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Those Who Did Not Go Crazy

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I am slowly reading The Dark Side and so was especially struck by this from one of Andrew Sullivan's readers: "If there's any comfort to be found in Mayer's account, or in any of the stories coming out about this administration's overreach, it's in the stories of those who didn't go crazy."  We are going through an extraordinarily trying time for our nation's ideals, and while I have focused almost exclusively on the authors of these trials there are some uplifting stories as well.  Some individuals have been willing to resist the cruel and authoritarian "War on Terror" mindset when confronted (sometimes unexpectedly) by it, and they deserve our admiration.  Here are some examples.

Shortly after the 2001 attacks, Jesselyn Radack was a lawyer at the Justice Department, and was asked to give an ethics position on the interrogation of John Walker Lindh.  As an American citizen, he unquestionably deserved all rights under the Constitution and the law, and as the first detainee to go through the alternate universe of Post-9/11 Justice, his case would serve as a rough template for those to follow.  Short version: His family hired a lawyer, but the lawyer was not permitted to contact him.  When asked about her ethical position, Radack said he should only be questioned in the presence of counsel. Instead, he was subjected to rough treatment for a week, dragged in front of FBI agents, denied a specific request for counsel (with reasoning along the lines of "why, there's no lawyers here in Camp Rhino!") and given a Miranda waiver to sign.  With the clear implication that failure to sign would result in resumed maltreatment, he signed it.

Radack took the position that no statements obtained under such circumstances would be admissible in a court of law.  On the day his trial was to begin, he reached a deal - pleading guilty to "serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons in doing so."  All other charges were dropped.  The timing was no accident, either.  Scott Horton reported that prosecutors "knew that Lindh had been tortured and that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was deeply implicated in the decision to torture him.  If the case went to trial, and there was discovery, this would come out."  So Radack was right and she stood her ground, but ended up losing her job over it.

A quick aside: It is not fair to attribute comments on a site to the site itself, but comment sections do serve as a kind of id for the Internet. While poking around for information about Radack, I came across this post and the comment (of Lindh) "[h]e's in prison and I have heard nothing about appeals.  That's proof enough for me."  Part of the reason our leaders have gotten away with authoritarian behavior is because of the support of a good part of the population for just such measures.

We know of several people in the military who have honorably defended their institution as well, particularly at the twilight realm of Guantánamo Bay.  The FBI and CIA are used in clandestine operations, so maybe a certain amount of secrecy and obfuscation is in their organizational DNA.  The ambiguous status of detainees and singular nature of the tribunals set up by the Military Commissions Act (thanks, Congress) seem to have rubbed more than one soldier the wrong way, though. Marine Major Dan Mori, a lawyer charged with defending one of the inmates, said "I hope that nobody confuses military justice with these 'military commissions.'  This is a political process, set up by the civilian leadership.  It's inept, incompetent, and improper."

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Some more examples: The commission case against Osama bin Laden's driver concluded this month, and the six-member jury seemingly said to the President, this man will complete his sentence shortly before you leave office; figure out what to do with him.  In the succeeding commission case, Army Brigadier Gen. Gregory Zanetti delivered a blistering critique of the proceedings.  Before the Iraq war, General Eric Shinseki testified before Congress that more troops would be needed in Iraq than the party line allowed for. The administration's response sent a clear message to the military: Failure to stay on message would have severe consequences for your career.

That Mori, Zanetti and the jurors were willing to do otherwise speaks eloquently of their high character, as does Radack's insistence on serving the interests of justice even at substantial personal cost.  A great many people have just gone along, or perhaps resigned in protest and quietly went away.  The ones who did not, and chose instead to go against the prevailing culture and speak up, have rendered a great service to our country.  Their names deserve to be remembered more than those of the ones they strove against.

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Dan Fejes lives in northeast Ohio.

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