Attorney Lynne F. Stewart is a progressive icon. A protege of Ramsey Clark and the late William Kunstler and a member of the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights, Stewart embodies the committed professionalism of the radical "legal left." Under this code, attorneys select clients whom they regard as the put-upon victims of an oppressive system or the persecuted champions of a just cause. Stewart represented Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind cleric convicted in 1995 of masterminding the first World Trade Center bombing.
She is now on trial as a terrorist herself for aiding and abetting the sheik, when he was her client, in carrying out his terrorist agendas.
Stewart is being defended by Washington attorney Michael Tigar, another progressive icon, who also defended Terry Nichols, the convicted second bomber in the 1995 attack on the Oklahoma City federal building.
Tigar's idea of persuasion was captured in this New York Times account of the Stewart trial: "While the government regarded Mr. Abdel Rahman as a dangerous terrorist, Mr. Tigar said, to Ms. Stewart he was 'an old man' held in conditions of cruel isolation, in a federal prison in Rochester, Minn. Mr. Tigar compared the sheik to Nelson Mandela and Menachem Begin, political leaders who were treated as terrorists at one time in their careers."
The idea Tigar is trying to sell the Stewart jury -- that his client saw Abdel Rahman as a cruelly isolated old man who needed help for humanitarian reasons -- is laughable. Because what is really on trial in the Stewart case, and what explains her behavior, is leftist ideology itself.
Stewart is on record as approving of "directed violence," which -- as she explained to the New York Times -- "would be violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism and sexism." The World Trade Center, for instance. Stewart also has endorsed Muslim jihadists in particular: "They are basically forces of national liberation," she told the Marxist magazine Monthly Review.
At the National Lawyers Guild annual convention in 2003, she attacked her own country as having "a poisonous government that spreads its venom to the body politic in all corners of the globe," and she raised a glass to her heroes: "Ho and Mao and Lenin, Fidel
Another leftist lawyer and Kunstler protege, Ron Kuby, described Stewart's "passionate" identification with the blind sheik to reporter George Packer.
"Kuby told me," Packer wrote in the New York Times, " ... lawyers are cowards. They live vicariously through their clients. 'Movement' lawyers, especially, identify with the people they represent."
And that's precisely the problem, for Stewart, for Tigar and for the left they represent. The "movement" is now in full attack mode against its own democratic government in a time of war. It identifies as victims and even "liberators" the Islamic terrorists who want to destroy us.
Michael Moore has said it in so many words: "The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not 'insurgents' or 'terrorists' or 'The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win. Get it, Mr. Bush?"
This is no longer a loyal opposition. It is no longer the voice of a progressive future that once upon a time would have opposed the misogyny, thuggery and the depravity of regimes like Saddam Hussein's and movements like Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman's Islamic Group.
Whatever the outcome of the Stewart trial, the larger trial of the left -- a trial that will one day pronounce a verdict on its loyalties and its integrity -- will go on.