Major David Frakt was until this month one of those military lawyers I referenced cryptically last fall, who have been saving the Constitution every day at Guantanamo: quietly, bravely saying no to orders and procedures they found illegal. I first learned about these folks two years or so (!) ago, from crack attorney Bridget Wilson; I thought I’d have to go through back channels to find one willing to come forward and be in my book. I knew they belonged in Ain’t Marching, and didn’t want their stories as forgotten as those of WORMS ((We Openly Resist Military Stupidity), those Air Force linguists stationed in Asia who quietly refused to assist during the 1972 Christmas bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong.
As it turned out, no such search was needed.
Torture has a way of raising the volume.
Major Frakt, a judge-advocate general serving at Guantanamo, volunteered for the hazardous duty of defending Mohammed Jawad, a detaineee accused of the attempted murder of two US soldiers in Afghanistan in 2002.
Jawad was sixteen years old when captured; by the time he was brought before a military tribunal this spring, he had been subjected to 14 consecutive days of sleep deprivation. So instead, Frakt filed a request that the charges be dismissed:
“Our values as a nation, values that we share with many nations in the world, call for us to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not legally entitled to such treatment. . . As a matter of policy the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely, and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.”
With these fateful and ill-advised words, President Bush, our Commander-in-Chief, perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not, started the U.S. down a slippery slope, a path that quickly descended, stopping briefly in the dark, Machiavellian world of “the ends justify the means,” before plummeting further into the bleak underworld of barbarism and cruelty, of “anything goes,” of torture. It was a path that led inexorably to the events that brings us here today, the pointless and sadistic treatment of Mohammad Jawad, a suicidal teenager.
If you have time, listen to Frakt speak to PRI on July 4th, about how his action fulfilled his vow to defend the Constitution. At the very least, go read his full statement. Then add him to the list, from Donald Duncan to Hugh Thompson to Antonio Taguba: career military folks, with a lot to lose by speaking out but did so anyway. They may need their own chapter in the book, though I suspect they’ll shine just as well as part of each war’s own story.