Standing up for the rule of law can be a dangerous things these days. Earlier this week it was reported that Lt. Commander Charles Swift was passed over for a promotion in the Navy, and will now have to leave the service. Swift is a Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) lawyer who won a landmark Supreme Court case this past June. The prestigious National Law Journal ranked Swift among the nation’s top 100 lawyers.
With this kind of success, why was he denied a promotion? Because his client was Guantanamo detainee Salim Hamdan, and Swift had argued that President Bush’s military commissions were unconstitutional and in violation of international law. Because of his zealous representation of his client, because he believes so strongly in his oath to defend the Constitution and the rule of law, he is losing the military career he loves deeply.
Lt. Commander Swift and the four other JAG Corps lawyers who worked on cases involving the Guantanamo Bay detainees are truly remarkable. They resisted the military’s orders that they could only negotiate guilty pleas for their clients. Instead, they fought passionately in court and in the media for the right of their clients to have fair trials.
Swift’s spoke eloquently on Hardball in June in response to those who say that these detainees are terrorists who don’t deserve due process:
It’s not whether they deserve it or not. It’s how we conduct ourselves. It has to do where if we say that our opponent can cause us not to follow the rules anymore, then we’ve lost who we are. We’re the good guys. We’re the guys who follow the rule and the people we fight are the bad guys and we show that every day when we follow the rules, regardless of what they do. It’s what sets us apart. It’s what makes us great and in my mind, it’s what makes us undefeatable, ultimately.
It’s a shame that the Navy hasn’t recognized that Lt. Commander Swift is one of the good guys.
Sara in Philly