Friday, June 30, 2006

Court Declares David Hicks' Military Trial Would Be Illegal

Prime Minister Howard Blames "Bad Advice"...Yet Again

Prime Minister John Howard likes to boast, in private, that he can get Australian terror suspect David Hicks freed from Guantanamo Bay any time he likes just by calling his good mates George & Dick.

But how quickly Howard changes his tune when he realises how big an election issue the David Hicks saga may become.

From :
Prime Minister John Howard has urged the US to find a quick alternative for dealing with terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay after the inmates won a major court victory. In a blow to US President George W Bush and the US military, America's Supreme Court has ruled the controversial military commissions set up to prosecute Australian David Hicks and other Guantanamo prisoners were illegal.

Mr Howard said he was not embarrassed by the ruling but admitted his government, and the US administration, were incorrectly advised that the military commission process was lawful.

He said the US government had to move fast to find another process to try Hicks and the other detainees at the US naval base in Cuba.

"What now has to happen is that, quite quickly in my view, the administration has to decide how it will deal with the trial of the people who are being held," he told Southern Cross broadcasting.

"Our view in relation to Mr Hicks is that he should be brought to trial.

"As the military commission trial is regarded by the court as unconstitutional, there clearly has to be another method of trial – a court martial or a civilian trial – which conforms with the supreme court decision."

From the Sydney Morning Herald :
Australian terror detainee David Hicks's military lawyer said he was not surprised by Thursday's US Supreme Court ruling upholding a challenge against military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay inmates.

The decision will have major implications for Hicks, who has faced a military commission, but is yet to face trial.

Marine Major Michael Mori, the US military lawyer appointed to defend Hicks, said the ruling did not surprise him.

"The military lawyers who have been defending the defendants at Guantanamo have been saying this all along," Major Mori said.

"Any real lawyer who isn't part of the administration knows this violates the Geneva Conventions."

From :
Mr Howard said he was not embarrassed by the ruling but admitted his government, and the US administration, were incorrectly advised that the military commission process was lawful.

He said the US Government had to move fast to find another process to try Hicks and the other detainees at the US naval base in Cuba.

"What now has to happen is that, quite quickly in my view, the administration has to decide how it will deal with the trial of the people who are being held," he told Southern Cross broadcasting.

"Our view in relation to Mr Hicks is that he should be brought to trial.

"As the military commission trial is regarded by the court as unconstitutional, there clearly has to be another method of trial - a court martial or a civilian trial - which conforms with the supreme court decision."

Federal Human Services Minister Joe Hockey said it was up to Mr Bush to decide what to do with Hicks.

"We have been pushing and pushing the US Government to put him to trial - to try him and have him convicted," he said.

"There has been a lot of legal argy bargy.

"Now the US Supreme Court, the highest court in the US, has said that they believe the Guantanamo Bay process is wrong ... and the ball is now back in President Bush's court.

"Obviously, we will be waiting for the US Government to find out what they will do now with Hicks."

Quotes From Key Players In The Gitmo Fiasco :

"As I understand it - now, please don't hold me to this - ... there is a way forward with military tribunals in working with the United States Congress. As I understand, certain senators have already been out expressing their desire to address what the Supreme Court found. And we will work with the Congress.

"And one thing I'm not going to do, though, is I'm not going to jeopardise the safety of the American people. People got to understand that. I understand we're in a war on terror, that these people were picked up off of a battlefield, and I will protect the people and at the same time conform with the findings of the Supreme Court.

LT. CMDR. CHARLES SWIFT, a lawyer for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, defendant in the case before the US Supreme Court:

"All we wanted was a fair trial and we thank the Supreme Court. Yes it is a rebuke for the process. ... It means we can't be scared out of who we are."


"Today's Supreme Court ruling blocking the military commissions set up by President George W. Bush is a victory for the rule of law and human rights. The US administration should ensure that those held in Guantanamo should be either released or brought before civilian courts on the US mainland."

