Politics, Activism, Culture and Fun in Brisbane, Australia.
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"How Pakistan Tortured my Brother" - Les Thomas, brother of Jack Thomas (called "Jihad" Jack in media) speaks to anti war activism rally in Brisbane.

antiwarrally062309-Big Issue Vendor

But not before the boring leaders in the anti-war movement talked for far too long. Here, this vendor of "The Big Issue" (in the yellow top) did some guerilla marketing and quickly used the mike to remind people that The Big Issue, a current affairs and entertainment magazine, only costs $4, and $2 of that stays directly with your vendor.

I'm glad he did it too, because the guy who was speaking was REALLY bad. He spoke for at least 20 minutes in a fast, angry voice that was very unpleasant to listen to. He covered, in brief, just about everything that the pseudo-left is meant to be angry about at the moment. I haven't found his name yet, but he was from the Refugee Action Collective. I was especially unimpressed at the part where he follows the Michael Moore line that the fascist 'resistance' in Iraq are the 'good guys'. But here is a 3 minute sample of 2 parts of his speech, so you can judge for yourself:

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Anyway, the rally stared off at about 11.15 am on Saturday September 23rd. I won't go into the detail of what was said, because I disagreed with most of it. (I support the war on fascist Iraq - but do believe that the Palestinian question needs to be solved by Israel withdrawing from the West Bank).

If you want to know the sort of thing that was being said, you can look at Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, the Socialist Worker (from ISO Australia, who I have not noticed at Brisbane rallies for a while - has the Socialist Action Group joined up with them?), Refugee Action Collective, Fair Go for Palestine, Just Peace, the Queensland Greens, the Queensland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, or any one of the United Socialists, Socialist Unity or the Unite for Socialism Party (OK, I made the last three up).

We had a lady who was shrill and boring as a sort of MC:

antiwarrally062309-Boring MC # 1

and then the boring guy mentioned above. Then another MC started to get going. Guess what: he was boring too!

antiwarrally062309-Boring MC # 2

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At last, we got to hear Les Thomas speak. He was much better than anyone else so far that day - he did a very good job of showing his brother as an ordinary person caught up in a world where politicians manipulate what they want to get re-elected.

antiwarrally062309-13-Les Thomas

Instead of bellowing into the microphone, he spoke in a normal tone of voice. Notice that he is holding the mike a foot and a half away from his mouth, while the other speakers are far too close to the mike.

The mike volume was turned right up, and the PA system was not a good one (you can see the speaker in the extreme right of the photo) so this was good technique.

Thomas began by welcoming the 'Fiesty vanguard of this great struggle against the war', and pointing out that he needed to stand in the shade, or he would get sunburnt:

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You can see from the above photo that Thomas was standing in the shade, a long way forward of the microphone stand, which is bathed in glaring sunlight. This photo of the audience (taken maybe 20 minutes later) shows the situation:


From this angle, the sun chased the shadow from left to right away from the Square as the rally went on, making it harder to find shade. Queensland is the skin cancer capital of the world, and people planning rallies need to pay more attention to shade and water. Perhaps the cool of late afternoon would be a better time for rallies, rather than midday heat?

Thomas spoke about how Jack was in Afganistan or Pakistan at the time of the September 11 2001 attacks on the USA, and he was concerned for his brother after seeing the armed US response. He immediately started on the important job of humanising his brother - how he wouldn't be your first choice to go on "Who wants to be a Millionaire" as your Phone-A-Friend, but "...he's still a decent human being with a good heart".

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Thomas said that his brother Jack tried to get back to Australia when Afghanistan was being bombed, was arrested at Karachi airport, and ever since, the government has been trying to make an example of him. When he was arrested, he 'disappeared' for four weeks, and under interrogation by the ISID (the Pakistani secret police) he was subjected to torture, including sleep deprivation, being shackled to the floor of a cell, and being told that his children would be killed, and his wife would be raped:

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After 4 months, says Thomas, Australian officers visited Jack. Not to do anything to help him, but to take the opportunity to interview him and build a case against him. And then, he was released.

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Thomas concludes that Jack was released so that he could be used as a 'success story' by Australian authorities. If he was a real threat, why was he not held longer? Why would it take 17 months to charge him if he was a real danger? And why would TV cameras be invited to Jack's arrest if he really was a dangerous security risk?

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Thomas then described how Jack was placed in the maximum-security Acacia unit at Barwon prison on the outskirts of Melbourne, where he was locked down for 23 hours a day and got to saw his family for one hour a week. These conditions brought back his terrible experiences in Pakistan.

13 other people are in Acacia, without being convicted, at the moment - Thomas calls this 'punishment without conviction'.

