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Australian Radio and the US

Being down with a flue since a few days, this gave me a chance to listen to Australian radio more intensively.  Coming from Europe, especially Germany, with its subservience to US political dominance, it is amazing for me to see so many radio and tv features being broadcasted which openly criticise the current US administration and, in the same time, the Australian Howard government’s stand “side by side with its brothers” …

Yesterday, two features in ABC National Radio, Saturday 17 March 2007, struck me by surprise.  At 3pm in the program PoeticA ABC R/N broadcasted “Contemporary and classical poetry explored in sound”, a feature that picked up on Eliot Weinberger’s printed poem “What I heard about Iraq in 2005”, published 12 December 2005.
What I really found remarkable were the mixture of sound and factual information.  If I remember it right, the ABC producers engaged some 60 speakers to read the short paragraphs, i.e.

“I heard that the President’s uncle, Bucky Bush, had made half a million dollars cashing in his stock options in Engineered Support Systems Inc, a defence contractor that had received $100 million for work in Iraq. Bucky Bush is on the board of directors.”

Several speakers read pieces of those quotations, overlapping each other, or repeating specific aspects, thus emphasising certain parts of the statement.  These sound bytes reminded me of a barrage of gunfire, possibly – given the content – intended to echo this sentiment.  The intensity of the selected quotes heightened during those 45 minutes, closing with these quotes:

That same day, I heard the President address the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. I heard him say: ‘We will never back down. We will never give in. And we will never accept anything less than complete victory.’ I heard him say: ‘To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your commander in chief.’
In a front of a huge sign that read plan for victory, he stood at a podium bearing a huge sign that read plan for victory. I wondered whether ‘plan’ was a verb.
That same day, I heard that members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams had been kidnapped by members of the Swords of Islam.

Immediately following was a feature on “Lingua Franca – A look at all aspects of language”.  Just staying online offered me the next, completely different radio listening experience.  In her third part of a series of presentations on the language of the law, producer Kate Bochner invited Peter Vickery QC, barrister and Special Rapporteur for the International Commission of Jurists, Victoria, to explain the juridical term “ex post facto”.  This made for a very interesting hearing.  I’d never thought, a “Queen’s Council” would expound so much critically about bending the international law and human rights as he did at the example of Australian Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks.
Unfortunately his script is not yet online.  From what I remember Vickery explained the “ex post facto” initially with the example of a woman driving carefully past a school, safely below the indicated speed limit. But her car was registered by a video camera.  A few months later the local council changed general speed regulations near schools to an even lower speed limit, and in the same time to becoming valid a few months earlier.  The safe passing by that lady suddenly, “after the fact”, became a legal offence.
Obviously, there are a number of national and international laws protecting Australian (and for that matter not only US) citizens of such an apparent injustice.  However, in the case of David Hicks (and probably a fair number of other fellow inmates) the US military had no judgmental causes to justify a military tribunal against most of them.  US President George W. Bush personally, therefore, signed a few legal amendments, which in fact allowed exactly these „ex post facto“ accusations.
Vickery concluded, that, since this is illegal in Australia and even in US law, whatever Hicks motives or actions may have been, the US government has no right to hold him prisoner, and the Australian government should do its out most to get Hicks released.  After all, upholding democracy was the US alleged “secondary” motive, which they are now breaking themselves.

(Written in March 2007 for a TAFE ESL course)
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