(February 12, 2002)
A "patriot" is a person who loves, supports, and defends his country. America is my country. I love America. I was a combat infantry unit commander in the 1st Air Cavalry Division during the bloody Tet Offensive of 1968 in what used to be the Republic of South Vietnam. My country wanted me to fight the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia, and I supported my country at the risk of life, limb and psyche. When I returned back to "the world", as we used to say, I joined the Arizona National Guard, got my law degree, and became a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer studying and giving classes on the Law of Land Warfare, rules of engagement (ROE), and terrorism.
I eventually was assigned as Chief, Law Branch, Military Police Operations Agency at the Pentagon giving legal advice regarding Army Policy. I prepared documentation delineating U.S. Army Military Police Operations Agency Responsibilities for reporting and investigating war crimes which "significantly clarified Army Policy" and documents on terrorism. I retired as a Colonel after 30 years of service—active and reserve. When I was first sworn in as a new 2nd Lieutenant, I swore to defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. A flag lapel pin does not make one a patriot. I am a patriot.
I love America. To me, what symbolizes America the most is the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. Every citizen, and almost every other person subject to the laws of America, has certain inalienable rights. Our freedom stems from those first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. We have the right to worship or not worship as we choose, and the government cannot force us to pray or not pray. We have the right to free speech—we can and should criticize the government when it does not represent our interests. We have a free press, which means the government does not control it, but it is strongly influenced by other special interest groups. We have the right to assemble and associate and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
We have the right to bear arms. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says it’s a collective right left to the states and National Guard, but I think the more enlightened view comes from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals which held it is an individual right to keep and bear arms of each citizen. An armed citizenry may be the last hope of a once free society against a tyrannical government should that situation occur.
We have the right to privacy, freedom from unlawful searches and seizures and eavesdropping and wiretaps, and the right to have a neutral judge, not a police officer, determine if there is probable cause to conduct a search. We learned the hard way from the British who dominated and terrorized our forefathers how armed men could invade our homes or conduct phony searches based on general warrants.
We have a right to be charged by a grand jury and to not have to say anything to incriminate ourselves if we are in custody and to not have our property taken from us by government without just compensation.
We have the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury and to know the nature of the accusation and to confront accusing witnesses and to call witnesses on our behalf and to have the assistance of an attorney. Everybody charged with a crime in our society has these rights.
We have the right not to have excessive bail or be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.
Every citizen and person subjected to our laws has the right to due process of law and to equal protection under the laws. The founders of this great country had just come out of a terrible war for independence, and they wanted the citizens of this new country to be protected from oppressive government—during war, during peace—all the time. This is what America is supposed to be about—fair play and justice for everyone all the time. America is great because America is good.
This is what America means to me—what I think it was intended to be—what it must continue to be if it is to remain great.
TERRORISM AND INTERNATIONAL LAW
On September 11, 2001, some Egyptian and Saudi Arabian nationals commandeered four commercial airliners and flew two of them into the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York and flew one other into the Pentagon. There was extensive loss of lives and property damage at the sites. The fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania killing the passengers and terrorists on board. These were acts of "terrorism" under the laws of the United States, but there is no international crime under any international criminal code called "terrorism".
The FBI defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives". The U.S. Army defines terrorism as "the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to attain political, religious, or ideological goals by instilling fear or using intimidation or coercion". (Army Regulation 190-52). Under federal law, 18 U.S.C. 2331 defines "international terrorism" as "activities" that involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate U.S. criminal law if committed in the U.S. or would be a criminal violation if committed in the U.S. and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion or to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping and occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Thus, the terrorists of the 9/11 bombings, had they survived, could have been prosecuted under U.S. domestic criminal law. A difficult issue for the prosecution would have been the motive of the "terrorists" because if their intent were not to intimidate the civilian population or to influence the policy of the government, then they were simply murderers, arsonists, and destroyers of property—but not "terrorists". Criminal prosecution of the Taliban captured in Afghanistan, if these cases are tried in federal court, will encounter this issue.
Another issue facing prosecution of the Taliban is to try them in federal court or before military tribunals. Are the Taliban "criminals" or prisoners of war? The Bush administration says the Taliban are not prisoners of war yet they were captured in a "war". How often have you heard the statement that we are at war? But that creates a problem. If the Taliban are POWs, they must be treated humanely, not drugged or tortured, and when the war is over; they must be repatriated to their homeland—Afghanistan.
