No Comment — May 18, 2007, 9:41 am

The Courage to Stand Up Against War Crimes

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Diaz has been acquitted on accusations of trying to “aid the enemy” but convicted on counts of passing classified information, reports the Associated Press. He thus emerges as the latest in a long line of military martyrs–including James Yee and Ian Fishback–who have suffered persecution for their opposition to the use of torture and other criminal practices in Guantanamo and other detention facilities. His conviction comes on the same day on which the House of Representatives, in the face of a veto threat from President Bush, voted to close the Guantánamo detention facilities. The Dallas Morning News publishes an account of the Diaz court-martial today, with a brief interview with Commander Diaz. He describes his frustration with official policies of lawlessness and dishonor that led him to take a decisive act of protest:

“I felt it was the right decision, the moral decision, the decision that was required by international law,” Cmdr. Diaz said. “No matter how the conflict was identified, we were to treat them in accordance with Geneva, and it just wasn’t being done.”

As I noted before, Diaz was right. And a federal district court so ruled.

Diaz places himself in line with other key figures in the Navy who stood up to unlawful practices in this area, including the Department of the Navy’s General Counsel, Alberto Mora. As former Navy Judge Advocate General Admiral John Hutson stated: “The way we have dealt with detainees risks blemishing the reputation of this great country for generations to come.” Other retired military leaders have been still harsher in their assessment of the criminal practices introduced by the Bush administration.

In response to questioning from the Morning News pressing the absurdity of the prosecution, Navy spokesperson Beth Baker stated that she “could not give a reason” why the Navy had decided to press the court-martial.

Let me try to help Ms. Baker out. Actual prosecutions of national security breaches by the Bush administration, like the prosecution of Commander Diaz, almost without exception involve persons viewed as political enemies – that is, persons who are viewed as disloyal to the Republican party and its current leadership.

When breaches are committed by the president’s immediate retainers–as has just been documented with Alberto Gonzales, Andrew Card, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby–nothing happens, unless a special prosecutor is appointed.

All of this seems quite familiar to me. I think of the constant intimidation and threats against Andrei Sakharov–invoking state secrets concerns in a continuous effort to silence the Soviet Union’s great voice of decency and to undermine the movement for democracy and human rights which ultimately brought down tyrannical Communism. I think of the prosecution on violations of nuclear secrets of the fearless environmentalist Navy Captain Aleksandr Nikitin. I think of the prosecution on state secrets grounds of Kyrgyzstan’s Vice President Feliks Kulov–in a trial I was permitted to monitor. All of these acts were outrageous abuses–the hallmarks of a totalitarian regime. And they parallel perfectly the conduct of the Bush administration in cases like the prosecution of Commander Diaz.

Matthew Diaz’s act of defiance makes of him a hero–a person committed to upholding the traditions that made our nation great–especially the injunction for humane treatment of prisoners first set down by George Washington following the Battle of Trenton in December 1776. The fact that Diaz has been persecuted while the monsters who authored torture gain promotion is a national disgrace.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2014

Israel and Palestine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Washington Is Burning

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On Free Will

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

They Were Awake

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
Post
“There was torture by the previous regime and by the current Iraqi regime,” Dr. Amin said. “Torture by our Kurdish government, torture by Syrians, torture by the U.S.”
Visiting His Own Grave © Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Article
The Tale of the Tape·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
Criticism
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia
New Books
New Books·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

 
“Almond insists that watching football does more than feed an appetite for violence. It’s a kind of modern-day human sacrifice, and it makes us more likely to go to war.”
Photograph by Harold Edgerton

Chance that a movie script copyrighted in the U.S. before 1925 was written by a woman:

1 in 2

Engineers funded by the United States military were working on electrical brain implants that will enable the creation of remote-controlled sharks.

Malaysian police were seeking fifteen people who appeared in an online video of the Malaysia-International Nude Sports Games 2014 Extravaganza, and Spanish police fined six Swiss tourists conducting an orgy in the back of a moving van for not wearing their seatbelts.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today