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Honor the People of Conscience

Alberto Mora

Alberto Mora

As the President-elect prepares to fulfill his word to close Guantánamo and ban torture, there’s more he can do. Sure, I’d love to see members of the outgoing administration prosecuted and hope it will happen. I doubt, however, that President-elect Obama will move in that direction. But if he truly wants to be a healer, here’s a suggestion: Honor the people of conscience who paid a price for opposing torture, show trials at Guantánamo, and the illegal repudiation of the Geneva Conventions.

Here’s some of the people the new White House should publicly thank and recognize.

Alberto Mora, Navy General Counsel, forced out (pictured here);

Lt. Commander Charles Swift of the Navy who was assigned as a JAG defense lawyer and committed career suicide by suing Bush and Rumsfeld (in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld);

Chief Prosecutor, Colonel Morris Davis, Lt. Colonel Darrel Vandeveld, Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch all quit rather than proceed with show trials at Guantánamo with evidence tainted by torture:

(At least two other prosecutors quit in protest but I don’t know whether their careers were damaged as they were reassigned to other duties: Major John Carr; Major Robert Preston.)

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In her book, The Dark Side, Jane Mayer cites two lawyers in the Justice Department whose jobs ended when they argued against adminstration policy: Deputy Attorney General James Comey, and Jack Goldsmith.

Let’s not forget JAG Lt. Commander Matthew Diaz who leaked the names of detainees so their families could know what had become of them during the time they were being held in secret. He was court martialed and got six months sentence plus dismissal (and, presumably, loss of all VA benefits).

diane lefer

And Joe Darby, the soldier who turned in the Abu Ghraib photos, who was treated like a traitor and snitch. On his return home, he had to relocate due to threats.

They live knowing they did the right thing. But what can we do now to let them know we are grateful for their acts of integrity? And who else deserves thanks? Who should be added to this preliminary list?

Diane Lefer

Diane Lefer is an author, playwright, and activist whose most recent book, California Transit, was awarded the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. Her stories, novels, and nonfiction often address social issues and draw on such experiences as going to jail for civil disobedience and her volunteer work as a legal assistant/interpreter for immigrants in detention. She collaborated with exiled Colombian theatre artist Hector Aristizábal on "Nightwind," about his arrest and torture by the US-supported military in Colombia, a play that has toured theatres, campuses, conferences, and houses of worship throughout the US and Canada. Other recent work for the stage includes "Majikan," a Ciona Taylor Production in New York's Central Park, about an orangutan and the War on Terror. She has picked potatoes, typed autopsy reports, surveyed parolees and drug addicts about their sex lives, and taught creative writing to gangbangers as well as, for twenty years, to graduate students in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. She received the 2006-07 COLA (City of Los Angeles) literary arts fellowship in support of Phantom Heart, her novel-in-progress set in and around a beautiful Southern California nuclear waste site. She lives in Los Angeles and has never written a screenplay.

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