We have been told that the war is over, that we won, that all the Taliban have been defeated, that the new government that we put in place has everything under control. The truth is that the Taliban are not all gone, the new government is comprised of former drug lords and has constant infighting. The U.S. military has been accused of killing and torturing innocent civilians, and to quote an old expression—there does not appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
If the Taliban are not POWs, then why are we holding them? Did they aid and abet the Al Qaeda cells? Are the Al Qaeda going to be tried in federal court for committing acts of terrorism as they relate to the 9/11 bombings? Imagine the evidence required and the elements of proof. Now one understands why Bush wants to try people before military tribunals—command influence, majority vote of board members, relaxed rules of evidence, no right to appeal—basically a kangaroo court.
If the Al Qaeda or the Taliban have committed crimes against humanity or acts of genocide, then they can be tried before the International Criminal Court, but the international community has not rallied to the great crusade of the United States. Why? Because the U.S. has lost its credibility regarding the issue of human rights. It has ignored principles of international law and invaded foreign soil in its "war on terrorism", and it has threatened to invade other countries to include the "Axis of Evil"—North Korea, Iran, and Iraq—to the distress and anger of the vast majority of the international community. The United States and the international community have been on a collision course, and the actions and arrogance of the U.S. lately has caused nations like Russia, China, and even members of the European Union to speak out in criticism of U.S. foreign policy.
THE 9/11 RESPONSE
When the 9/11 bombings occurred, the world was in shock. It was a masterful terrorist attack which caused extensive loss of lives and property damage. It also "terrorized" the U.S. populace and government. The country was in a recession, ENRON was looming on the horizon, Bush had not distinguished himself in any way as President. Israel was taking much criticism for adding new "settlements" on Palestinian land. The Palestinians had been subjected to state sponsored terrorism by the Israelis for half a century with the assistance of the United States. The United Nations kicked the U.S. off the Human Rights committee, and there have been numerous U.N. resolutions condemning the actions of Israel against the Palestinians.
The U.S. has always protected Israel with its vote in the Security Council. Israel’s strong lobby in the U.S.—AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) has a stranglehold on our Congress such that one sees unanimity among hawks and doves, Republicans and Democrats, when it involves an issue affecting Israel’s interest. Many avoid criticizing Israel out of fear of political reprisal or out of fear of being called anti-Semitic. For example, Israel, the Bush administration, and the media have made much ado about Iraq making weapons of mass destruction and how it should submit to international inspectors or face the consequences of attack by the United States. Mr. Ritter, one of the former U.N. inspectors in Iraq, has stated publicly that he knows that Iraq does not have functional weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, the Palestinians who are being subjected to genocide, who are having their land stolen, who are subjected to torture, who are denied basic human rights to work or pray or have medical attention or travel have asked the international community to put inspectors in Israel and Palestine to observe what is going on to tell the world the truth. Israel, with the support of the United States, refuses.
If the U.S. is arrogant because it has the power, if we ignore the warnings of our friends, we may be standing alone. Israel’s present government under Ariel Sharon is criminally oppressive over the Palestinians. The U.N. Human Rights Commission has condemned Israel for crimes against humanity. America’s complicity with Israel is only tolerated by the rest of the world because of America’s military strength and serves as a rallying cause for Middle Eastern terrorists. The "war on terror" looks like the Jews and Christians are on a new crusade against the Muslin world.
What is even more distressing to me is that America has compromised its values against its citizens and others in this country. The word "terrorist" is now code for Arab or Muslim. Our government is singling out these people for deportation. People have been held in custody for months without charges being filed simply because they were of Arab descent. The Anti-Terrorism Bill takes away civil rights of people simply suspected of being a terrorist. The lawyer-client privilege is abrogated for suspected terrorists. The public has been brainwashed to believe that terrorist means Arab-Muslim. Airport security has become a circus under the guise of protecting the public while female passengers are being "felt up".
The government has scared the public with terrorist alerts, but the truth is that one is more likely to be killed in an automobile accident than by a terrorist. Why don’t we have daily alerts about driving in traffic so we can become a totally paranoid populace? To stop terrorism, we must deal with the root causes of terrorism. We should fight terrorism, but not at the expense of our freedoms.