Convictions: good and bad

I sat next to Lynne Stewart at the National Lawyers Guild convention PATRIOT Act panel at which we both spoke in October 2003. Stewart had nothing of substance to say about the Act; she merely held herself out before a sympathetic audience as Exhibit A in John Ashcroft’s alleged war on the Constitution. In “Face to face with Lynne Stewart,” I summarized her remarks as follows:

Stewart referred several times to 9/11 as providing the “pretext” or “excuse” for snuffing out idealistic “activists” such as she. Her indictment, she acknowledged, was not brought under the PATRIOT Act but, according to Stewart, it resulted from the same “aura” of hatred directed at Islam in the wake of 9/11. Stewart never once acknowledged the reality of the war against the United States or the peril that those such as her client the blind sheik pose to it. Stewart’s conclusion articulated her theme in the old Guild tradition, accusing the Bush administration of accomplishing the “usurpation [of civil liberties] by voracious corporate government.”

Stewart spouted the traditional Marxist blather of the National Lawyers Guild while purporting to speak on behalf of constitutional rights that Marxists detest. The charade is of a piece with her (and her supporters’) protestations regarding the infringement of the attorney-client relationship that Stewart betrayed by making herself the willing tool of a terrorist client in his desire to promote terrorism.
Stewart’s lies to the government in connection with the prison meeting with her client represent the falsity and bad faith that permeate her case. In a work of literature Stewart’s lies would constitute synecdoche, the rhetorical device in which a part stands for the whole.
When I saw Stewart in the fall of 2003, she appeared complacent about the charges against her and confident that she would prevail at trial. She herself had bamboozled juries on behalf of guilty clients frequently enough that she may well have believed she would escape unscathed. Her conviction seems to me a milestone in the war on terrorism.


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