October 25, 2007

Soldier In The Dark


(Note: This is the third of three related images I’m examining today.  The first two are posted at Huffington.  After you’ve seen all three, I’m happy for BAGreaders to discuss them all here.)

This is a photo of Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz, former military lawyer and Deputy Legal Advisor for the Army at Guantanamo.  The image, along with his story, was featured this past Sunday in the NYT Magazine.

In March 2005, disillusioned with the legal stonewalling and judicial end-arounds at the facility, Diaz anonymously sent the names of the 551 men being held anonymously at Gitmo to the Center for Constitutional Rights, an activist legal rights organization which was seeking due process for the detainees.  Diaz was arrested shortly after, and on May 18th of this year, was convicted of disclosing secret defense information.  (The names, by the way, have since been released under the Freedom of Information Act.)  Diaz was sentenced to six months in prison and dismissal from the army.  He has been stripped of his right to practice military law, and potentially faces civil disbarment as well.

One thing distinctive here, as compared to the other two portraits, is the lack of background.  Dramatic as it — in the dark, as the outcast — the explanation might also be practical.  Since I’m pretty sure this photo was taken at a brig in Charleston (which Diaz is scheduled to leave this month), I can imagine him not wanting the place in the background, then offered for national consumption.

If you read the article, you’ll see that Diaz had a lot of adversity before becoming a lawyer and joining the military.  What is most tragic about this image — besides the fact Matthew Diaz is caught in the lower edge of extended darkness, facing the prospect of starting from the beginning, appearing to be sinking and losing his head to the shadows — is that he is still wearing his uniform.  With his punishment in mind, he might as well be naked.

Going back to the other two portraits, Diaz is the only one who doesn’t see the light.  In a statement that is horribly telling about this war, this lawyer — a heroic example of collateral damage — ends up with the light, the glare, on him.

See Huffington companion post: Soldiers In Heaven.

(image: Andrew Council/New York Times. nytimes.com)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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