peteg's blog - noise - books - 2015 09 12 Mori InTheCompanyOfCowards

Michael Mori: In the Company of Cowards.

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This book was one of the motivations for buying the Kindle: it hasn't gotten a U.S. release in any form in the year since publication, and getting it shipped from Australia is way too expensive (something like $AU30 postage when I looked). It turns out that it's easy to change stores on Amazon, so I got it from their Australian eBook site for $AU14.99 ($US11.10) on 2015-08-15.

This is more-or-less what you read in the news at the time, with the addition of a brief introductory biography of Mori himself and many tantalizing legal and backroom details. I knew that whatever he wrote wouldn't be totally satisfying as there are many parts of the story that no-one can commit to paper without severe sanction (even now), and I wish he'd had more to say about his life since the case came to a close; it was good to see that the Marines did not hold (much of) a grudge, for instance, but how about talking about what he's been doing in Melbourne? I hadn't realized that Joshua Dratel was involved, and was hoping for more colour given his supposedly klutzy handling of the procedural aspects of the Ross Ulbricht Silk Road trial.

Mori is right to paint this as perhaps John Howard's biggest political miscalculation; Mori outfoxed him by refocusing the Australian public's attention away from Hicks to the fairness of the process. The open face, the ready laugh and the sporting metaphors, including an attempt to understand cricket, doubtlessly made the critical difference; an attempt at a similar line of argument about Schapelle Corby's treatment by the Indonesian legal system did not garner her as much sympathy. I guess Mori learnt the lessons of Vietnam (in particular, when the system is that rigged against you, your best bet is to sway the public's opinion of your opponent) better than his superiors did.

Who are the cowards of the title? These slip between the cracks of his narrative as Mori chooses to focus on the brave. It would have helped to have an organizational chart. I also wonder if Hicks ever got his British passport.

I came to this thinking that Mori was a great American who was charged with taking a big bite from a shit sandwich, and left thinking the same. I'm glad he wrote this, and I hope he has the opportunity and energy to continue this kind of lawyering from Melbourne.

A matter-of-fact review by Daniel Flitton at the Smage. David Marr in the Guardian got to speak with him in Melbourne in late 2014. The ABC has many interviews still available, but finding them is another matter. Miriam Cosic summarises the book at length.