Volume 76, Number 34 | January 17 - 23, 2007

Villager photo by Q. Sakamaki

Protesters demonstrated against torture at a rally by the courts at Foley Square last Thursday. The occasion was the fifth anniversary of the incarceration of the first prisoner from Afghanistan at the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp. Protest groups included Code Pink, World Can’t Wait and Not in Our Name.

Bush tries to terrorize Guantanamo attorneys

By Jerry Tallmer

Charles D. Stimson, the Bush administration’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, would seem to have been reading his Shakespeare. Last week this Orwellian anonymity emulated Dick the Butcher, who in Act IV, Scene 2, of “Henry VI, Part 2,” bellows to his fellow rogues: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers!”

Mr. Stimson last Thursday expressed his distress at the legal aid being offered pro bono to the hundreds of “detainees” at Guantanamo Bay by attorneys from leading law firms around the country, and proposed — urged — a big-business boycott of any and all such law firms.

His chosen method of execution of the offending lawyers is, well, starvation. Selective starvation.

“I think, quite honestly,” Mr. Stimson said in an interview in Washington over Federal News Radio, as reported Saturday in The New York Times, “when corporate C.E.O.’s see that these firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those C.E.O.’s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists and representing reputable firms…. And we want to watch that play out.”

Mr. Stimson has forgotten about one or two things, says Michael Ratner, the quiet Greenwich Village warrior who is president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. One is the historic right of habeas corpus and the other is the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which, among other protections, guarantees the right “to have the Assistance of Counsel for the defense” in all criminal prosecutions.

The Bush administration has for five years been dodging around that last proviso — “criminal prosecutions” — but if the Guantanamo (and other) detainees aren’t criminal, what are they?

Matter of fact, Mr. Ratner pointed out this week, the Thursday of Mr. Stimson’s remarks over Federal News Radio — echoed next day on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal — was precisely the fifth anniversary of Jan. 11, 2002, on which marches and protests against the Kafka-esque U.S. incarceration of nameless, faceless, lawyerless detainees took place around the world.

“The U.S. Supreme Court,” said Ratner, “has now twice ruled that the detainees have the rights to habeas corpus and to counsel” — once in Ragul v. Bush, June 2004, in a case brought by his own Center, and once in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, June 2006, in a case to which the Center filed a brief amicus curiae.

Mr. Stimson — and one hopes F.D.R.’s great old Republican wartime secretary of the Army, Henry L. Stimson, isn’t spinning in his grave — may be waiting and watching for this heavyhanded drama “to play out.” But the attorneys of this nation aren’t waiting. As of early Monday, more than 60 deans of distinguished law schools — “with more joining by the hour” — had put their names and their reputations on a statement of deep concern.

“We, the…undersigned,” they declared, “…are appalled by the January 11, 2007, statement of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles “Cully” Stimson…encouraging corporate executives to force their law firms to choose between their pro bono and paying clients.…

“We teach our students that lawyers have a professional obligation to ensure that even the most despised and unpopular individuals and groups receive zealous and effective legal representation.… In a free and democratic society, government officials should not encourage intimidation or retaliation against layers who are fulfilling their pro bono obligations.”

“What can I tell you?” says Michael Ratner. “Lawyers in these cases — there has been an outpouring of support — get into pretty fundamental stuff. A couple of hundred lawyers have by now been down to Guantanamo, and they’re of all kinds, Republicans, Democrats, Jews, Christians, Muslims, atheists.

“And another thing: The government is losing,” Ratner continued. “More than 200 habeas corpus petitions have been signed on behalf of 350 detainees. The cases are now on appeal and will ultimately go before the Supreme Court. And Charles Stimson is not just some bad guy, he’s the guy in charge of the detainees, and he’s trying to undercut their lawyers. It’s like the old maxim: If you can’t attack on the merits, you attack the lawyers. I think Mr. Stimson should be censured or fired or both.”

Shakespeare’s Dick the Butcher was a bit ahead of his time. Just think where Moliere, Jonathan Swift, Honoré Daumier, Kurt Vonnegut, Bertolt Brecht and dear old Izzy Stone could have taken this (very dangerous) farce from “First, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

Reader Services


Email our editor



The Villager is published by
Community Media LLC.

145 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 229-1890 Fax: (212) 229-2790
Advertising: (646) 452-2465 •
© 2006 Community Media, LLC

Email: news@thevillager.com

Written permission of the publisher must be obtainedbefore any of the contents of this newspaper, in whole or in part, can be reproduced or redistributed.