Friday, March 07, 2008

Washington Times op-ed

NIMJ's web site has a link to this op-ed from yesterday's Washington Times arguing that the military justice system is treating servicemembers accused of killing Iraqis unfairly.

We have previously noted the evolving narrative that the military justice system takes care of its own and devalues the lives of Iraqi victims. This piece by radio host Rick Amato presents a counter-narrative.

One particularly clumsy part of the op-ed did make me laugh. When I became a Marine Corps judge advocate, the Harvard Law educated Brigadier General David Brahms was the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant. In an apparent attempt to build General Brahms' credibility, Amato refers to him as "retired Brig. Gen. David Brahms, a military defense lawyer who served as technical consultant to the movie 'A Few Good Men.'" What does it say about America's over-infatuation with celebrity that being a consultant for "A Few Good Men" was considered more important than all of General Brahms' other impressive attributes?

19 comments:

Christopher Mathews said...

So is Gen Brahms the person I can blame for plea-bargaining Class B and Class C misdemeanors on the softball diamond?

Tony Cossio said...

It shows that Americans are largely ignorant on how things work in our country, and as such need a type of link to something they can understand or relate too.

I can list many actors, businessmen, politicians, etc, that have graduated from Ivy League schools, wrote brilliant articles, made a tremendous impact on humanity, yet they are known for seemingly insignificant things, both good and bad (Bill Clinton, Duke Cunningham, etc).

For example, when people think of Jimmy Stewart not many know of his impressive military service as a Brigadier General nor his success as a business man (Southwest Airlines). Yet he is known for his movies rather than his outstanding service.

Unfortunately the movie "A Few Good Men", while a fine movie that is ingrained in many minds, is poor on factual basis.

Inaccuracies such as a LIO of "conduct unbecoming a Marine" and others to numerous to enumerate all, makes me wonder why any JAG would want his name as a "consultant" to such a movie loaded with inaccuracies.

It's like saying you were an ex-special forces member consulting for Transformers or Rambo.

However, I wonder how much advice is taken from these consultants and what there role is. It could be that their advice is overruled in favor for a more intriguing storyline, or other unsaid reasons.

In summation, Americans and indeed people throughout history have almost always been more impressed with the outer and not the inner. I have given up wondering why people are more swayed by appearances rather than substance. We have short attention spans and often remember the most insignificant piece of information about someone.

It’s not so much an “over-infatuation with celebrities” (although plainly that does exist as the media shoves it down our throats) as it is a social norm to look at, and remember, someone for relatively insignificant details that stick in our minds to include our friends, coworkers, and family no matter what accomplishments they have amassed.

You see this in both micro and macro social systems. Personally, when people think of you what is the first thing that comes to mind? Do they think first that you served as the Chief Defense Counsel for the Office of Military Commissions, that you are a graduate of the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia School of Law, and a Colonel in the Marines? Or the hundreds of cases you have handled, your work with the ACLU and civil liberties? Or any other major accomplishment? Or do they think of some seemingly benign factoid?

Charles Manson said...

I just wanted to comment that I agree with Tony Cossio about everything...and I appreciate the higher quality of CAAFlog contributors of late.

Lionel Hutz said...

Mr. Manson, I have to dissent. I am afraid Mr. Cossio is a man convicted of numerous offenses. Therefore his opinion on life is worthless. One must be squeaky clean and have written numerous publish articles over many years to be able to comment on life.

Better still that man have a long history of representing clients in cases involving allegations of fraud, civil conspiracy, legal malpractice, unfair lending practices, and unfair competition, as well as in cases involving application of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the Alien Tort Claims Act that would make anything that Mr. Cossio done look like jay walking.

Only such a man, with a long history of chasing ambulances, hoodwinking juries for large settlements, and representing honest clients like those in the insurance industry has any right to talk about duty, service, commitment, and of course integrity.

One could certainly argue that Mr. Cossio is as honest as any other man. But then you would be missing the point. Mr. Cossio has been convicted, and that means there is a record, a piece of paper and a file, containing his deceitful acts.

If he was smart about it, he would get his law degree and start his career as a professional liar were he could lie with relative impunity and bust hospitals and hard working doctors, milking them for all they are worth and collecting his 30%.

But no, he allegedly chooses to send another accused thief’s money to a Russian Charity. As you can see his credibility is lacking, being a thief and all. It is better to ignore the ideology of a perpetrator, even if he does make sense we must discount everything he says based off a multitude of crimes he has committed.

John O'Connor said...

Well done, Mr. Hutz. I commend you on your research ability. Hopefully you are still giving out the business cards that become a sponge when put in the water.

Lionel Hutz said...

Thank You, I did got to Harvard, Yale, MIT, Oxford, the Sorbonne, the Louvre, and Princeton.

