Monday, November 19, 2001
Justice for Just Us
Stern Lawbreaker! yet thou dost wear
Give unto me, made lowly wise,
Given the danger to the safety of the United States and the nature of international terrorism, and to the extent provided by and under this order, I find consistent with section 836 of title 10, United States Code, that it is not practicable to apply in military commissions under this order the principles of law and the rules of evidence generally recognized in the trial of criminal cases in the United States district courts.
When Americans accused of terrorism are tried in secret courts by hooded judges in Peru or other nations, the U.S. government rightly objects. To authorize comparable trials in this country will erase any legitimacy of such objections. Worse, it will erode throughout the world the image of America as a place where certain freedoms cannot be compromised -- freedoms that ultimately provide the most basic justification for this country to stake its claim to lead the world and wage the war on terrorism. And worse in turn than the blow to the U.S. image abroad will be the potentially irreversible injury at home if Mr. Bush proceeds, as his order would allow, to undermine the rule of law.
The Bush administration, which hopes tribunals will let them keep intelligence information secret and avoid a potential public trial of Osama bin Laden, may soon begin to turn over some of the thousands of people held on charges related to the Sept. 11 attacks to military custody.
If one looked down from Mars and looked at the countries of the world and said if you had someone in whom you had an interest, where would you prefer -- of all the countries on the face of the earth, where would you prefer that that individual be tried in a military commission, I would think an overwhelming number of the people in the world would prefer it be done in the United States. We have a reputation for being fair and balanced and measured in what we do.
And in a world where, as human beings we know that people are imperfect and there are a lot of people who are, for a variety of reasons, engaged in doing evil things. And vicious things. And lethal things. Therefore, if we value that and if we value the people of the United States, there's no question but that we have to be willing to defend that way of life and to do that, people have to voluntarily put their lives at risk.
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