Monday, July 02, 2007

Boston Legal - Guantanamo By The Bay

I've mentioned in the past that I don't normally write about political, religious or otherwise controversial topics. Besides the fact I'm a middle of the road kind of guy politically, I LIKE my readers, ALL of them - so I try to stay away from the polarizing issues that tend to send 1/2 your friends packing.

But a few months ago one of my favorites shows, Boston Legal, aired an episode I thought was particularly well written and dared to take a shot at the issue of torturing Guantanamo detainees.

In this case, I have no problem admitting I don't agree that the US government has the right to deny detainees legal representation and I especially don't agree with the loophole that it's OK to torture them just because they're not technically on "American soil." Although, I can't see why this would be viewed as a particularly partisan issue. It's not like Republicans are saying "torture is good" and only Democrats are saying "torture is bad." I think it's pretty safe to assume that everyone would agree that torturing human beings is wrong. At least I would hope so.

In this episode, Alan Shore (James Spader) is suing the federal government on behalf of a client who was tortured for two years at Guantanamo Bay. Even though this issue is anything but funny, I really enjoyed Alan's dripping sarcasm in his closing argument, and thought I'd share that piece of the transcript here.

(In Judge Marianna Folger’s courtroom, US Attorney Mark Freestone makes his closing)

US Attorney Mark Freestone: Nobody knows how to fight this war. It’s like no other we’ve ever encountered. The one thing that we do know is that we have to be extremely proactive with our intelligence. It’s the only way that we can prevent another attack such as nine eleven. That’s why Guantanamo exists. And it works. We’ve learned how Bin-Laden has evaded capture. Now we didn’t get this stuff by saying, “Pretty please.” Torture sometimes has to be used when you’re talking about saving the lives of the masses. Both civilians at home and soldiers abroad. Now, do innocent people sometimes get captured? Yes. Mr. Kallah was evidently one. It was difficult to determine that initially because he refused to cooperate, but once it was so determined, he was let go. The question here is whether the government should be forced to stand trial every time it makes a mistake. As Colonel Hegarty stated, that would burden the war effort beyond measure. Not just financially. But militarily. The discovery process alone would unearth information that would aid the enemy. Come on! A little common sense here! We’re in a war for God’s sake.

(He sits down. Alan pauses a moment and gets up for his closing.)

Alan Shore: Your Honor, I believe a lawyer should put his country before his client, and for that reason I’m gonna take the unusual step of asking you to dismiss my client’s lawsuit. (He sits down.)

US Attorney Mark Freestone: (He scoffs) Objection. It’s a trick.

Alan Shore: It’s not a trick. Even though you argue and I would agree… (He stands).…that nobody knows how to fight this war. We should nevertheless defer to the Executive Branch who have indeed demonstrated a particular expertise. I, for one, just can’t wait to see what they do next. (He sits down.)

Judge Marianna Folger (Bernadette Peters): Mr. Shore! I told you I would not allow this case to become a political football.

Alan Shore: (Standing) And I give you my word, your Honor, not a single toss of the pigskin. And, by the way, if one were to condemn Guantanamo, which I would never, it certainly wouldn’t be an indictment of just the administration but of the entire Congress, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama included. Congress’s silence can only be attributed to consent, acquiescence, or disinterest, take your pick. But it’s at least safe to say they don’t much care. I should mention Joe Biden because he wants people to know he’s running too.

Judge Marianna Folger: Tell me why you care.

