14 July 2003

The enemy of our friend, the US, is not necessarily our enemy
The war on Iraq has arguably made the pursuit of the war on terrorism more difficult. The US has dissipated the friendship generated in September 2001. We have made ourselves the closest of allies in this war on terrorism and have supported strategies which make its achievement more difficult. America's enemies will unnecessarily become Australia's enemies.

I have a living memory of what is, for many, history. Britain was left alone with Commonwealth support for two years and five months in the war against Nazism. Britain was bankrupt and desperate but fighting with a tenacity that led to democracy's greatest victory. I do not believe America would have joined that war if Japan had not attacked Pearl Harbour. There were many who believed the US could deal with a triumphant Hitler. The US was concerned that Britain could not again be a financial power. Were it not for Pearl Harbour, America would probably have stood aloof.

If America could not see the way its interests coincided with the interests of Britain at that time, until it was forced by Japan's actions, how can we believe that the US will see its interests coincide with ours?

I do not believe that America, however benign the exercise of its current power, would necessarily use that power for Australia's protection. It has, in fact, become a fundamentalist regime believing fervently that what it judges to be right, is in fact right, and that others do not have anything much worthwhile to contribute. Such an America will not make friends.

Dean Nye, from the Kennedy School of Government, and Henry Kissinger have both conceded this point. They recognise the need for America to wrap its military power with the cloak of diplomacy, with persuasion, with respect and esteem for the views of other states.

This is not the America we deal with. This is perhaps emphasised in the presidential order establishing military tribunals which makes it clear that the US expects any country to give up any person the US believes to be covered by the order. From that point of view it makes no difference whether Hicks is in Guantanamo Bay or walking free in Sydney.

Such a presumption should make us more cautious. The US is not prepared to comply with international law carefully drafted and supported by legal authorities from many countries. It is prepared to assert and, I believe, to enforce its law well beyond normal US jurisdiction if it perceives it to be in America's interests.

Do we really serve Australia's interests by such uncritical support and by such an apparent loss of our own sense of purpose and independence?

Malcolm Fraser has come a long way since he lost the prime ministership in 1983. John Howard and Attorney-General Darryl Williams would do well to listen to him instead of dribbling out spin like the claim that Hicks has confessed when that confession would not be accepted in any Australian court. They would also do well to confess that Hicks probably cannot be successfully prosecuted in any Australian court because none of the so-called evidence collected in Guant�namo Bay would be acceptable under Australian law.

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