‘The Hero of Guantanamo’ Speaks

The right wing has wasted no time attacking the Supreme Court and those who supported its ruling on Guantanamo yesterday. Rush Limbaugh’s website ran the headline, “Liberals Celebrate Supreme Court Victory for Terrorists.”

Attacking the patriotism of those who support the decision is ironic. The majority opinion in the case was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, “winner of a Bronze Star for his service as a Navy officer in World War II.” And Hamdan was represented by Charles Swift, a Navy lieutenant commander, who Washington Post defense analyst Bill Arkin today describes as “The Hero of Guantanamo.”

Here is a man in uniform who could have done a perfunctory job, who could have seen Hamdan as an assignment, or as an evil and not a human being; who could have saluted and followed orders; who risked promotion and now faces certain retirement without it. He is the hero of Guantanamo.

Swift was interviewed last night by Greta Van Susteren. Watch it:

Full transcript below:

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you ever get dissed by your colleagues? I mean that this is part of the job of being the JAG Corps, you’re a naval officer, but do you get dissed for accepting this responsibility?

SWIFT: I haven’t been to date. I don’t know what people say when I’m not there. But what I do know is that the vast majority that I have talked to have supported — they’ve not always agreed, but they’ve supported the idea that there should be a zealous defense. The one that I remember most, though, is a friend of mine from the Naval Academy. I went back for my 20 year reunion. He’s a marine and he’s an outstanding marine and he’s been in many combat situations, and he took me aside and I thought, this might be the time. And instead, what he said to me was, you know, the rule of law, that’s what I’m out here fighting to preserve. Don’t you dare stop. And that’s enough for me.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, a lot of people were very upset by this decision. Some may think that your client is going to be out on the street tomorrow. That’s not what this means?

SWIFT: No, it’s not what it means. It means that we’re going to have a trial that meets American standards. You know, for too long when we say that the Geneva Conventions, the UMCJ doesn’t apply — and then someone accuses us of torturing somebody or they say that we’re lawless or that the conduct of Abu Ghraib or Haditha is actually how we conduct everything. The problem is, we’ve said, well, the rules really don’t apply here. And so we’re just going on basically our good name. And there’s that doubt that’s created, because on one hand you’re saying you didn’t do it, and on the other hand you’re saying, well, if I did, it was OK.

And, today the Court said very clearly that it’s not OK and that actually makes us much stronger in this struggle against terrorism. Your earlier guest pointed out how bin Laden put on his tape that Zarqawi was a knight of Islam and, at the same time, he tried to distance himself from the fact that he had killed literally thousands of innocent Iraqis which is clearly against Islam. We’re in a much stronger position because our values match our actions and our words.