Alan Shore: I don’t. I say, “Dismiss.” My client cares, but come on, he’s a whiner. So he got beat up a little. Duct taped. Sexually violated. He never should have been over there offering humanitarian aid in the first place. And then what? He expects to be heard? Get a trial? A lawyer? He wants the government to show evidence. (He turns to Benyam and yells) We’re in a war! We need to make sacrifices! (He turns to the Judge, shakes his head and makes a “get a load of this guy” gesture at Benyam.) And we should start with the little things. Like human rights. I agree that the Executive Branch has a particular expertise. In fact, I think they’ve been brilliant. Calling the prisoners enemy combatants instead of prisoners so we can end run the Geneva Convention, and torture them? Brilliant! Basing the camp in Cuba so the Constitution won’t really get in our way? Brilliant! And under the Pentagon’s new draft guideline, this is my favorite, I’m sure it will be yours, we’ll have little tribunals in Guantanamo that allow suspects to be jailed for life. Or even executed on evidence that would never be admissible in civilian or military court. Imagine being able to execute somebody on triple hearsay, or on totally coerced confession. Brilliant! (He sits down)

US Attorney Mark Freestone: I object. Counsel doesn’t wanna take this seriously.

Alan Shore: Why should I? Who does? The American public? The media? - who might give it mention if only there weren’t so many starving actresses with drug problems to focus on. Congress? Why should any of us take it seriously? We’re torturing people. We’re holding them indefinitely. Many with no evidence. Giving them no trials. No lawyers. It’s laughable. And then when they finally kill themselves we call it “manipulative, selfinjurious behavior” an act of “asymmetric warfare” waged against us. It’s all very funny! Very funny! Maybe the only reason we aren’t having a really good laugh is because the little Gitmo tricks have started popping up close to home. The recent revelations of FBI abuses of the Patriot Act. All those bogus subpoenas and manufactured evidence against American citizens. Maybe it’s just ruined some of the fun of Gitmo. Oh well. We’re in a war. We all need to lighten up a little. (He sits down)


Elizabeth said...

Wow, I don't have cable television so I've never seen the show, but just reading the transcript gave me chills! I may have to get it on NetFlix!

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

elizabeth - James Spader is a blast in that role, I think you would enjoy it. The show is on ABC on Tuesdays at 9c so if you get regular network TV you should be able to catch it.

Anonymous said...

Boston Legal has been our favorite show, ever since it came on the tube--but--it's not been on for the last 2 or 3 weeks. Do you still get it? Hopefully it will be back in the fall.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

mom - No, it's probably off for the summer. You may be able to catch reruns but I don't know what ABC has going on these days.

deborah said...

I've never seen an episode, are they all like this?

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Well, James Spader's character is pretty much always sarcastic and usually very funny. The show itself is a mix of light comical (bordering on goofy lately) situations with usually one serious topic in each episode. Throw in a talented cast of seasoned actors and you've got a pretty entertaining show.

Mom Thumb said...

Loved that episode. I don't even mind watching the reruns of this show. Just when I thought William Shatner's career was kaput, he nailed it with Denny Crane!

Anonymous said...

Scene 1 A car bomb explodes in a Bagdad marketplace killing about 50 shoppers including the suicide bomber. Scene 2 A ball of blood and guts appears before God requesting virgins. It said, You have to love me God because I killed hundreds of moslems that worship you differently. Some I tortured with electric drills, acid, dunking chairs, electric shock, or heated steel. If I was in a hurry I just blew them up in their schools, hospitals, and mosques, so restore me and bring on the girls. Scene 3 A trapdoor opens and he falls into a fiery hole as God says, "Admit his victims, because I am the God of love not cruelty and hate. I also order the Imans that lied to this fool go directly to hell". Look it up 1 John 4-19

yoo hoo said...

WOW, the thing that saddens me is I would really like to have someone NOT in television stand up to the current administration with the force and conviction needed to make "good things" happen. I'm very alarmed today.

Sandy said...

That's brilliant! Jonathan Swift would be so proud.

Thanks for this. I've never watched that show, but I love James Spader, and I'll probably start checking it out this summer.

Mooselet said...

This show is on here, but I'm not certain if it's on free-to-air tv or cable - I don't watch tv much. I do love James Spader, though.

And I am in total agreement with you on Gitmo.

April said...

Thanks for sending me down this trip down memory lane. *sigh* Yes. I really really miss this show already.