Monday, February 19, 2007
Charles Swift, the Navy Lt. Commander from the Judge Advocate Corps who sued the United States on behalf of his client, Salim Hamdan, who was being held at Guantánamo Bay in solitary confinement with no prospect of a trial unless and until he pleaded guilty, has written a powerful essay for Esquire magazine.
Swift eviscerates the arguments for the present utter abandonment of the rule of law we Americans have always preached to the rest of the world. Anyone who wants to go on being proud to be an American should be outraged at what has been done in our names.
Swift says he sued his chain of command, right up to the President, "[b]ecause I believe that resorting to secret prisons, coercive interrogations, and the abandonment of the rule of law is not the way to keep our country safe from a handful of fanatics." It could be added that, in such circumstances, it is hard to tell just who are the fanatics, the jailed or the jailors.
Swift quotes George Marshall:
The United States abides by the laws of war. Its Armed Forces, in dealing with all other peoples, are expected to comply with the laws of war, in the spirit and the letter. In waging war, we do not terrorize helpless non-combatants, if it is within our power to avoid so doing. Wanton killing, torture, cruelty, or the working of unusual hardship on enemy prisoners or populations is not justified under any circumstance. Likewise respect for the reign of law, as that term is understood in the United States, is expected to follow the flag wherever it goes….
It is not about them. It is about us.