So, Michael opposed war with every fiber of his being in every medium he had access to: the courtroom, the classroom, in the media. And he knew that legal challenges to protect humans from authoritarian abuses and violence and torture were necessary — that was his project in Guantánamo — and he also knew about the horrors of war, and could manage both at the same time. So, September 23rd, 2001, he gave a talk in which he said, “This is not a lawful basis for the U.S. to engage in war. This is a crime under international law,” citing the Nuremberg precedent, and argued that we should not pursue war but pursue war crimes and crimes against humanity against the perpetrators. And over and over again, he was opposed to war. And the irony of sort of lumping Michael with people who try to make war humane, among many other pieces of evidence, Michael’s project, throughout the 2000s and before, from his experience in challenging war waged by the Clinton administration in Kosovo, is to say, very specifically, the idea of humanitarian war is impossible, because it is just a mask for U.S. forms of hegemony.
So, Professor Moyn has somewhat walked back his critique, suggested that the title was chosen by the editor and not him, but I think the content of his article, as you excerpted, stands and is profoundly misguided. Michael understood that lawyering has a particular role in society. It’s not where the war is won, but it’s where the battle has to be fought, alongside all other sorts of means to leverage, the power of movements to challenge repression. That’s what Michael stood for, and in no way did he ever sanitize war.
— source democracynow.org | Oct 01, 2021