PM 'wont help Cuba detainees'
February 7th, 2003
PRIVATE correspondence with Prime Minister John Howard showed he had no
intention of helping two Australians detained in a terrorist prison camp at
Guantanamo Bay, a former Liberal Party president has said.
John Valder said today a series of personal letters between Mr Howard, US
Ambassador to Australia Tom Schieffer and himself since September showed
that both had "the least inclination to lift a finger" in assisting Mamdouh
Habib and David Hicks.
"I could see they were not prepared to stand up to Washington," Mr Valder,
former NSW and federal party president and a long-time supporter of Mr
Adelaide-born Hicks and Sydneysider Habib were imprisoned by US authorities
during the war on Afghanistan and have been detained at the Cuban camp for
more than a year without charge.
Mr Valder said their detention was "the grossest atrocity" and
and Mr Schieffer should "hang their collective heads in shame".
He was speaking at a Walk Against War Coalition meeting, along with ALP
veterans Tom Uren and Arthur Gietzelt at NSW's Parliament House in Sydney.
Last week, Mr Valder wrote a letter to a Sydney newspaper denouncing US
President George W Bush as a greater danger to the world than Iraq.
And since launching Liberals Against The War in Iraq on February 2, he
received hundreds of supportive phone calls, he said.
A "preponderance" of them were Liberal voters, he added.
"I'd be bold enough to say that I suspect in Australia today, at least
of the last election's Liberal voters are against this war."
Mr Valder said he was "surprised" by Mr Howard's support of a
US-led war on
"I know him well ... and I have been a supporter of his in almost
"It puzzles me that on this issue he seems to have thrown caution
wind, thrown himself totally in with George Bush and the United States."
Mr Gietzelt said Australians would pay a high price for their government's
"subservience" to the US while Mr Uren labelled Mr Bush a "Christian
fundamentalist", likening his war on terrorism to the Christian crusades.
Mr Uren said nationwide anti-war demonstrations set down for Sunday,
February 16, would be the biggest Australia had seen, at least since the