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July 02, 2006


A follow up on the Hamdan case:

"There was often a real Alice in Wonderland quality to this case," he said. "They had already decided that the detainees were terrorists so didn't have normal rights, but then they wanted to hold a commission to determine that they were terrorists."

I’ve heard of strange cases in law but nothing quite that absurd. I think it’s quite clear that the defense deserved to win.

Lt Cdr Swift, a 19-year US Navy veteran, could not hide his elation as he walked down the marble steps of the Supreme Court in full uniform on Thursday after the ruling, although he acknowledged that his role had not endeared him to everyone.

"I'm really not worrying whether I'm the most popular man in the US military today," he declared cheerfully. "You don't win any popularity contests by conducting a defence but I can't do my job by opinion poll."

Lt Cdr Swift has received few direct criticisms for standing up for the legal rights of men seen by many of his comrades - not to mention much of the American public - as terrorists. But his military career is likely to come to an obligatory end next year if, as he expects, he fails for the second time to win promotion.

That will be fascinating. Lt. Cdr to Cdr is rather like the Major to Lt Col. in the army. You don’t make that promotion and you’re out. But this raises an interesting point. He’s just done his job superbly well: defense lawyers are there to defend people and he’s done that properly.

He’s also pissed off a lot of people in doing so. Will he (probably not) should he (I would say yes) get that next promotion?

His delight was nothing to do with a defeat for the White House or Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary and plaintiff in the case; rather, he said: "This vindicates the military justice system and I'm very proud of that. This ruling reinforces a huge difference between us and our opponents. We believe in common decency, fairness and the rule of law. Our opponents don't."

On Thursday afternoon he telephoned Hamdan at the camp 1,300 miles away and told him of the ruling through an interpreter. "I think he was awe-struck that the court would rule for him and give a little man like him an equal chance," he said. "Where he's from, that's not the case."

That’s at the heart of the matter. Whether it be Gitmo, unlawful combatants, 90 day detentions without trial, control orders or whatever, yes, we are different, are  on the side of liberty and freedom: and we’d better act like it (which, of course, with those examples, we’re not).

If we’re fighting for those very liberties and freedoms then we shouldn’t do so by denying them either to ourselves or our supposed enemies. If we do, what’s the damn point of the whole enterprise?


July 2, 2006 in Law | Permalink


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The boy done well. It makes one proud to live in a free society. It's also nice to note that even military prosecuters congratulated him after the case. Sadly I suspect the "opinion makers" at the al-Graun won't see it that way.

Still, if Lt Cdr Swift's military career does meet a brick wall, I'll bet he's now got all sorts of offers for work in civvie street.


Posted by: The Remittance Man | Jul 2, 2006 12:38:39 PM

Why do you suppose we had internment in World War II (and yes, I know the Amadeus met in an internment camp)? Why do you suppose we locked up Oswald Moseley? Why do you suppose we didn't put up German POWs in the Savoy? Why are otherwise sensible people such fuckwits on some topics?

Tim adds: But I don’t think we should have had internment. POWs are, as you very well know, a different case. They are covered by hte Geneva Convention....there wouldn’t have been this case if the US had agreed that those at Gitmo were.

Posted by: Chris | Jul 2, 2006 3:57:02 PM


"Why do you suppose we didn't put up German POWs in the Savoy? Why are otherwise sensible people such fuckwits on some topics?"

Why indeed...

Posted by: The Pedant-General | Jul 2, 2006 9:08:02 PM