In addition to litigation I also do the following: Prosecutor, babysitter, shoe repair, substitute teacher, dumpster diving, acting, mooching, champion golf player, and I've spent last 20 years trying to solve the Rubik's Cube. Now I sell real-estate.

The business cards were great, but what really got me the big clients was the drawer full of smoking monkeys and the promise of "Cases won in 30 minutes or your pizza's free".

Anonymous said...

And here I thought the posts might actually have something to do with the USMC Iraq related courts and the ever entertaining BG Brahms.

BTW, you can't blame any consultant to Hollywood for what shows up on the screen, have done some of that myself, and discovered that the folks making the shows tend to ignore reality in lieu of "drama". But, heck it is the movies, not reality.

Anonymous said...

BTW, you can't blame any consultant to Hollywood for what shows up on the screen, have done some of that myself, and discovered that the folks making the shows tend to ignore reality in lieu of "drama". But, heck it is the movies, not reality.

Your concern was already touched upon on the previous post using "our understanding of the ways of the world" approach:

"However, I wonder how much advice is taken from these consultants and what there role is.It could be that their advice is overruled in favor for a more intriguing storyline, or other unsaid reasons."

TC said...

I feel bad for clogging the post with inane rhetoric, so let's look at BG Brahms from wikipedia:

Military career

Brahms, a 1959 Harvard College graduate (B.A. Psychology), had taken a Platoon Leaders Course, while a student at Harvard Law School, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1961. Brahms graduated from Harvard Law School in 1962. He completed Basic Officer training, and training in military law in 1963, and then served as a military lawyer in the 2nd Marine Division from November 1963 to June 1965, during which time he served in the Dominican Republic during an incursion there.

By 1969, he had been promoted to Major and was sent to serve with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Da Nang, Vietnam.

In 1976 and 1977 he attended the National Law Center George Washington University, where he studied law psychiatry and criminology, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

Brahms was promoted to Brigadier General in 1985, prior to serving as Director, Judge Advocate Division, for the final three years of his active military career. In 1988 he retired from active military service.

Post-military career

Since his retirement from the Marine Corps, Brahms has been in private practice of law in Carlsbad California. Brahms is also on the board of directors of the Judge Advocates Association.

Brahms served as a technical consultant for the Hollywood movie A Few Good Men.

Open letter to President Bush of September 7, 2004

On September 7, 2004 Brahms and seven other retired officers wrote an open letter to President Bush expressing their concern over the number of allegations of abuse of prisoners in U.S. military custody. In it they wrote:

"We urge you to commit – immediately and publicly – to support the creation of a comprehensive, independent commission to investigate and report on the truth about all of these allegations, and to chart a course for how practices that violate the law should be addressed."

Scalia recusal

On March 28, 2006 Brahms, and five other retired officers, called on US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to recuse himself from considering Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. On March 27, 2006 comments Scalia had made on the Guantanamo detainees and whether they were entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions were widely republished. The officers felt that Scalia's comments showed he had already prejudged the merits of Hamdan's case before hearing the arguments in court.

The Washington Post observed that, while a Justice was required to recuse himself or herself when they had a conflict of interest, the decision as to whether recusal was necessary was left to the discretion of the Justice in question.

Representation in Haditha Incident

Mr. Brahms is currently representing one of the seven Marines accused of a war crime in the Iraqi city of Haditha. Brahms has argued that the conditions his client has been held in are subpar to even Saddam Hussein's prison conditions in Iraq, and likened the situation to that of a federal Supermax prison facility.

------------------------

A very interesting fellow indeed.

His Biography on FindLaw
Reveals he has a mutant ability to appear youthful beyond his years (yes, he looks young for his age), besides that he is the author of Step to A Different Drummer Military Law Review, 1970 and outside of law:

He is was on the Rotary International Carlsbad, California Club
Board of Directors (1991-1992)

Anonymous said...

No disrespect meant to Mr. Cossio's comment on James Stewart, but I don't understand what he is getting at. I am also annoyed at how the media feels the need to make a glib cultural reference pandering to the lowest common denominator in order to put a person's importance and achievements into context. In General Brahms's case, it's clear that his life and career went far beyond being a consultant on "A Few Good Men."

But in James Stewart's case, I don't think it reflects any shallowness on the part of the larger population that they know him better for his vast film career than they do for his impressive military service or side business ventures. James Stewart was one of our finest film stars to come out of Hollywood. He appeared in countless undisputed classics and worked with almost every major director of his time period (Hitchcock, Capra, Cukor, Billy Wilder, Anthony Mann, Lubitsch, John Ford, etc.) His work as an actor IS what we primarily know him for, and there's nothing wrong with that. His military service and business success serve to enhance one's respect for him, but they are only one aspect of a complex and well-rounded man.

