Sunday, July 02, 2006

Heroes and Villains in the Story of Democracy

Digby aptly calls him an American hero -- for being willing to do the right thing even when doing the right thing came at a heavy price:

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift -- the Navy lawyer who beat the president of the United States in a pivotal Supreme Court battle over trying alleged terrorists -- figures he'll probably have to find a new job.

Of course, it's always risky to compare your boss to King George III.

Swift made the analogy to the court, saying President Bush had overstepped his authority when he bypassed Congress and set up illegal military tribunals to try Guantanamo detainees such as Swift's alleged al-Qaida client, Salim Ahmed Hamdan.

The justices agreed, ruling 5-3 Thursday in favor of dismantling the current tribunal system.

Despite his spectacular success, with the assistance of attorneys from the Seattle firm Perkins Coie, Swift thinks his military career is coming to an end. The 44-year-old Judge Advocate General officer, who was recently named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the country by The National Law Journal, was passed over for promotion last year as the high-profile case was making headlines around the world.

"I may be one of the most influential lawyers in America," the Seattle University Law School graduate said, "but I won't be in the military much longer. That irony did strike me."

What a contrast to his professional counterpart on the other side of this case -- a man who would pervert and mangle any legal principle to keep his privileged position in the halls of power:

"What this decision has done is, it's hampered our ability to move forward with a tool which we had hoped would be available to the president of the United States in dealing with terrorists," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told CNN.

The administration had planned to try suspects in military tribunals as "enemy combatants." They would not be eligible for the rights, as established by the Geneva Conventions, guaranteed to prisoners of war.

"We are currently evaluating the writings of the Supreme Court," Gonzales said, and "we are going to be working closely with Congress to look at legislation."

The administration is "hopeful that we will have the ability to try people through military commissions," he added.

Gonzales emphasized that the court ruling didn't say "that we could not continue to hold enemy combatants indefinitely for the duration of hostilities, which was something the Supreme Court said we could do..." The prison was established in early 2002.

"That path is still available to us. The president of the United States can continue to hold enemy combatants at Guantanamo. But we are looking at ways to provide as many tools as possible to the president of the United States in dealing with terrorists," he added.

Shorter A.G.: "We have no intention of abiding by the Supreme Court's decision; we will bully and threaten every last Democrat in Congress to pass a law that will allow us to defy the law."

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