Monday, February 05, 2007

Smoke and plodding truisms

Australian Government ministers have been busily holding forth on the David Hicks matter. Trouble is that the rhetoric is becoming more opaque and self-contradictory. For instance, check out the latest from Prime Minister John Howard:

We believe the arrangements for the military commission meet the reasonable requirements of Australian law.

Whatever precisely that can be interpreted as meaning, compare Communications Minister Helen Coonan, representing the Foreign Affairs Minister in Senate estimates hearings last November:

... I don’t think that this Government has ever said that these processes are satisfactory.

I unpacked Coonan’s flummery in that previous post, but she’s relatively unpracticed in shameless spin. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, is The Master.

Pressed on the appropriateness of the US using retrospective laws to try Mr Hicks, Mr Howard then said: “I don’t equate what the US is doing with the passage of a retrospective criminal law in Australia. I don’t accept the analogy.”

This is almost impenetrable drivel. The questioner did not posit an ‘analogy’ or ‘equation’, but rather posed a legitimate question – “the appropriateness of the US using retrospective laws” – which the PM gingerly stepped around. Of course, the reporter seems to have let the PM completely off the hook, in keeping with standards of ‘balance’ and ‘objectivity’ that appear to be the norm.

Read the whole thing for a study in willful obfuscation and cowed journalism. About the only straightforwardly accurate utterance made by the PM was:

What the Americans do is up to the Americans.

Oh, that and the plodding truism that “once somebody goes overseas they lose the protection of Australian law.” The PM’s ‘canny’ mixture of smoke and plodding truisms tends to win the day for him.

Of course, when British nationals go overseas, they similarly lose the protection of British law. But the British Government had the backbone to assert the rights of its nationals and get them out of Gitmo.


Blogger Caz said...

"We believe the arrangements for the military commission meet the reasonable requirements of Australian law.

Thing is: the statement is meaningless.

He's not being tried under our laws.

Howard seems to be attempting to legitimize the commission by condoning it within an Australian context that doesn't exist.

Weird and stupid, but I suppose Howard feels compelled to utter words, and then does.

5/2/07 9:43 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

Well, I guess Mr Howard knew what he meant, even though, as you say, the statement is meaningless.

Hahahah! Please never leave us, John; keep doing that voodoo that you do so well.

** irony alert **

5/2/07 10:03 PM  

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