Friday, July 16, 2010

In Memoriam: Charles Benjamin Gittings, Jr.

“Charles Benjamin Gittings Jr., who for nearly nine years ran a website dedicated to stopping prisoner abuse in the war on terrorism, died Wednesday at his home in Fort Bragg, Calif., after a long battle with cancer. He would have been 58 next week.

Though not a lawyer, Gittings had a life-long interest in military tactics and law that led him to become an invaluable resource to some of the nation's greatest experts in the field.

His death prompted an outpouring of tributes from civil liberties attorneys across the nation who worked with him to try to close the prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” [….]

Full obituary notice here.

I knew Charles from his frequent comments at Opinio Juris. In one such comment thread from last year in which he was taken to task for lack of a formal legal background, I wrote in support as follows:


How dare you have the chutzpah (or temerity, audacity…) to attempt to understand the law! Why you’re just a layperson, a non-lawyer no less, and you think you possess the ability “to parse through the complex international legal doctrines, deduce that those legal doctrines were violated by the Bush administration, then tackle the complex issue of the application of international law in the domestic sphere, and again deduce that those international legal norms create domestic legal obligations, and then, after all that, go though the legal minefield that is determining if said violations impart criminal liability through the chain of command all the way up to the upper echelons of the Bush administration”???!!!!

While I’ll admit to being sometimes put off by your rhetoric and tone, I still have much admiration for the tenacity of your dedicated and assiduous amateur pursuits in this area and I do think your head and heart are often in the right place, which is more than one might say for a few legal scholars or lawyers. Anyway, persevere. [….]

To which he replied:

“Well thanks for the props Patrick. The tone is just a symptom of my frustration. It’s been seven years now, and the facts simply could not be much more obvious than they are right now.

These people are murderous war criminals and demented neo-fascists who have literally spent eight years systematically subverting and corrupting the laws of the United States for criminal purposes. That isn’t rhetoric, it’s a fact.

I understood a long time ago is that the only way to solve a problem is to first understand it, I’ve got seven years of evidence that says my analysis has been right on the money from day one, and all of it was purely a matter of analyzing the facts.

What can I say?

I don’t have a lot of fancy academic credentials because school always slowed me down and I’m mostly self-educated, but I know what I’m doing and I know that I’m good at it because I’ve been at it for almost 50 years now.

The problem here is that so many folks get stuck in tape recorded conventional wisdom and institutional mindsets and don’t analyze the facts; and look where it’s gotten us — it’s enough to make me scream.”

Here’s the website Charles maintained: Project to Enforce the Geneva Conventions.

Update: See too this post by Andy Worthington of the New Left Project.

Cross-posted at


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