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Author of this essay:

Ming Zhen Shakya, OHY
(June 2, 2005)

by Ming Zhen Shakya

In Islamic Indonesia, a young Australian woman, Schapelle Corby, has just received a 20-year sentence for allegedly trying to smuggle nine pounds of marijuana into the country in October, 2004. Anyone who has difficulty understanding this can readily understand an American trying to smuggle cocaine into Colombia. If customs had taken her into custody because they suspected she was dangerously psychotic, nobody would raise an eyebrow.

Smuggling drugs into Indonesia is a capital offense; and one would think customs officers, knowing this, would have been sufficiently prudent to regard as evidence the clear plastic bag that contained the contraband they found in her unlocked surfboard bag. But the evidence was not evidence. There was no need to process the plastic bag for fingerprints or the contents for specific scientific identification. The forensic investigation consisted entirely of the customs' agents who said that they could smell that it was marijuana and that was sufficient to charge her with a death-penalty offense. From October through May, Corby was under the real threat of a firing squad for a crime she has steadfastly insisted she did not commit.

The court, sensitive to criticism for having sentenced radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir to 30 months in jail for having masterminded the Marriott Hotel and Bali nightclub bombings which caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent people, decided that this time it would not be so harsh. Although the prosecution had recommended life in prison for Corby, the court decided that 20 years of her life in a squalid, overcrowded Indonesian prison was sufficient punishment. The prosecution announced immediately that it would appeal the leniency of the sentence.

Airlines - thanks, of course, to Islamic terrorism - now demand the right to inspect luggage at will. The possibility of repeated examinations of a bag's contents tends to discourage a traveler from securely locking a bag. Airline baggage-handling theft has proportionately increased. And, it isn't as if Qantas - the airline she used - and every other international airline in the world, has not been plagued by corrupt baggage handlers who, with or without official protection, move drugs around the globe by placing them inside tourist luggage. Sport equipment bags are particularly vulnerable. The bags pass through the screening process and enter the loading area where a golf or tennis bag that is bulky but unlocked can be stuffed with drugs, and then when the plane lands and the baggage unloaded, confederates, apprised of the specific pieces of luggage that contain the drugs, remove them and let the bags go onto the carousel. The terminal may be the passenger's destination but it does not have to be the drugs' destination. Contraband takes connecting flights, too.

Schapelle Corby's only explanation was that a baggage handler had not removed the contraband. She vehemently denied ever having seen the nine- pound bag of marijuana before. If the professional customs agents had troubled themselves to examine the bag for fingerprints and found her prints on it, they could have proven immediately that she was lying. If they had found prints on it other than hers, they might then have been able to identify the person or persons who placed the drugs in her surfboard bag. That would have helped to disrupt a baggage handling smuggling ring - a much better result than the cavalier way they disposed of - yes - this white Christian girl's life.

At her trial, an Australian, John Ford, who was awaiting trial on unrelated charges in Victoria, was brought to testify. He claimed to have overheard other prisoners discussing a botched shipment of marijuana in Qantas's Bali terminal. Mr. Ford's testimony was completely discounted by the court; nevertheless, he was stabbed to death a few days later in prison.

Australia's Foreign Trade Department assured the Indonesians that this use of tourist luggage was an ongoing problem. They related that a tourist had contacted the Australian consulate in Bali after finding a bag of marijuana in his luggage. No doubt in view of Indonesian lethally protective tariffs, Australian consular officials advised the tourist to flush the grass down the toilet as soon as possible.

Further, Prime Minister John Howard advised the Indonesians that on the very day that Corby was arrested, Sydney Australian drug enforcement agents had arrested baggage handlers in Sydney for smuggling narcotics. The Indonesian court rejected Mr. Howard's strong suggestion that their arrests in Sydney may have been the reason the drug shipment was disrupted in Bali. The Indonesian court deemed Mr. Howard's information irrelevant. Howard's response was low key, as was George W. Bush's.

