The Swiftboating of Moe Davis


With no record of accomplishment to run on and no policy proposals that will truly help the people of Western North Carolina, Republican candidate Madison Cawthorn has resorted to a desperate attempt at swiftboating Colonel Moe Davis in the 11th Congressional District race. This despite 25 years of service during which Col. Davis earned the Legion of Merit, one of the highest honors in the military.

“Swiftboating” is a campaign attack using smears and lies to question an opponent’s credibility and patriotism in a dishonest manner. That’s what a defamatory video put out by the Cawthorn campaign attempted to do to Col. Davis.

The accusation that Col. Davis, who earned numerous military honors, would turn against America to aid terrorists is both patently false and deliberately misleading. The record shows that Col. Davis consistently defended the rule of law – the very foundation of our democracy.

And how do we know the rule of law matters deeply to Col. Davis? Just ask Senator Lindsey Graham, who has known Col. Davis for over 30 years. You can find this comment from Graham written into the Congressional Record:

“I have been a member of the JAG Court for over 20 years. I have had the honor of serving with many men and women who will be in that court-martial scene. The chief prosecutor, Moe Davis, I met as a captain. There is no finer officer in the military than Col. Davis. He is committed to render justice.”

Here are the claims and the facts about Col. Davis and Guantanamo prisoners:

CLAIM: Mohammed Ould Slahi was sent to Gitmo in 2002 for recruiting jihadists for Al Qaeda, including two of the 911 hijackers Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Ziad Jarrah. Slahi’s attorney wrote, “in my efforts to free Slahi I found an unexpected ally. Colonel Moe Davis came forward in support of Mr. Slahi.” He is most grateful to Moe Davis for gaining his release. He has even endorsed his run for Congress saying, “good luck brother.” Moe Davis proudly posted support from this terrorist on his campaign website.

FACT: “The U.S. government detained Slahi in Guantanamo Bay for 14 years, but never charged him with an offense. As NPR’s David Welna reported in 2016, a Justice Department investigation found that Slahi “was beaten, sexually throttled, put in extreme isolation, shackled to the floor, stripped naked and put under strobe lights while being blasted with heavy metal music.” [NPR, 8/12/18]

CLAIM: Davis also testified on behalf of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards. And lawyers for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States, use Davis’s comments as a key piece of their defense of this 911 terrorist. How did the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay become the key witness for terrorists? In 2005, Moe Davis served as chief prosecutor at the US military’s detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. But after two years, he quit his post citing political pressure to bring cases to trial. Military records, however, revealed that his reason for leaving was a disagreement with his commanding officer whom he refused to serve under. Moe Davis then renounced several of his previously held positions on the militaries policies and on specific cases at Gitmo and began a public speaking tour traveling the country criticizing America’s war on terror.

FACT: Davis did not believe Hamdan was innocent, but instead testified about the unfairness of the trial. Hamdan was convicted, but the decision was later reversed in a 2012 opinion written by Brett Kavanaugh that called into question whether detainees accused of being part of Al Qaeda but not of plotting any specific attack could receive military trials. [New York Times, 10/16/12]

Colonel Davis, a career military lawyer nearing retirement at 49, said that he would never argue that Mr. Hamdan was innocent, but that he was ready to try to put the commission system itself on trial by questioning its fairness. He said that there “is a potential for rigged outcomes” and that he had “significant doubts about whether it will deliver full, fair and open hearings.”

“I’m in a unique position where I can raise the flag and aggravate the Pentagon and try to get this fixed,” he said, acknowledging that he is enjoying some aspects of his new role.  [New York Times, 2/28/08]

CLAIM: But after two years, he quit his post citing political pressure to bring cases to trial. Military records, however, revealed that his reason for leaving was a disagreement with his commanding officer whom he refused to serve under.

FACT: Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, who was the tribunals’ legal adviser that clashed with Col. Davis, was later barred from participating in three separate cases and transferred to a new role after judges found he improperly influenced prosecutors.

