Monday, February 19, 2007


Swift Justice

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….
How right Swift is when he says that it does not matter if Al Qaeda abides by those rules:

It is not about them. It is about us.
We Americans have been better than this. While we have let fear mongers in their pursuit of power use the sound of danger to stampede us before -- petty demagogues like Joe McCarthy held sway for a time -- we have also awoken to our better nature and may do so again. We are less a nation than a self-defined ideal, less a people than We the People, and despite all our faults and failures, we have clung to that ideal, even if more in the breach than the observance.
If we lose that, we have nothing.

Via Dispatches From the Culture Wars.
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