October 9, 2006

A Job Too Well Done

Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift
The Miami Herald reported Sunday that Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift, the Navy attorney who handed the Bush Administration a major defeat when he successfully challenged its policies toward Guantanamo Bay detainees, will be forced to retire in April after two decades of service to his country. Swift, who represented the defense in the landmark Hamdan case, was passed over for promotion and will have to leave the Navy's under its "up or out" policy.

Swift is being pushed out of the armed forces despite being named as one of the nation's top 100 lawyers by the National Law Journal in June, and earning consistent, high praise from his peers for his work and dedication. From the Herald story:

In the opinion of Washington, D.C., attorney Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, Swift was ''a no-brainer for promotion,'' given his devotion to the Navy, the law and his client.

But, he said, Swift is part of a long line of Navy defense lawyers ''of tremendous distinction'' who were not made full commander and "had their careers terminated prematurely.''

''He brought real credit to the Navy,'' said Fidell. "It's too bad that it's unrequited love.''


"Charlie has obviously done an exceptional job, a really extraordinary job," said Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, the Pentagon's chief defense counsel for Military Commissions.

Sullivan added it was "quite a coincidence" that Swift was passed over for a promotion "within two weeks of the Supreme Court opinion."

Quite a coincidence indeed.

Lieutenant Commander Swift's performance was outstanding, so the only conclusion that remains to be drawn is that he simply did his job too well by representing Hamdan to the best of his ability. As in the case of Ian Thomas, a contractor for the Environmental Protection Agency who contradicted official assertions that opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling would not have a significant impact on the area's wildlife, Swift has been punished for doing the right thing.

With the deck newly stacked against prisoners in the President's "War on Terror" by the Detainee Treatment Act, Swift's ouster is one more nail in the coffin of the American justice system. It further diminishes any hope that military commissions might be something more than kangaroo courts designed to convict rather than to try, and it offers yet more proof that if the Bush Administration doesn't get the result it wants, it will change the rules.

Lieutenant Commander Swift has stated that he will attempt to continue representing Hamdan as a civilian - if it is ruled that he can even do so under the new restrictions on habeas corpus for detainees - but the circumstance of his forced retirement is an affront to anyone who believes that the rule of law is at the heart of what made the United States a great nation. Charles Swift is exactly the type of man who should be moving up the ranks of the Navy; it is a measure of how far we have fallen that that is in direct conflict with the aims of President George W. Bush.


If you'd like to know more about Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift, be sure to check out this post over at Mountain Philosopher.


Anonymous said...

Been flogging my own tribute to Swift as hard as I can.


PBI said...

Thanks, John. I'm going to update my post with a link to yours, for people who'd like a closer look at Charles Swift.