ZACHARY KATZNELSON, lawyer for 36 Guantanamo inmates including Ethiopian Binyam Muhammad, one of 10 who faced charges before the military commission:

"I think its a fantastic victory for us. It's a strong rebuke from the Supreme Court to President Bush. They clearly have said he is not above the law and that the men at Guantanamo absolutely have rights, and the military commissions are just blatantly illegal."

US SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY, Vermont Democrat on Judiciary Committee:

"For five years, the Bush-Cheney administration has violated fundamental American values, tarnished our standing in the world and hindered the partnerships we need with our allies. This arrogance and incompetence have delayed and weakened the handling of the war on terror, not because of any coherent strategic view it had, but because of its stubborn unilateralism and dangerous theory of unfettered power.

SENATORS LINDSEY GRAHAM AND JON KYL, Republicans of South Carolina and Arizona:

"We are disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision. ... It is inappropriate to try terrorists in civilian courts. ... We intend to pursue legislation in the Senate granting the Executive Branch the authority to ensure that terrorists can be tried by competent military commissions.

SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY, Massachusetts Democrat:

"This decision is a stunning repudiation of the Bush administration's lawless behaviour at Guantanamo. As we approach the Fourth of July, it is entirely appropriate that the Supreme Court has reminded the president and Secretary Rumsfeld that there is no excuse for ignoring the rule of law, even when our country is at war."

MICHAEL MORI, a military lawyer appointed to defend Australian prisoner David Hicks before the tribunals:

"It doesn't come as a shock to me. The military lawyers who have been defending the defendants at Guantanamo have been saying this all along. Any real lawyer who isn't part of the administration knows this violates the Geneva Conventions."

FARHAT PARACHA, whose husband was sent to Guantanamo in 2004 after 15 months at a detention centre in Afghanistan:

"There is no justice. They have no rights, even don't have status of prisoners of war. It reminds me of the medieval era. ... Really, it is not serving any purpose but triggering more and more hatred."

Supreme Court Completely Rejects Gitmo War Crimes Trials

Supreme Cout Decision Is "A Nail In The Coffin For The Idea That The President Can Set Up These Trials"

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Alexander Downer Lobbied Washington, Baghdad In 2003 On Behalf Of BHP

Excerpts from this Sydney Morning Herald article :
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, warned BHP Billiton that pushing for control of an Iraqi oilfield straight after invasion would be "very sensitive" because the US-led coalition had made it clear "there would not be blood for oil".

Despite this Mr Downer agreed he would raise the company's claim over the huge Halfayah oilfield with Washington and the head of the post-war occupation government in Iraq, Paul Bremer, according to documents released yesterday by the Cole inquiry into the Oil for Food scandal.

A highly confidential record of the meeting between Mr Downer and BHP Billiton executives written by the Department of Foreign Affairs details their discussion of the project in London in May 2003, only weeks after the Saddam Hussein government fell.

The document reveals an extraordinary effort by BHP Billiton to get its share of the Halfayah oilfield, one of the richest in the country, by lobbying the key players in postwar Iraq.

The executives told Mr Downer the company had already lobbied Arthur Sinodinos, the chief adviser to the Prime Minister, John Howard, and were about to approach Downing Street and the US Vice-President Dick Cheney.

In a frank assessment of the power structure under the occupation government in Baghdad, the executives told Mr Downer they had a key contact there, the former boss of Shell Oil in America, Philip Carroll, who had been hand-picked by the White House to advise the new Iraqi oil minister. Mr Carroll also had a number of Iraqi exiles with him who had worked for the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

"The Australian Government had said sincerely that it had not joined coalition forces on the basis of oil," Mr Downer is recorded saying. "Wise judgement suggested it was the Iraqis themselves who needed to be awarding the oil contracts.

"That said, Mr Downer agreed he would raise the matter both in Washington and in Baghdad with Paul Bremer. He would also have it raised with the Oil Ministry in Baghdad."

The document also clearly sets out of the first time that real relationship between BHP Billiton and the controversial company Tigris, its joint venture partner in Iraq.

