- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Americans have nothing to fear in ICC

In his May 17 letter to the editor, "The ICC an American perspective," Kent Snyder writes that "American proponents of the ICC are advocating breaking the law," presumably because he believes an American citizen might someday be turned over to the International Criminal Court.
The idea that the U.S. Constitution prohibits hypothetical foreign prosecutions of U.S. citizens is ridiculous. Are we "breaking the law" when we allow other countries to prosecute Americans for crimes committed on their territory? Should we invade France every time an American commits a traffic violation there?
Even if the United States ratified the ICC statute, it is all but inconceivable that a U.S. citizen ever would be prosecuted before the court. (Would any president allow it? Please be serious.) Ratification simply would be a way of showing that the United States will not tolerate crimes such as those committed in Rwanda and Yugoslavia and during the Holocaust.

Brooklyn, N.Y.

NATO should take Russia 'warts and all'

Your May 20 editorial "Wake up NATO" was both right and wrong at the same time. It is true that the "NATO at 20" formula means the alliance is less of a military pact and more of a political one. You also were correct that Russia has been given unprecedented power and authority for a nonmember. However, your warnings about these developments betray a failure to recognize the changes in Europe since 1989. We no longer need NATO to be a collective defense organization. Where is the threat? Russia does not fill that role.
Kosovo was the only place where the alliance went to war, and that ethnic conflict never represented a threat to the allies despite what former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and British Prime Minister Tony Blair argued. In that sense, a European military alliance is irrelevant. A political security pact in which the United States is directly involved, however, is still very useful in promoting transparency and coordinating policies in areas of mutual relevance. "Warts and all," it is far better for long-term European stability if Russia is inside NATO councils.


U.S. citizenship ("A double-barreled dilemma," May 16).

No government in the world, other than the U.S. government, can take away an American's citizenship. Mr. Hamdi apparently was born in the United States. This makes him a citizen of the United States by birth, under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Persons born within the geographic boundaries of the United States, with very limited exceptions, are automatically U.S. citizens without the requirement of any oath or other pledge of loyalty to the United States. No foreign government has power to take away this birthright, and those familiar with Civil War history may recall that more than half a million Americans lost their lives in the Civil War to protect this principle of citizenship by birth, which had been denied to African Americans.
Though the Saudis may perhaps decline to recognize Mr. Hamdi as being American when he is in Saudi Arabia and they may be able to strip Mr. Hamdi of his Saudi citizenship, they cannot take away his American citizenship. Though it might be interesting if the Saudis did strip Mr. Hamdi of his Saudi citizenship thereby eliminating his dual-citizenship status Mr. Hamdi would remain an American, still entitled to the worldwide protection of the U.S. government and the U.S. Constitution. Any other result would require action by the U.S. government to strip Mr. Hamdi of his citizenship, or an amendment to the Constitution.

West Point, N.Y.

Margaret D. Stock is assistant professor of law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Who, what, when?

It is wrong and unfair to suggest that Democrats who question the Bush administration's handling of pre-September 11 security information are unpatriotic ("Democrats target the White House," Editorials, May 18). If Democrats don't ask the necessary "who, what, when" questions, no one will. If they didn't ask the questions, I would question Democrats' patriotism.

Louisville, Ky.

Arm the pilots

Commentary Forum contributor James Stoll is guilty of one-dimensional thinking ("An armed pilot is an unsafe pilot," May 19). He obviously a firearms expert, but in concentrating on the abrogation of past terrorist actions, he doesn't consider all possible future risks. I have discussed the possibility of arming pilots with many people, and most who oppose the idea are only considering scenarios similar to what happened on September 11.
We airline pilots who strongly support arming selected members of our profession are aware of the continued vulnerabilities of the airlines to terrorism. That is why we support multiple, overlapping layers of defense for the traveling public. Armed pilots would be one additional layer hopefully never used, yet still available. They would provide deterrence aswell as defense.
Mr. Stoll readily accepts air marshals, yet rejects the idea of pilots trained with and working in concert with air marshals. What happens if the air marshals in the cabin are overpowered and their weapons fall into the wrong hands? Many airline pilots are ex-military officers with firearms experience and security clearances. We would welcome air marshal-type standards and training. Why reject outright another layer of deterrence and defense?
The air marshal program is needed, but it will never be large enough to cover all flights. There will always be at least two pilots in each aircraft. Why not use these assets?

Millersville, Md.

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