• … Mr Howard had made it clear to the Bush administration, including in direct talks with Mr Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, how important he felt it was for Mr Hicks to be returned home. — The New York Times
  • So Cheney goes to Australia and meets with John Howard who tells him that the Hicks case is killing him in Australia, and he may lose the next election because of it. Hicks’ case is then railroaded to the front of the Gitmo kangaroo court line, and put through a “legal” process almost ludicrously inept, with two of Hicks’ three lawyers thrown out on one day, then an abrupt plea-bargain, with a transparently insincere confession. Hicks is then given a mere nine months in jail in Australia, before being set free. Who negotiated the plea-bargain? Hicks’ lawyer. Who did he negotiate with? Not the prosecutors, as would be normal, but Susan J. Crawford, the top military commission official. Who is Susan J. Crawford? She served as Dick Cheney’s Inspector General while he was Defence Secretary… If you think this was in any way a legitimate court process, you’re smoking something even George Michael would pay a lot of money for. — Andrew Sullivan, Daily Dish  
  • The [plea] deal shows that the politically appointed authority has the power to personally decide the fate of America’s most notorious terrorism suspects. — Josh White, Washington Post
  • Last year, American justice gave us the farcical Saddam trial. Last week, we were treated to another burlesque performance: the trial of David Hicks. After spending five years in illegal and debilitating detention, the young Australian was offered a deal — a plea bargain — to get him off the hook and out of Guantanamo. In return for his “confession”, he was sentenced not to twenty years, as originally suggested, but a mere nine months. Probably what he would have gotten had he been caught shoplifting at Wal-Mart … This is not a miscarriage of justice: “justice” here is a total misnomer. It is akin to the malady that infuses our judicial system, so that if we can’t convict a gangster for his crimes, we get him on tax evasion. If we can’t prove conclusive guilt, we get a plea-bargain. — Joan Shore, Huffington Post

  • Australian Prime Minister John Howard is one of Washington’s closest allies in the war on terrorism, and his Liberal Party’s fortunes in this election year had been flagging because of public resentment of Hicks being held without charges at Guantanamo for more than five years. Bringing the Hicks case to the war-crimes tribunal first, and before all the procedural guidance was ready, left the impression with many legal analysts that [Defence Department lawyer Susan J] Crawford stepped in to do Howard a favor — at the expense of the tribunals’ credibility. — Carol J Williams, Los Angeles Times

  • To say that it stinks is to do a disservice to rotten garbage. Apropos of nothing in particular, this case is a good demonstration of what the Bush administration has cost us. The fact is that the whole issue of enemy combatants in an age of transnational terrorism is a really difficult one. This isn’t a conventional war where we can just release prisoners after it’s over, nor is it like domestic crime, where the state has the power to coercively collect evidence and demand testimony. It’s a helluva hard problem, and under normal circumstances we’d all be well advised to cut the administration some slack as they try to figure out how to deal with it. And we might, if it weren’t for what this administration has done. — Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly

  • The military commissions being convened [in Guantanamo Bay] are special war crimes tribunals to try terrorists that do not offer the legal protections of civilian courts. One justification for the looser rules is that they will deal with the worst of the worst. But the first man through the double doors of the heavily secured courtroom here was no Osama bin Laden … From the start, Guantanamo, its detainees and the legal proceedings here have provided enough grist to support the competing views of the detention centre: a necessary mechanism for dealing with a new kind of enemy, or the embodiment of the war on terror gone awry. Mr Hicks’ conviction with a guilty plea provides something for each side. — William Glaberson, The New York Times

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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