Tigris has been accused in evidence to the Cole inquiry of being involved in a major fraud in the UN's Oil For Food program to assist Australia's wheat trader, AWB.

According to the document, Mr Harley told Mr Downer: "Tigris was responsible for maintaining relationships with [Saddam Hussein's] Iraq by working Oil for Food projects until a normal political situation could be established in Iraq.

"This arrangement was judged by all parties to give Australia the maximum chance of securing the Halfayah field investment."

The Cole inquiry also released a bundle of new documents from AWB and the UN supporting evidence to the Cole inquiry that AWB knowingly paid hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime to maintain its wheat contracts in Iraq.

Several Iraqi documents written by Saddam Hussein's officials between August and December 2000 detail orders to Iraqi ministers to collect kickbacks and fees on humanitarian shipments to Iraq under the UN Oil for Food program and transfer the money back into government coffers.

Howard Government Denies Conspiracy to Overthrow Government Of East Timor

World Bank Now "Stands Ready To Assist" East Time After PM Kept Them Out For Years

By Darryl Mason

This remarkable image by Glenn Campbell appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The rumours and whispers have grown so strong, so convincing, that now even the Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello, has been forced to publicly state Australia did not play a r0le in overthrowing the government of East Timor.

"It's absolutely false that Australia has intervened in any way in the political line-up in East Timor," he said on Channel 9.

"Australia, by the way, has troops that are serving, in difficult conditions, the East Timorese people, keeping law and order on the streets.

"Those troops are there at the invitation of the president and the then prime minister Mr Alkatiri. So they were asked to be there."
Well, that's not quite true now is it Mr Treasurer?

Australian ships and helicopters and ground vehicles and troops were sent to East Timor with the expectation that the Prime Minister Alkatiri would ask for Australian troops to come in and help out, at the height of the rioting, the burning and the killings last month. But he refused to commit for days, unsure of what the role of foreign peacekeepers should be in East Timor.

Alkatiri feared a coup back then, and warned his supporters that this might happen. Now he has been forced to quit, his supporters believe his prediction has come true.

When Australian troops entered East Timor there was still a bit of paperwork left to be signed, and the East Timorese Prime Minister Alkatiri was extremely reluctant to allow foreign troops into the country, no doubt forseeing his disposal.

Australian troops were allowed into East Timor mostly due to President Gusmao, who engaged in "shouting matches" with the Prime Minister in the days leading up to Australia's intervention.

The Australian Treasurer plays dumb when it comes to discussion of just how influence 1300 Australian troops, with gunned up trucks and Blackhawk helicopters, can have on local happenings in East Timor.

"To claim that they've engaged in domestic politics is absolutely false and I can say that for a fact."

This is a ridiculous thing to say and Costello knows it.

Any time foreign troops enter a sovereign country, and are seen to be protecting, or keeping watch over anti-government forces, as Australians did, then they are becoming involved in domestic politics.

It's not getting any better in East Timor. The government is in chaos after Alkatiri quit. and he is now being accused of arming kill squads to take out his political enemies in the early days of the current conflict.

Homes are being burned, Australian troops are having big time trouble keeping rival gangs from beating and stabbing ten kinds of hell out of each other, and even the displaced persons camps are being attacked and harassed.

Their bodies trembled with fear. They sobbed. They stared wide-eyed, heads bowed. They were mostly women and children, huddled at the gate of Dili's main wharf yesterday.

They had been chased there by anti-Alkatiri rioters who then stood on the road 20 metres away, screaming threats. "We're going to kill you all," a mob leader yelled. "You are all dead."

All that mattered to the rioters, who were frothing at the mouth and screaming incoherently, was that they believed the petrified women and children they had bailed up were from East Timor's east.

That's how far East Timor's conflict has gone: Timorese attacking strangers because of where they were born.

Australian troops are heavily restricted by their rules of engagement in East Timor. They can't open fire unless they feel their lives are directly threatened, but the rioters aren't targeting the troops. They go after women and children and the houses and businesses of those they view as their enemies.