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Thomas spoke bitterly of how "the person reported in the media bears no relation to the person I have known all my life." This was partly because the media needs sensation to sell newspapers.

Yet in the trial earlier this year, the jury was able to see through the 'crap' and found Jack Not Guilty of the major charge he faced:

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The Government proceeded with the lesser charges, which were also thrown out, because the judge ruled that it is not actually OK to interview someone after four months in a Pakistani jail, without a lawyer, and then use the interview in court.

Thomas also discusses his view that Jack was prosecuted to serve as an example, by people who needed to make themselves look good politically:

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Thomas described the 'howls of outrage' from the 'right-wing media' when his brother was released, and stated that there are people who want these laws to be used and precedents to be set:

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Then Thomas told us how, ten days after the charges were dropped, Federal Police turned up at the door where he was on holiday in South Gippsland (near Melbourne). He made the policemen a coffee, and they gave him an interim control order, saying that he had a curfew from midnight to five AM, and also that he was forbidden from contacting Osama bin-Laden. The satirical ABC TV show, "The Chaser's War on Everything" satirised this part of the control order rather well in the video above, in a short piece featuring Jack himself, and, at great expense to the management, Osama bin-Laden.

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Thomas wrapped up by saying that Jack's case is fundamentally important for anyone who might not fully agree with the Government's agenda. More info on the pro-Jack campaign can be found at the Justice for Jack website.

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Pro-War leftists need to be careful about civil rights. The Islamic fascists (a small minorty of Muslims) are really bad people. They want a world where no-one is allowed to ask questions, or mock gods or religious prophets.

Since Jack Thomas did apparently go to Afghanistan or Pakistan to meet with extremist Muslims, it is fair enough to keep an eye on him - we cannot just pretend that he never went there.

But the sort of treatment his brother describes would not be needed unless he was actually a leader or senior officer in a terrorist cell. There appears to be no accusation that he was involved with any terrorist plot, and when his brother says that politicians had an agenda to make an example of Jack, it sounds pretty convincing. Watch him, tap his phone, make notes on who he meets - all fair enough. But the mindless overkill - and the idea that it is OK to let the Pakistani secret police work over an Australian for a few months, and then interview him for evidence - is pretty damn dodgy.

antiwarrally062309-Juanita Wheeler
Juanita Wheeler of the Queensland Greens.

After Thomas had finished speaking, there were some other speakers, from Fair Go for Palestine and from the Queensland Greens. I was particularly interested to hear that the Fair Go for Palestine speaker made no anti-Semitic remarks, but confined himself to demanding that Israel respect various UN resolutions.

antiwarrally062309-Pro-Palestinian speaker

This was good to hear, because some people in the anti-war movement say stupid things like "We are all Hizb'Allah now". Just because Israel is doing things that must be fought, does not mean we need to go all worshippy before the nasty, anti-Semitic, anti-democratic people in Hizb'Allah.

And then the march left Post Office Square for the DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) building, on Ann St, near the corner of Creek St.

antiwarrally062309-March leaves Post Office Square
March leaves Post Office Square.

antiwarrally062309-Van of the march heads up Queen St
Van of the march heads up Queen St.

antiwarrally062309-'Get the Farq Out of Iraq', read the yellow T-Shirts
"Get the Farq out of Iraq", read the T-Shirts, which is terribly amusing, and likely to win support.

antiwarrally062309-26-Rear of the march, looking up Creek St
Rear of the march, as it heads up Creek St.

MAP: Click on this picture, then click again on the new picture, to get an overhead map of the rally at Post Office Square, the route of the march along Adelaide and Creek Sts, and the end of the march (and more public speaking) at the Foreign Affairs building on the corner of Ann and Creek Sts, in central Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

If you have Google Earth on your computer, you can click here to download a collection of photos and landmarks from the rally and march onto your computer and look at it in GE (its called a .kmz file, if you care).

antiwarrally062309-Was this driver convinced?Is it always worth doing a march? What does it do to the opinions of people like this?

antiwarrally062309-Watching the speakers at Foreign Affairs building

At DFAT there were more speeches, through a very muddy-sounding bullhorn. No shade again, either.

antiwarrally062309-Ray Bergman speaks, Tom Gillespie in purple hat listensRay Bergman, of the Queensland Palestine Solidarity Campaign speaks on the steps of DFAT, while a Mr Gillespie of the Stop the War Committee in the purple hat waits to speak.

Ray Bergman spoke about a public meeting that will be on this Friday, September 29th - the Palestinian Authority delegate to Australia will be speaking at the TLC building (Trades Hall), 16 Peel St, South Brisbane, at 7pm. He will be speaking about the difficulty of getting the very different Palestinian factions to come together just to decide what to negotiate with Israel.

MAPS of the TLC building:

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