July 04, 2006 | Graham

It officially is a war on terror now

This morning we published a very interesting article by Ted Lapkin on the US Supreme Court decision invalidating the military commissions set-up to try prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.
Not having read the judgement I was rapidly gaining the misapprehension from news commentary and reports that the Bush government had been told to close Gitmo. Ted had read the judgement, and I now understand that instead, the ruling is relatively narrow, dealing only with the form of trial that the inmates “may have”. I don’t say “must have” because the judgement also apparently supports the principal that habeas corpus doesn’t apply in this case and that the US is entitled to intern enemy combatants without trial.
I remember waking one morning to an ABC Radio news bulletin (what other would I wake for?) and taking umbrage at the journalist referring to the “so-called war on terror”. It appears to me that the most significant thing about the judgement is that it essentially validates the term “war on terror” by holding that the detainees are subject to the Geneva Convention, and validates the point of view that I hold that in this situation there is justification for infringements on civil liberties which in a peaceful time would be unjustifiable.
Which is not to say that I agree with the Howard government’s stance on Hicks (nor some of the legislation they have passed). He seems to me to be an unfortunate young man who is probably more a danger to himself than to anyone else, and one who should be evicted from Guantanamo forthwith and repatriated to Australia. He was just unlucky to get caught in the first place.

Posted by Graham at 9:44 pm | Comments (2) |


  1. If there is a war on terror going on, then it has no defined location, and if it ever ends, that will only be recognised long after the event.
    In these circumstances, allowing alleged enemy combatants to be interned indefinitely without trial really amounts to saying that the executive government can pick up anyone off the street, allege that they are an enemy combatant, and then lock them away indefinitely.
    In that case, what happened to our supposed freedom from arbitrary arrest?

    Comment by Sylvia Else — July 5, 2006 @ 10:55 am

  2. I don’t think it is a case of allowing just anyone to be picked-up and detained, but I think that it’s pretty clear that someone who is captured on what one could easily define as a battle field falls into the category of enemy combatant and could be detained for the duration. Life sentences, if life is what it takes, are not a derogation of our freedom from arbitrary arrest.
    Maybe I should do a longer post on considerations that I think would be reasonable. I certainly wouldn’t be holding people in Guantanamo Bay. There’re better and more humane ways to do it. And I wouldn’t be holding Hicks in the US, or probably in anything more severe than some sort of house arrest, if even that.

    Comment by Graham Young — July 6, 2006 @ 9:26 am

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