...the soldiers must remain "neutral". Major James Baker, the spokesman for Australia's peacekeeping force in Dili, said: "Our soldiers are taught to have a measured response to defuse any situation which might arise. Our job is to make sure the feuding parties are separated."

The soldiers separate them, but then the rioters run around the block and attack each other, or innocent passers-by, all over again.

The soldiers jumped out and chased the culprits, one of them screaming "Come here, you little f---ers." The soldier ran down and grabbed the slowest by the neck before bundling him into one of the vehicles. The rest of the rioters escaped, free to terrorise elsewhere.

Australian journalist John Pilger has covered events in East Timor from the early 1970s, when Australia first refused to interfere with the ongoing Indonesian genocide that wiped out 1/3 of the entire population over the next two decades. Here's an excerpt of his take on what's happening in East Timor today :
These days Australia likes to present itself as a helpful, generous neighbor of East Timor, after public opinion forced the government of John Howard to lead a UN peacekeeping force six years ago.

East Timor is now an independent state, thanks to the courage of its people and a tenacious resistance led by the liberation movement Fretilin, which in 2001 swept to political power in the first democratic elections. In regional elections last year, 80 percent of votes went to Fretilin, led by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, a convinced "economic nationalist," who opposes privatization and interference by the World Bank.
Barely three days after Prime Minister Alkatiri stepped down, the World Bank has made it known that it "stands ready to assist in any way we can."

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz was one of the most insidious of all the NeoCons who lied their country into the brutal 'War On Iraq', later admitting that the story of Saddam's WMDs was just a cover story to help sell the war.

Wolfowitz has now got his World Bank sights well and truly set on East Timor, after being denied extensive exploitation rights by Alkatiri for the past six years. Not anymore. Says Wolfowitz :
"This chance for a united approach to peace and recovery may not come again."
That almost sounds like a threat.

Go Here For Extensive Coverage From May 28, When Australian Troops Had Just Entered East Timor

Go To 'Your New Reality' Blog For Coverage On How The Current Troubles In East Timor Began And Quickly Spiralled Out Of Control.

Another Slab of Coverage Here

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Most Influential Australian Of All Time Is....An American

By Darryl Mason

It just makes your heart swell with Australian pride to discover that 'The Most Influential Australian Of All Time' actually turns out to be an American.

The Bulletin Magazine has oh-so-pomously decided that some ex-Australian media mogul named Rupert Murdoch deserves to be called 'The Most Influential Australian', despite the fact that he didn't think being an Australian citizen was worth as much as owning a few American television stations.

That Murdoch is ranked above deeply patriotic, committed, passionate Australians like Fred Hollows, Manning Clark, Jack Lang, Henry Lawson, Damien Parar and Banjo Patterson makes this Australian icon branding of Murdoch all the more absurd.

Murdoch gave up his Australian citizenship for the benefit of no-one but himself. It wasn't an act of charity or generosity, and he didn't do it for love. He did it for money and power and his own prestige.

He was told he couldn't own TV stations in the US unless he became an American citizen, and so he very quickly dumped his right to be called an Australian like it was a smelly old coat he could now afford to replace.

People risk their lives to try and get to this country to become Australian citizens, and often have to spend a few years in a detention centre before they are extended this honour. They swear allegiance to Australia and expect nothing but the right to call themselves Australian in return.

But Rupert Murdoch thought his Australian citizenship was worth LESS than....Fox News.

"I think that we're on the cusp of a better world," Murdoch said during a speech in Sydney yesterday. "A world of certainly very fast change, change which we can't all foresee except we know it's going to be tremendous."

The Murdoch News media empire were the chief cheerleaders of the War On Iraq, and his television network, newspapers, book publishers and radio shows were the loudest promoters of the 'Saddam's Got Nukes' myth.

His media empire has profited to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars from the 'War On Iraq' and are now whipping up further distrust and hatred of Muslims in anticipation of more big dollars coming from a War On Iran. It should come as no suprise that Murdoch's media attack dogs are now claiming 'Iran's Got/Wants Nukes'.

