"On Feb 7, 2002, President Bush issued an order. The order stated, in pertinent part “I accept the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice and determine that Common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees.”
“I determine that the Taliban detainees do not qualify as prisoners of war. . .al Qaeda detainees also do not qualify as prisoners of war.”
“Our values as a nation, values that we share with many nations in the world, call for us to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not legally entitled to such treatment. . . As a matter of policy the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely, and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.”
With these fateful and ill-advised words, President Bush, our Commander-in-Chief, perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not, started the U.S. down a slippery slope, a path that quickly descended, stopping briefly in the dark, Machiavellian world of “the ends justify the means,” before plummeting further into the bleak underworld of barbarism and cruelty, of “anything goes,” of torture. It was a path that led inexorably to the events that brings us here today, the pointless and sadistic treatment of Mohammad Jawad, a suicidal teenager...
The government admits that Mohammad Jawad was treated “improperly,” but offers no remedy. We won’t use any evidence derived from this maltreatment, they say, but they know that there was no evidence derived from it because the government didn’t even bother to interrogate him after they tortured him. Exclusion of non-existent evidence is not a remedy. Dismissal is a severe sanction, but it is the only sanction that might conceivably deter such conduct in the future.
February 7, 2002. America lost a little of its greatness that day. We lost our position as the world’s leading defender of human rights, as the champion of justice and fairness and the rule of law. But it is a testament to the continuing greatness of this nation, that I, a lowly Air Force Reserve Major, can stand here before you today, with the world watching, without fear of retribution, retaliation or reprisal, and speak truth to power. I can call a spade a spade, and I can call torture, torture.
Today, Your Honor, you have an opportunity to restore a bit of America’s lost luster, to bring back some small measure of the greatness that was lost on Feb 7, 2002, to set us back on a path that leads to an America which once again stands at the forefront of the community of nations in the arena of human rights.
Sadly, this military commission has no power to do anything to the enablers of torture such as John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Robert Delahunty, Alberto Gonzales, Douglas Feith, David Addington, William Haynes, Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, for the jurisdiction of military commissions is strictly and carefully limited to foreign war criminals, not the home-grown variety. All you can do is to try to send a message, a clear and unmistakable message that the U.S. really doesn’t torture, and when we do, we own up to it, and we try to make it right.I have provided you with legal authority for the proposition that you have the power to dismiss these charges. I can’t stand before you and say that you are legally required to do so. But I can say that that it is a moral imperative to do so, and I ask that you do so."
As Michael Froomkin says:
"I’ve said many times before that the JAGs are heroes of the post-9/11 military. Here’s another extraordinary example of this: the closing argument of an Air Force Major, David J. R. Frakt, in Favor of Dismissal of the Case Against Mohammad Jawad (6/19/2008) in a ‘combat status review tribunal’ [Note 6/24/08: commentator mremer says below that this was a merits hearing, not a CSRT, and based on this aclu blog post, I think he’s right] held at Guantánamo. (Transcript via the ACLU. )There ought be be a medal for this sort of princpled powerful advocacy in service to the nation."
Major David J. R. Frakt's full speech should be compulsory reading for anyone with an opinion on the war on terror.