There are none so zealous as the newly converted,
and the Howard Government seems intent on showing it is more neoconservative
than the neocons.

First there was Alexander Downer’s reaffirmation
of neocon foreign policy
on Tuesday, despite its
abandonment elsewhere. The latest sign of that is this Foreign
article declaring “The End of the Bush
Revolution”; and on Monday, the American Enterprise Institute was complaining
about a
‘Clintonian turn’
in US foreign policy.

Australia looks like being the last of the hard-liners on Guantanamo Bay, with
its uncompromising stance on home-grown Taliban fighter, David Hicks.

The Howard Government has been unwavering in its support for allowing US
military commissions to try Hicks, and in arguing that Hicks should stay where
he is, even though British and French prisoners were released long ago, and the
whole Gitmo process has been condemned by UK jurists, Lord Steyn and Lord

But in recent days, the tide has moved even more quickly out
from under the feet of the locals. On Wednesday, George Bush said Guantanamo Bay
had damaged the U.S. image abroad and should
be shut down
. The day before, an Afghan government
delegation to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, said about half of the 94 Afghans being held
there were not guilty of serious crimes and should be

Today Richard
devotes his column to looking at the
situation, and wonders if Bush has been given a warning that the military
commissions are unlikely to survive a Supreme Court challenge.

goes on to argue that the Bush Administration seems to have itself in something
of a muddle by waging a “war on terror” that elevates terrorists to warrior
status while seeking to deny detainees prisoner of war rights. And, he reckons
that the charges against Hicks will not amount to much:

“Hicks is called
a terrorist, yet he is charged as though he was a prisoner of war, although he
is not afforded any of the rights of a POW.

At the same time the charges
against him are largely fictions, unknown to the law of war, despite the fact
that Downer and Ruddock keep gravely intoning that they are “very serious

Just look at them. There’s a charge of “conspiracy” to attack
civilians, civilian objects, engage in terrorism, etc. Yet Bush only set the
commissions up to investigate and prosecute violations of the law of war, and
conspiracy is unknown to the law of war.”

Peter Fray

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