Corby's sentence came down on Friday, May 27th. Because of the international dateline, May 27th in Bali, is May 26th in Washington. Coincidentally, on May 26th, President Bush, citing "security concerns" ordered our embassy and diplomatic offices closed in Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan and the island of Bali. Given the proximity of Indonesia to Australia, such a course of action may not be prudent for Australia. At least they will know that we are not "business as usual" with this disgraceful regime.

Schapelle Corby's guilt or innocence is not the issue. She did not get a fair trial.

When sentencing her to 20 years of imprisonment in one of their their hell holes, the Indonesian court said that Corby had not proved her innocence. Whoa! If this has been the quality of jurisprudence in Indonesia, the wonder is why we maintained diplomatic relations with them for this long.

Muslim extremists in Indonesia have been bombing non-Muslim religious buildings for months. Earlier this year five dozen bombs were found in Poso, Indonesia; and the al-Queda-linked terrorist group with which Cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is involved, murdered twelve Christians. On May 27, two bombs were detonated in Tentena, Indonesia, in a Christian town's marketplace. Twenty-two people were killed and forty were wounded.

The irony of this terrorism is that while American hearts bled for Indonesian tsunami victims, sending them millions of hard-earned dollars, the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier that had the unique capability of landing food and medicine to isolated villages on the ravaged coast of Aceh Province, was unloaded of its cargo and told to exit Indonesian waters. The U.S. plan was to send in marines and heavy equipment to rebuild roads to make land relief efforts possible. But this would have meant establishing a camp on Indonesian soil to receive the equipment and men; and this the Indonesian government would not permit. It was even necessary for all American relief workers to return to the Abraham Lincoln every night.

Understandably, television journalists were allowed to come in to advertise the devastation. Dollars, food and medicine were allowed to be delivered into Indonesian Government hands. But after the first televised relief flights, American military personnel (the people who can fly those relief helicopters) were no longer welcome.

There are several reasons for this slap in the U.S. military's face: the U.S. refusal to sell Indonesia the military equipment that it covets. Indonesia is in the midst of a civil, religious war. The Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu minority is being oppressed by the 85 percent Islamic majority. Since much of that despised minority was located in Aceh Province - where the Abraham Lincoln was anchored - the government took the donations and "distributed" the charity in other locations where it thought it would best serve its own interests. The U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln sailed away as per Jakarta's demands.

Again, in the same low-keyed manner that Prime Minister John Howard displayed towards the sentencing of Corby, President Bush suggested that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appoint former President Clinton as U.N. special envoy to investigate the distribution of the billions of donations to the tsunami victims, requiring accountability, for the funds As much as $4 billion had been given to the damaged countries to aid the suffering victims. The money was to be spent on medicine, food, clothing, housing, and other reconstruction. It was not intended to fund terrorism or to give corrupt heads of state plutocratic megalomania.

Clearly, Indonesian officials are pandering to the basest instincts of the Islamic majority with this "circus" part of the "Give 'em bread and circuses" routine that keeps them in power. Showing the world how big and brave they are by duping American charities and making a young Australian woman their scapegoat is a wretched way to compensate their systemic cowardice and incompetence.

Using religious support to gain power is one thing. But keeping power by turning that support against different religious groups is quite another. And so is any deliberate misuse of authority.

If the U.S. is not selling this this Islamic fundamentalist regime the military hardware it wants, we can bet Australia is not selling them anything either. And it is spite that we are encountering in the Corby trial. No court that so generously forgives terrorist murder has the moral right to object to marijuana smuggling. This trial is simply a way for Indonesia to spit in the face of its civilized neighbor.

In many ways that we are not used to seeing, strange double standards are being applied. It is a polarization of idiocy. Truth and even common sense are casually subverted for the sleaziest of ambitions. On one hand, "people of integrity" are expected to kneel before the corrupt because - and this is incomprehensible - it is believed that the person of integrity "understands and forgives" the sinner. What smug nonsense! Self-proclaimed "superior" persons pick and choose whom they will forgive. "Conservative" fanatics who assert that "God does not hear the prayer of a Jew" will embrace the tearful confessions of charlatan evangelists. However guilty, persons of their own stripe are always camouflaged in innocence. "Liberal" fanatics are identically composed.

