[Souce: sbs.au.com]

Aussies have shown a double standard: they jumped to the defense of David Hicks, who was unjustly imprisoned and tortured at Guantanamo Bay but have only recently began tepidly standing up for Julian Assange years into his unjust incarceration for publishing documents that exposed U.S. war crimes

When I was at the CIA, I was taught that David Hicks was a very bad man. As a teenager in Australia, I was told, his school principal once called him “one of the most troublesome kids.” He was expelled from school at the age of 14 and began using alcohol, and drugs. He was particularly fond of stealing cars, according to a former partner. He was later accused of beating his girlfriend, although no charges were ever filed.

In 1999, Hicks converted to Islam and began studying the faith’s fundamentalist Wahhabi strain at a Saudi-funded mosque in Adelaide, Australia. He later told a reporter, “My motivation was not a religious search for spirituality. It was more a search for somewhere to belong and to be with people who shared my interest in world affairs. In my youth I was impulsive. Unfortunately, many of my decisions of that time are a reflection of that trait.”

Some of those “impulsive decisions” included traveling to Albania in 1999 to join the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA); traveling to Pakistan later that year to join the Lashkar e-Tayiba terrorist group, where he engaged in armed action against Indian troops in Kashmir; undergoing paramilitary training at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan under the direction of senior al-Qaeda official Ibn al-Shaikh al-Libi. Hicks’s training included the use of different weapons, rockets, hand grenades, landmines, and explosives, as well as surveillance, kidnapping techniques, and assassinations. In late 2000, when al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden visited the camp where Hicks was undergoing training, Hicks reportedly chastised him for not having al-Qaeda training manuals in English.

Hicks was in Pakistan visiting a friend on September 11, 2001 when he learned of the attacks in New York and Washington. He decided to return to Afghanistan to take up the fight against the United States. He was given a weapon by senior al-Qaeda figure Saif al-Adel and assigned to protect the Qandahar Airport. Just 10 weeks later, Hicks was captured near Kunduz by members of the Northern Alliance, which was allied with the United States, and he was turned over to U.S. forces. I want to note here that this all sounds very serious. But looking at it with a discerning eye, one sees that Hicks never actually fought an American. He never actually bore arms against Americans. That’s important later in the story.

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David Hicks [Source: time.com]

The Australian government almost immediately asked the United States to release Hicks to their custody so that he could be tried in Australia. Instead, according to Hicks, his American interrogators beat him while he was blindfolded and handcuffed; sedated him without his consent; beat him while he was under sedation; subjected him to sleep deprivation; and sexually assaulted him. In short, the U.S., and most likely the CIA, tortured Hicks like they tortured so many other al-Qaeda prisoners.

In early 2004, Hicks found himself as a prisoner at the U.S. military (and intelligence) prison at Guantanamo. He was charged by a U.S. military commission with a myriad of felonies, including conspiracy, attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent, and aiding the enemy. Additional charges of attempted murder and of providing material support for terrorism were added in 2007.

Detainee David Hicks, left, sits with his defense council in the U.S. military courtroom in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in this sketch from Monday.
David Hicks with his military council at a courtroom at Guantanamo Bay. [Source: nbcnews.com]

Just weeks later, Hicks’s attorneys and U.S. military officials came to an agreement—the first of its kind for any Guantanamo detainee. Hicks would plead no contest to a single charge of providing material support for terrorism. In exchange, he would be sentenced to seven years in prison, with all but nine months suspended. He was forbidden from speaking to the media for one year. And he was forbidden from filing a lawsuit against the United States alleging that he had been mistreated. He returned to Australia nine months later to the day.

Why did Hicks get a sweetheart deal? The answer is twofold, but still rather simple. Hicks was innocent. And he was a victim of torture. The CIA and the military had no defense. And because his various “confessions” came as a result of that torture, the information couldn’t be used against him. But perhaps more importantly, Hicks was released to return home to Australia because the Australian government demanded it. From the moment of Hicks’s arrest, Australian leaders lobbied the White House for his release. That strategy worked.

So why are we only now hearing that the Australian government is finally demanding the release from prison of Wikileaks cofounder Julian Assange?

Why do we celebrate Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese when he finally says that “nothing is served” by keeping Julian incarcerated in London’s Belmarsh Prison? It’s great that Albanese is engaged.

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with Joe Biden at G-7. [Source: en.mogaznews.com]

It’s great that Australia’s policy now is to provide at least the most basic consular services and outreach to a national being detained overseas. But where have the Australians been since 2011? Why did the Australian government jump to David Hicks’s defense and demand his release while walking away from Julian Assange, a journalist, publisher, and whistleblower who exposed war crimes?

Julian has suffered immensely at the hands of the CIA. The Agency even plotted to murder him in the street in London.

I would argue that Julian has suffered more than Hicks did, and for a far longer period of time. He has been denied even the most basic of civil rights and civil liberties.

His own government turned its back on him for more than a decade. And his health is precarious because of that treatment.

It’s beyond time that the Australian government pull out all the stops for an Australian citizen. Rather than to sit back and congratulate the Australians for coming to their senses, we should continue to demand that they keep up the pressure on Washington, just like they did with Hicks, and we shouldn’t stop until Julian is free. It’s not too late (yet) to do the right thing.

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