June 02, 2012
I am pleased to present Brigadier General Mark Martins for the degree of Doctor of Laws.
General Martins, no stranger to academic honors, graduated first in his class from West Point and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He received his law degree from Harvard University where he was a member of the Harvard Law Review. He has a master of laws degree from the Judge Advocate General’s School and a masters degree from the National War College. Last year he received Harvard Law School’s Medal of Freedom that honors fundamental commitment to freedom, justice, and equality. Previous award winners include former South African President Nelson Mandela and the Brown v. Board of Education litigation team.
General Martins has had a number of challenging assignments during his career. In Iraq, he supervised 700 legal personnel. He explains the large number of lawyers in these words: "being governed by law is what distinguishes an army from a mob." He pursued a similar goal in Afghanistan when serving as commander of the Rule of Law Field Force. He co-led the interagency Detention Policy Task Force created by the President in 2009. He shared in the drafting of the Military Commissions Act of 2009 that bans use of evidence obtained by torture or by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. General Martins is currently Chief Prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions. Crucial decisions regarding Guantanamo detainees are being made under his leadership.
The tension between the need for a nation both to protect its citizenry from genuine threats and to follow a course that is consistent with the rule of law and justice is at the foundation of modern constitutional or limited government. The Federalist, in arguing for adoption of the Constitution, articulated the need for a government to have the authority to meet the unforeseen exigencies that would inevitably confront the new government. But, it also emphasized the need for a "due sense of national character" -- a need that requires standing firm on our constitutional principles. The Federalist rests on this belief: "No government ... will long be respected without being truly respectable." General Martins echoes these convictions within our current circumstances. At Harvard Law School, referencing Al Qaeda and associated forces, he recently said: "By both scorning and cynically invoking the law for refuge, they tempt even peaceful peoples to respond outside the law. Such responses are a serious mistake, however. Despite our enemies' tactics, we must always operate in the space defined by the law and our values."
General Martins makes decisions in prosecuting Guantanamo Bay cases that demonstrate our national character, our need to protect ourselves, and our devotion to justice. These are cases in which political and legal theory beg for application to practical circumstances. General Martins reflects the Knox belief that "right makes might," a memorable phrase of a favorite son of Knox College, Abraham Lincoln.
President Amott, I am honored to present Brigadier General Mark Martins for the degree of Doctor of Laws.
Presented by Chancie Ferris Booth Professor of Political Science Lane V. Sunderland