Review - IN THE COMPANY OF COWARDS, Michael Mori

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

When Michael (Dan) Mori first appeared on our TV screens, and in print, defending David Hicks, his sincerity, and his belief in fair play always shone through. As did the way that he appeared to consider his words, take care with the message he was delivering, and acted with the best will in the world to do what was right by his client. In short, he always seemed like a very impressive human being, and after reading his book, can't shake the feeling that we're lucky to have him here now in Australia.

David Hicks, and his time spent in Guantanamo Bay has been documented in the past in his own book, and one by an ABC journalist. I doubt there's an Australian who doesn't at least have some knowledge of the case, and an opinion. Regardless of whether or not your political leanings are to the left or the right though, there is always the presumption that justice, and a fair trial are part of what it means to live in a democracy. Personally I've no patience for, or understanding of, the "why do you need a defence in cases like this" argument. It's ignorant. Having now read IN THE COMPANY OF COWARDS, it's hard to be less convinced of the need for two sides in a trial, as it is hard to understand how the system of Military Commissions ever was allowed to come into being. And what our Prime Minister and Cabinet were doing supporting them.

Whilst I'd be the first to say that there's very little to admire about Howard's coalition government, and considerably more to regret, reading this book makes you realise how insidious the active disengagement process had become. Mori's own increasing despair at the unfairness of the system he was working within is palpable in this book, although at no point does this disintegrate into a rant. He's even-handed in the telling, which probably makes the nature of the system, and the way it was supported here, even more concerning.

It will not be at all surprising if likely suspects leap to with partisan political "takes" about this book, although to be frank, they are going to have to work hard at making this sound like anything more or less than what it is. An insider's view of the Military Commissions, and the treatment of a particular individual who was held without charge for an inexcusably long period of time, who was subjected to horrendous mistreatment and who was ultimately swept under the carpet into something / anything to get this mess out from under the upcoming Federal Election. Mori is, was and remains a man who comes across as a man who believes absolutely in due process. He's a Military lawyer, a man experienced in both prosecution and defence, and somebody who went on to become a Navy-Marine Corps Military Judge in Hawaii.

IN THE COMPANY OF COWARDS does not read like a point scoring exercise, a grandiose attempt to garner publicity, or even a blow by blow analysis of war policy. It's a look at a deeply, profoundly, terminally flawed system, implemented in haste, bolstered and carried by political masters, in an attempt to do what? As Mori says, the worst of the worst can be tried in the Military Court-Martial system (and were and have been since). Cautionary tale if ever there was one.

Year of Publication

On a beautiful, balmy evening in Cuba in 2007, David Hicks walked out of Guantanamo Bay, in that moment ceasing to be a detainee of the United States and regaining his rights as an Australian citizen. Watching on was the man who had fought for four long years for Hicks's right to go home: Major Michael Mori.

Having grown up as an all-American boy, Mori joined the US Marine Corps as an eighteen-year-old, determined to give his life order and to serve the country he held dear. After training and serving as a military lawyer, he accepted a position as a defence counsel for the military commissions set up in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And then David Hicks's case file landed on his desk.

A firm believer in the importance of due process, Mori grew increasingly alarmed by how the military and the US and Australian governments were handling the Hicks case, and others like it. Why was a distinction being made between 'unlawful combatants' and 'prisoners of war'? Why was the Australian government refusing to intervene for one of its people? And what specific crime – if any – had Hicks allegedly committed that deserved years of incarceration without trial?

What followed was a long struggle for justice, and one man's gradual disillusionment with the institution that he had signed up to fight for. Michael Mori rallied the support of the Australian people as he exposed an unfair system, changing the way we saw our government and the War on Terror.

Review Review - IN THE COMPANY OF COWARDS, Michael Mori
Karen Chisholm
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Blog Currently Reading - In the Company of Cowards, Michael (Dan) Mori
Karen Chisholm
Friday, October 3, 2014

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