Memento Mori

I attended a function this afternoon put on by Liberty Victoria featuring Major Mori the marine who has been appointed to defend David Hicks. Maybe I’m making it up, but I’ve always thought this guy was great. You can catch him tomorrow night giving a public lecture details here (pdf).

The story of the Unites States of America is such a romantic one, that it’s not surprising that some people take it seriously, and that’s what Mori seems to be doing. I spoke to him briefly before his talk and said that it seemed to me that American soldiers were more forthright in their criticism of conditions than it seemed to me that ours would be (publicly that is). He said they could get into trouble like anyone else and that there was not any strong tradition of protecting the right to dissent in the US military.

I asked him whether there was any tradition within the US military that upheld the dignity and the independence of those doing what he is doing defending accused people in courts martial. He said that there was not particularly (though of course American institutions have been strong enough to prevent him being pulled off the case for being serious about trying to defend his client). Interestingly he got asked almost the same question publicly after his brief talk.

As I was watching him speak I wanted to say to him “you should see Breaker Morant. That’s a story similar to your own”. I imagined he would have seen it. Subsequently in speaking with people after his talk, he mentioned Breaker Morant and said that it was standard viewing in his induction into legal training within the American military (or perhaps he was talking about doing military law at law school he went to civilian law school after receiving his commission as a US Marine.)

In fact he mentioned Breaker Morant not in reference to the plucky lawyer with no resources battling the might of an empire and indifference elsewhere. (Australia was indifferent about the fate of Morant and Handcock, but for a more honourable reason than the current Government and Opposition are indifferent to due process for David Hicks).

In Wikipedia’s words

The British Army continued the cover-up of the case even after the deaths of the two men. There was no indication given beforehand that either the men or their regiment was in any kind of trouble, and due to British military censorship, reports of the trial and execution did not begin to appear in Australia until the end of March 1902. The Australian government and Lt. Handcock’s wife, who lived in Bathurst with their three children, only learned of Handcock and Morant’s death from the Australian newspapers weeks after their executions.

Rather than liken to his own lone efforts on behalf of people being denied reasonable due process he referred to the law in the case. As you’ll recall the case against the breaker and his two accomplices is that they should not have summarily executed enemy combatants that even enemy combatants including those who were not in enemy uniform had a right to due process.

Hmm . . .

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derrida derider
derrida derider
17 years ago

Yeah, the guy seems a man of courage and integrity. The contrast with our mealy-mouthed politicians (Rudd, Downer, Howard, etc) is instructive.

On Morant et al, though, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that they were as guilty as sin. Just because those prosecuting them were hypocritical doesn’t mean they themselves were admirable – something, of course, that the film (in the way of films) glosses over.

17 years ago

Nice post Nicholas.

Whenever I’ve heard Major Mori on Adelaide radio, I’ve always thought him to be very courageous and impressive. And deeply concerned about the justice of the treatment of Hicks.

I also thought that the personal bravery could be at some material cost to him in career terms. But then again this is exactly the sort of behaviour one should esteem in a soldier. “Superior orders” is not a defence just as “Rule 303” is not due process.

As I’ve said in a comment on a previous post in relation to Hicks, here in South Australia we have a lot or government rhetoric on “law and order” but precious little on “justice” and justice for Hicks in particular. Scandalous for someone who is a South Australian resident.
Words fails me to describe the poxy sophistry of Howard, Downer, Ruddock on Hicks.

Tiny Tyrant
17 years ago

Another reason why I like Mori and believe he is a hero, he’s a cricket fan. A VERY rare thing in the U.S.

david tiley
17 years ago

When we have a president, we won’t have that American thing about having to be born here.

He’d get some votes if he emigrated.