Newsweek magazine, a voice of liberal thought, in its zeal to oppose conservative thought - and, therefore our military presence in Iraq - reported that American military flushed the Koran down the toilet in Guantanamo Bay to intimidate terrorist-suspect detainees. The report was false - but because it came from a respected magazine, it was believed; and 17 people were killed in Afghanistan alone when they violently protested this alleged desecration. That this lie placed American soldiers in additional jeopardy did not matter in the slightest to the publication. Newsweek, succeeding finally in becoming the counterpart of Al-Jezeera, "apologized" by blaming an unnamed American military source.

But what does this do for the Afghans who were killed in the riot that followed Newsweek's unconscionable lie? Hamid Karzai said Newsweek should pay damages to the 17 victims' families. And so they should, not merely because of their mean-spirited negligence, but because Karzai has been Islam's voice of reason and fairness, a head of state who has vigorously supported religious freedom and democracy and has never failed to condemn Islamic irresponsibility wherever it exists.

If Newsweek thought the desecration of the Koran was newsworthy, why didn't it vehemently object when Muslim soldiers occupied the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for 38 days and used the pages of the Bible as toilet paper? Where was their outrage when Israeli tanks took practice shots at the Virgin's statue at the pinnacle of the Church of the Holy Family in Bethlehem?

During our recent presidential campaign, CBS's Dan Rather, who sees himself as the guardian of liberal views, was given forged documents about President Bush's military experience. Following CBS policy, Rather gave the documents to experts for validation. The experts pronounced them to be blatant forgeries (the word processors used to type the documents had not yet been invented when the documents were purported to have been written). Rather pompously disregarded the experts and "stood behind" the documents, pronouncing them to be genuine.

One New York columnist had hailed the documents as proof of George Bush's lack of integrity. And then, when the forgeries were exposed, opined that Republican sympathizers had deliberately given the documents to Rather expecting that he would accept them as genuine so that they could later prove them to be false and thereby discredit Rather and his liberal supporters. This convoluted idiocy maligns both liberalism and journalism.

During the early days of our invasion of Iraq, three Clinton appointees to a White House cultural property advisory committee showed their opposition to Bush's foreign policy by making a hugely publicized resignation in protest of our military's "failure to protect" Baghdad's Museum of Antiquities. Without bothering to get the facts, they discredited the U.S. military - in time of war - for their own inane political purposes. The world's opposition press leapt on the story. When it was established that museum personnel had looted the museum and that the "stolen" artifacts were being sold by confederates in Europe, nobody apologized. The blow had been struck and that was their objective. To hell with the repercussions.

We have two distinct standards of behavior in operation here. Islamic extremists can deliberately destroy ancient Buddhist art and artifacts and the civilized world says nothing. But let a museum in Baghdad be looted and there is international outrage - directed at the U.S. and abetted by these three cultural hacks.

Do Newsweek, Rather and the three men who discredited the military for their own petty purposes think that there are no liberal thinkers in the military? Do they suppose that the only men and women under arms are conservative Republicans whose differing political opinions make them deserving of abuse?

There will always be unscrupulous people in the world; but the responsibility that comes with leadership, with reporting the news and making editorial commentary requires, to quote the Declaration of Independence, "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind." It is the concept of the loyal opposition that makes our parliamentary form of government work so well. And it is sad to see persons who occupy positions of authority use that authority for petty objectives.

We need to hear more of the responsible voices of Islam. Any time a religion turns over its holy scriptures to fanatics, allowing vicious thugs to interpret the words and then presume to speak for God, that religion is perilously close to entering the black-hole of self-destruction - or worse, destruction by counter-fanatics.

As to Schapelle Corby, she is probably lucky that she was not publicly beheaded. If she needs a ride back to Sydney, perhaps the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln can pick her up in Bali.

Humming Bird
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