director of Television, said. – Cec Busby, GNN/SX

Interesting that gay marriage was not the major topic among gay people thirty years ago, but in recent years it really has become a living area of change where we lag behind New Zealand, among other places. On that and other related matters see posts on this blogon my previous blog, and on the one before that!

I have to say that David on last night’s show – respectable reality TV – was not a total idiot like this guy. He was warm and loving, could listen, and modified his attitudes if not his beliefs – those fairly typical of evangelical Sydney Anglicans. The perils of proof texting became apparent when he cited Leviticus 20: 13.

If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Stoning such people to death was quite OK back whenever this was written, probably not by Moses but several centuries later. That text and similar ones are explored in The Bible and Homosexuality.

Most Christians do not apply commands in Leviticus to their lives. They believe these laws are not binding on Christians. They do not believe they are under obligation to perform ritual hand washing, to refrain from eating pork or to abstain from sex during a woman’s period.

Christian churches do not make much of an attempt to apply the commands in Leviticus to corporate life. The requirements in Leviticus was that no priest serve the Lord, unless he was physically perfect. That is no longer the case. Pastors and priests are not required to marry virgins, as commanded in Leviticus 21:13. Churches do not check potential pastors for blemishes, eye defects, physical disabilities and inspect a potential pastor’s testicles to ensure they are perfect before the pastor is hired (requirement in Leviticus 21:16 to 21). For Christians who feel Calvary wipes away the need to keep the laws in Leviticus, enforcing Levitical laws on homosexuals is grossly inconsistent theology. Those Christians who wish to enforce the laws of Leviticus upon gay people need to admit their theology is very inconsistent and is potentially flawed.

One question that comes to mind regarding Leviticus relates to the word abomination. Leviticus 11:7 talks about pork as being unclean meat. Most Christians do not take the numerous texts in Leviticus seriously where the word abomination is used. Leviticus 11:10 is one of a passages where unclean food is called an abmomination. Christians generally do not consider eating pork an abomination, but Leviticus (11:11) considers even the carcases of unclean animals to be an abomination. Clean and unclean meat laws are not something most Christians feel any obligation to keep, yet many Christians insist that being gay is an abomination, when eating they feel eating pork is not an abomination.

Leviticus 18:21 -22 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through [the fire] to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I [am] the LORD. Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination.

According to the respected Keil and Delitzsch Biblical commentary, Moloch was a Canaanite idol. These commentators believe going through the fire was a ceremony in which children were dedicated to the god Moloch. Immediately after a prohibition has been given to worshipping a pagan idol, by dedicating children to a pagan god, we see the what appears to be a prohibition of men having sexual intercourse with other men. The immediate context of this verse is worshipping other gods. Because the immediate context is worshipping pagan gods, one cannot be sure if this is a prohibition against gay relationships. This could be a prohibition against having sex with a man as a form of worshipping another god…

OK, some fair points and others that I find rather less persuasive, when the real point, I now believe, is that God has not written or caused to be written ANY books – Bible or Koran – that are in any way infallible, inerrant, and binding in all times and places. That is right: NONE. Though when considered as aspirations to be read respectfully, tentatively, and with scrupulous scholarship about origins and context, these products of earlier civilisations still have much to tell us.

Jesus himself said ZERO about homosexuality. Mind you he didn’t say much about computers, radios or ballpoint pens either.