- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 10, 2007

Guarding the walls of freedom

Bruce Fein came under attack for his commentary “Rule of Law crippled” (Feb. 27) in a letter by Paul Blase, “Prisoners of the current war” (March 1). Mr. Blase’s response was a serious one, and one that itself deserves rebuttal.

Mr. Fein, critical of the wide range of “enhancements” of executive power by the current president, discussed the “Great Writ” of habeas corpus. Mr. Blase contends that captured people who appear to have been insurgents automatically forfeit any right to judicial review of their captivity for a variety of reasons. They have no right “to any legal or moral protections,” even that of the Geneva Convention, based on his view that these alleged combatants are not in uniform, use terrorist methods and aren’t under a chain of command. I don’t see how one could prove they all participated in a mass killing of civilians with car bombs or the kidnapping or beheading atrocities, and it seems impossible there are no chains of command. Use of RPGs, AK-47s and IEDs in ambush of military vehicles is legal in war fighting. Which ones only did that? But we might grant their general war conduct is outside accepted boundaries of an army in a declared war scenario. There’s the rub.

We didn’t declare war on any country or government. So, legalities that Mr. Blase says allow suspension of well-founded Western mores of treatment of combatants are founded upon declaration of war. Our forays into Afghanistan and Iraq were really just big law-enforcement actions, using the ultimate SWAT team — the U.S. military. “Iraqnam” supposedly had contraband — WMD. Afghanistan was where the psychotic criminal Osama bin Laden (remember him?) hid many years ago. Now, the Iraqi Army did wear uniforms, and we rolled over them in a matter of hours. But would Mr. Blase begrudge any natives, right or wrong, a strong belief that we lied to invade and stayed to control? This belief of combative natives is shared across many Arab borders. Their “uniform” is, therefore, their own clothes — the clothes of people whose country or Arab neighbor was invaded. I am not excusing their reasoning — just their clothes.

Beyond trying to justify holding captive fighters under the harshest legalities of formally declared war, Mr. Blase railed against use of the Great Writ for anyone but Americans. Mr. Fein’s point was that the Great Writ had its origin overseas — the effort of civilized men to afford people a reasonable shot at justice, and that justice is to be our goal as often as possible. It’s the American way. It’s what has differentiated us from all our war enemies. That this “global war” is a vast law enforcement action only adds weight to his argument that captured fighters should be granted habeas corpus when incarceration has stretched out for years and, if Mr. Bush is to be believed, for decades to come. That is not justice, especially since these people were fighting in their native region as Islamic citizen-fanatics who refuse to accept a Judeo-Christian army sitting on their chest while imposing the order of an “infidel’s” will. A sane man can’t blame the insane for fighting, so we must be humane following recognition of Islamic cultural flashpoints.



Finally, Mr. Fein did not insult the president, much less the Special Forces, as charged. It insults no one to say power can corrupt, and there is some evidence such a change may have occurred inside Mr. Bush. Sure, Special Forces aren’t allowed to “obey an illegal order,” but what with the spin battalions at the president’s disposal, how would they know? Unless it were to crush puppies.

I think it’s our duty to be ever vigilant toward the intentions of a “president-king” or queen, and the power increases geometrically with each successive presidency. So, we must speak against them if conscience so demands. Is there a more basic American value? Mr. Fein’s error, perhaps, was in saying the Constitution doesn’t condone “injustice to promote justice” since it doesn’t extend to non-Americans, as Mr. Blase wrote. The intent is better expressed as “The Founding Fathers did not advocate injustice to promote justice,” a universal principal. Thus, I see Mr. Fein’s view as superior, legally and morally, and in harmony with the final words of the final speech by the father of the Green Berets — John F. Kennedy — a true military hero from a declared and real global war, but who died on his way to deliver:

“We, in this country… are… the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore… that we exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we achieve for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth; good will toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as it was written long ago, ‘except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh, but in vain.’ ”

PETER VELIS

Chevy Chase

For the record

Nat Hentoff’s recent attacks on the American Library Association continue (“ALA carries water for brutal dictator,” Op-Ed, Monday) recycling of his unfair portrayal of our association.

Like the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA), of which the ALA is a member, the ALA Council expressed the same deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba in spring 2003. Mr. Hentoff has approved of the stance taken by IFLA.

The ALA Council, a 183-member body democratically elected by 65,000 members, goes on to say “this political climate brought on primarily by U.S. Government and Cuban Government legislation and policies in recent years should not be countered by censorship and imprisonment.”

Regarding “independent” libraries in Cuba, Mr. Hentoff and readers should be aware that in the 2004 the U.S. government earmarked 2 million dollars for “programs to restock, strengthen and expand the Cuban independent library network and to promote their solidarity with national library associations across Europe and Latin America” (Chapter 1, p.25 of Report to the President: Commission for AssistancetoaFreeCuba https://www.state.gov/p/wha/rt/cuba/commission/2004/).

This has included direct payments to fund Bibliotecas Independientes de Cuba, through the National EndowmentforDemocracy (https://www.ned.org/grants/05programs/grants-lac05.html).

Maybe Mr. Hentoff should do a little research on his own to get a fuller picture of this issue.

MAURICE J. FREEDMAN

ALA past president and chair

ALA International Relations

Committee

Westchester, N.Y.

Cuban refugees

I take strong exception to the use of the term “migrants” in the article “U.S. prepares for thousands to flee Cuba” (Page 1, Wednesday)referringto Cubans fleeing Castroland. A more accurate term to characterize these Cubans is refugees, which I once was. I find it deplorable that The Washington Times should fail to make this distinction, which U.S. immigration authorities should also make.

There is a world of difference between Cubans fleeing a totalitarian regime so repressive that they are not allowed to leave even when they have legal visas to immigrate to other countries. Every Cuban citizen is being held against his will in a condition worse than slavery. This situation is very different from persons entering the United States from the rest of Latin America, those who cross our porous borders with no regard for the laws of their own countries or ours and should quite accurately be referred to as illegal immigrants. The latter have every opportunity to apply and enter the United States legally, should they wish to do so.

I realize this distinction in language is not considered desirable to the many officials who, under directives from the makers of national policy, have no wish to enforce our immigration laws and want to convince us that there is no difference between these two groups of people. This is the crux of the current debate on immigration.

Most of us American citizens welcome immigrants who come here legally, but we don’t want any part of the proposed legislation that grants amnesty to those who have flagrantly disregarded our laws and entered illegally. In the case of Cubans fleeing their homeland, it is shameful that our immigration authorities continue to sent them back to what we know is certain persecution.

ELENA MAZA BORKLAND

Columbia, Md

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