According to the Australian Prime Minister and the Australian Treasurer, Rupert Murdoch is also "a great Australian', a claim they've both made numerous times, knowing full well that Murdoch sold out his nationality simply to make more money.

Murdoch is neither "A Great Australian" or 'The Most Influential Australian Of All Time'.

He is an ex-Australian, by choice, and there's nothing more insidiously un-Australian than that.

The Full List Of The 100 Most Influential Australians

The Sydney Morning Herald decided to run the list, as it should have been run in The Bulletin - in alphabetical order.

We'll come back to discuss some of the people on this list later. Rupert Murdoch is certainly not the most controversial choice on the list, particularly when it includes an Australian serial killer and a colonial-era armed robber and cop slayer.

Dennis Altman sexual theorist

John Anderson philosopher

Eric Ansell rubber manufacturer

J.F. Archibald journalist and editor

Faith Bandler political activist

Lewis Bandt ute designer

Geoffrey Bardon art teacher

C.E.W. Bean journalist and war historian

Geoffrey Blainey historian

Thomas Blamey military commander

J.J.C. Bradfield civil engineer

Donald Bradman cricketer

Martin Bryant mass murderer

Arthur Calwell federal politician

Manning Clark historian

H.C. "Nugget" Coombs public servant

Alfred Deakin prime minister

Owen Dixon High Court judge

Peter Dombrovskis wilderness photographer

Don Dunstan state premier

Michael Durack cattle pioneer

Sydney Einfeld advocate

Elizabeth Evatt jurist

William Farrer wheat breeder

Howard Florey pathologist

John Flynn missionary

Margaret Fulton cookery writer

Eugene Goossens conductor

Al Grassby federal politician

Germaine Greer feminist

Reg Grundy television producer

Michael Gudinski music entrepreneur

Pauline Hanson federal politician

Henry Higgins industrial relations judge

Fred Hollows eye surgeon

Donald Horne journalist and academic

John Howard prime minister

William Hudson dam builder

Robert Hughes art critic

A.V. Jennings home builder

Peter Jensen Anglican archbishop

Fletcher Jones clothing manufacturer

Susannah Kable First Fleet convict

Paul Keating prime minister

Ned Kelly bushranger

Allan Kendall children's TV producer

Graham Kennedy television personality

Michael Kirby High Court judge

Jack Lang state premier

Henry Lawson poet and writer

Essington Lewis industrialist

Ben Lexcen yacht designer

Norman Lindsay artist and writer

Frank Lowy business leader

John Macarthur wool pioneer

Jean MacNamara health campaigner

Daniel Mannix Catholic archbishop

William McBride medical researcher

Robert Menzies prime minister

Kylie Minogue entertainer

John Monash general

Allan Moss banker

Jack Mundey environmentalist and unionist

Glenn Murcutt architect

Rupert Murdoch business leader

Sidney Myer retailer and philanthropist

Albert Namatjira painter

Garth Nettheim legal theorist

Sidney Nolan painter

Gustav Nossal medical institute director

Kerry Packer business leader

Damien Parer war photographer

Ruth Park writer

Henry Parkes politician

Banjo Paterson poet

Noel Pearson Aboriginal activist and lawyer

Charles Perkins Aboriginal activist

George Robertson bookseller and publisher

W.S. Robinson industrialist and mining financier

Eric Rudd oil explorer

B.A. Santamaria Catholic activist

James Scullin prime minister

Peter Sculthorpe composer

Peter Singer philosopher

John Singleton advertising guru

Dick Smith businessman and adventurer

W.E.H. Stanner anthropologist

Jessie Street suffragette

Charles Todd meteorologist and electrical engineer

Bertram Wainer abortion campaigner

Edna Walling garden designer

Shane Warne cricketer

Peter Weir filmmaker

WIlliam Wentworth explorer and politician

Patrick White writer

Gough Whitlam prime minister

Alec Wickham swimmer

David Williamson playwright

Tom Wills football code creator

Tim Winton writer