Defense officials, who would discuss the reassignment only on the condition of anonymity, said Hartmann’s position became untenable after judges ruled that he improperly influenced prosecutors by pressing them to move to trial quickly and, over their objections, used evidence obtained from interrogations that involved coercive techniques. Legal disputes over Hartmann’s role threatened to delay trials that the Bush administration wants to see up and running. [Washington Post, 9/20/08]

CLAIM: During Khadr’s appeal, former prosecutor returned campus lecturer, Moe Davis, acted on his personal vendetta and testified for the terrorist and against the US government. Davis’s testimony against the US government has been repeatedly cited as a key reason for Khadr’s sentence being reduced and with Khadr being eventually transferred From Gitmo to Canada.

Moe Davis’s his testimony is also a major factor in Khadr receiving a multi-million dollar settlement from the Canadian government because his rights were violated. Thanks to Moe Davis, a terrorist became a multimillionaire. Sergeant Spears’ widow, Tabitha, “Khadr threw a grenade, which killed my husband.” The Canadian government paid Khadr $10.5 million. Sergeant Lane Morris wounded and blinded in one eye. “It’s disturbing or upsetting to any right-thinking person. You know, under what alternative reality do you give a convicted terrorist with a history of money laundering, funding, international funding, well, how did you give that person a check for 10.5 million.”

FACT: Moe Davis did not doubt Khadr’s guilt.

MACKEY FRAYER: A few years ago you said, and I quote, “when these guys went to camp they were not making smors and learning how to tie knots”. Do you believe Omar Khadr is guilty?

DAVIS: Yes. I wouldn’t have sent the charges forward had I believed he was innocent. I really have no doubt. And as he stood up in court today and swore under oath he’s guilty of the offenSes.

MACKEY FRAYER: Now you say that it was a lose-lose situation. Is there at least some sort of lesson that’s going to be drawn from the Omar Khadr case?

DAVIS: I don’t know. I mean hopefully it’s a chapter we don’t repeat again. The whole Guantanamo situation in the military commission, you know Canada and Obama ran on closing Guantanamo and called the military commissions an abomination. Yet here we are. It will be nine years next month that President Bush authorized military commissioners, and we’ve completed a total of five cases now counting Omar Khadr. It certainly hasn’t been a bright chapter in the history of American jurisprudence.

MACKEY FRAYER: Colonel, it’s no secret that you have become a harsh critic of the system that you at one point were steering. Is it that it’s failed, or is it just seriously flawed?

DAVIS: I think the process is flawed. That’s the problem. I think, in the case of Omar Khadr I don’t think the end result is going to be an injustice to him. I think when you consider the gravity of the offences he pled guilty to, an additional eight years, I mean he’ll have spent a majority of his life behind bars by the time he returns to Canada. But here we’re trusting on the people involved in the process to make it work, where we should have rules that ensure the process works. We’ve got his case going on at Guantanamo at the same time you have Ahmed Galani, who’s a former Guantanamo detainee on trial in federal court in New York where he gets the full measure of rights that an American citizen would be entitled to. You have Major Nadal Hassan on trial in Texas in a court marshal where he gets the full rights of an American service member. And then you have Omar Khadr in a third forum at a military commission whereby any measure the rights are less. And it’s just inconsistent having three different forums for these types of cases. [CTV Television, 10/25/10]

CLAIM: And when Davis applied for distinction and recognition for his service, he was denied because he was told that his service quote, has not been honorable. Unquote.

FACT: Col. Davis was later given an even higher award, the Legion of Merit for “extraordinarily meritorious conduct” by the commanding officers for the military’s JAG Corps. [Citizen Times, 9/8/20]

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1 Comment

  • Seems to be another “swift boat” attack. Madison Cawthorn has nothing to bring to the table other than old Republican talking points, so he uses his big megahorn (money) to scream that Moe is not patriotic. That is completely wrong, but unfortunately a lie yelled over and over is very hard to undo. I can only hope that Moe’s campaign can find a way to cut through the accusations to the truth.

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