I mentioned this presentation in yesterday’s Manning post, and thought I’d post it at the end. But when I actually saw it, I realized that as important as David Coombs was the presentation by Michael Ratner, longtime anchor of the Center for Constitutional Rights. When I met Ratner in 2004, was bemused when I told him that some American soldiers were nearly as powerless as the Guantanamo detainees I was interviewing him about. But that was before Wikileaks rocked CCR’s world, likely due to this one military prankster. (Also before Ratner’s late mentor, William Kunstler, became a major character in this book.) At right, Ratner in Democracy Now’s coverage of last week’s proceedings.
Now, watch as Ratner narrates — with aplomb born of outrage— the experience Manning described of his unprecedented pre-trial detention. If former Major William Kunstler was watching from the beyond, he was applauding. Watch that part, even if you have no patience for the careful arguments of Manning’s attorney.
Coombs (left), who has deep experience in state and federal courts, also states that military courts are the most fair for defendants that exist, something of which I am not yet persuaded. But his description of how this trial has unfolded is utterly captivating, and worth a listen.
If my book is about soldiers and veterans who dissent, Coombs — a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves with 12 years of active service — may be its embodiment, perhaps more than Manning himself. In any event, he and Ratner ensure that we know, as Arthur Miller once wrote, “Attention must be paid.”