Anonymous said...

Don't look now,
but you're making an argument. (sorry, we are talking about a Few Good Men I couldn't resist)

Well, in my opinion his extensive military service outweighs his acting as far as contribution to society. But you make a good argument that is what he is known for primarily his film roles; there is nothing wrong with that, as opposed to BG Brahms who should be known for his contributions to justice, and not as a consultant for a mildly entertaining movie. Also Stewart's film roles were inspirational and of a higher standard as opposed to the junk on today’s silver screen. So it just very well could be an apples to oranges comparison both on magnitude of public notoriety and the substance of today’s movies vs. yesterdays.

I don't know, it may not matter, but I think Jimmy Stewart preferred his military service over acting:

Interview with Friends of Jimmy Stewart

Here is an except:

"...While filming in Nogales, Stewart was promoted from colonel to brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Stewart played a major in the film. According to one newspaper report, two soldiers from the Fort Huachuca Military Police "arrested" Stewart on the set for being out of uniform, wearing civilian socks and displaying the wrong insignia.

The practical joke was revealed when retired Brig. Gen. Frank Dorn, the film's technical adviser, pinned the real stars on Stewart's lapels.

"Stewart was very patriotic," said film historian Fred Goodwin. "Most people don't know that he was one of the very first people to volunteer for service in World War II."

"He was a big-time Hollywood star when he volunteered," Goodwin added. "He went in as a pilot and flew a lot of missions. He was a bona fide pilot. He wasn't one of those guys who just sat by the side. He saw combat in World War II.

"In fact, when he got out of the service in 1945, he didn't know if he wanted to go back into acting or not."

Luckily for moviegoers, director Frank Capra talked Stewart into making It's a Wonderful Life...."

Anonymous said...

How come wikipedia doesn't indicate that Brahms flunked the California bar the first time he sat for it?

Anonymous said...

Wow, didn't know that.

People writting in wikipedia usually have a bias towards what they are writting about. But to be fair you will not find that nugget of information on his Official Biography either.

Why? Probably the same reason I don't mention anything I screwed up on.

Anonymous said...

This is the commenter who posted the James Stewart comment earlier today. While I agree that Stewart probably made a greater contribution to society with his military service, I'm not going to make that judgment call. Probably only Stewart himself can. I was only saying that there's nothing wrong with the notion that more people know him for his filmwork. (Director John Ford was purportedly prouder of having been a Naval reserve officer than of his magnificent film career, but that doesn't mean his film career should be considered less important.) I think the fact that there were different sides to Stewart and John Ford and others like them contributes to my overall respect for these men.

But, if we're gonna make a judgment call about Stewart, I would argue the fact that he was married to the same woman for 45 years and was by all accounts a good husband and father might be his greatest contribution to society.

Anonymous said...

I concur :)

TC

Anonymous said...

I concur :)

TC

Gene Fidell said...

Addendum re Jimmy Stewart. When the Swiss protested the inadvertent bombing of Zurich by U.S. aircraft during World War II (one of a number of such incidents), it was felt a court-martial was needed to show we were taking the complaints seriously. Jimmy Stewart served as president of the court. For more information see http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj00/sum00/helmreich1.htm. (I'm indebted to Prof. Detlev F. Vagts for calling this incident to my attention.)

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, it's not often acknowledged, but Stewart's film roles in the 1950s were much darker than what we usually associate him with. The Hitchcock films and Anthony Mann westerns often had him in tougher, darker and edgier roles. Even the latter-half of "It's a Wonderful Life" reflected this. This just goes to show that, even on-screen, Stewart could not be pigeonholed.

The Real Tony Cossio said...

I don't know who posted that racist comment under my name, but I can find out. That is if I cared to put in the effort.

I do not tolerate the misuse of my name, not at all.

I would expect more from an educated man, but I guess I am dealing with an adolescent adult, the sanctimonious type, like a Fiscus, Brown, Murphy, Spitzer, or Nifong variety.

You got a problem with me? I don’t know if it is arrogance or stupidity---perhaps its both, that compels you to provoke me.

If you’re such a big man why don't you step out of your fa├žade and address me through argument and reasoning.

However, if you are incapable and cowardly to do so, and want to continue and resort to such low grade tactics, I'll oblige you by looking up your IP and finding out what computer you are using in what you think, very arrogantly, is your safe haven behind a desk.

I do understand if the years of talking to stupid juries have dulled your senses to a point were you can no longer reason that provoking an ex-con may not be a good idea. It’s not like I have a history of (1) computer related crimes such as going into phone records, e-mail accounts, making facsimile DOD websites, and accessing bank accounts (2) holding a grudge and vendetta.

You must have had a moment of insanity or on drugs to make that comment. So I’ll let you go just this once.

Just remember this:

Nemo me impune lacessit