A Hero in Every Sense of the Word
I am not a big fan of Vanity Fair magazine because, well, it's so vain, because Dominick Dunne (forgive the blasphemy here, folks) has become unreadable, and because one of my first girlfriends ever used to work there and when I look at the masthead now I want to barf. But let's give credit where credit is due. If you can make it past all the gossipy crap and high-faluting image-making junk in the March issue of the magazine, Marie Brenner's profile of JAG lawyer Charles Swift is a fascinating and important and detailed look at one of the most important and heroic legal figures of the 21st century.
You are probably surprised by that description because you probably don't know who Charles Swift is. He is the military lawyer who stood up to his bosses at the Pentagon and fought the good fight-- indeed is still fighting it-- against the injustice and unfairness inherent in our government's policies toward the terror detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Swift is one of the lawyers who represented Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Gitmo detainee who won a monumental victory last summer before the U.S. Supreme Court only to see the effect of the ruling effectively overturned by a Republican Congress on the eve of its mid-term election defeat. You want a good 17-page (online) summary of what's wrong with our legal policy toward the war on terror? Ready Brenner's work.
But back to Swift. Why is he a hero? Because he stood up as a lawyer at the cost of his own career. Because he continues to fight even after it has become clear through the dreadful Military Commissions Act of 2006 Congress and the White House have been willing to conspire to deprive the detainees of a chance at a fair trial. Because he has held true, despite tremendous pressures, to a core belief (supported by some politicians and judges, to be sure) that what is happening down at Gitmo, in our name, is not consistent with this country's core values that, if all goes well, ought to live on beyond this nebulous war on terrorism in which we fight.
I have not been in the military and so perhaps I cannot make that claim. But Lt. Commander Swift is. And he can. And as near as I can tell his voice and his message and his principled stand are all loud and clear. Good for him. And good for the magazine for giving Brenner the space to spread the word.
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