My Turn: Don't sacrifice liberties to fight terrorists

Posted: Wednesday, January 02, 2002

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, many aspects of our lives changed, including launching of a deleterious civil and legal metamorphosis, which apparently has wide-based public support. In the interest of security, safety and generalized warm cozy feelings, citizens of these United States are willing to abridge the Bill of Rights. Of course this abridgment would only apply to foreigners and perhaps our own homegrown terrorists.

I have a serious concern that the Constitution of the United States, which includes the Bill of Rights, died along with the thousands of people on Sept. 11. Pertinent to the question, on Dec. 13, 2001, the Juneau Empire ran a story on page five with the headline, "Bush invokes privilege to keep documents secret." Mr. Bush used his authority to suppress government information that should and must be in the public sphere if justice is to prevail in a free society and for government legitimacy. Is there no end to these institutional abuses? The answer is very simple - once it starts it has a vile self-perpetuating momentum, with no controls or institutional ethics.

In the particular, Mr. George Bush, Mr. Ashcroft and many others within the government are supportive of military courts. Let's stop the stagecoach now and examine the legal horses pulling the contraption: Military courts comprised of United States career military officers, with secret information and secret testimony and review by the commander-in-chief (with the highest gubernatorial body count - metaphorically speaking). This will be justice according to Mr. Bush.

Government agencies have in the past obfuscated, prevaricated and in some instances fabricated reality to suit their objectives. This has resulted in the miscarriage (if you will) of justice. Although, by definition conviction or an acquittal in our courts is "justice"; there can be no "true" justice when the courts are run by hooded military judges, (metaphorically speaking,) secret testimony, secret witnesses, secret information and review by a "hanging executive."

When I served in the Navy I realized that freedom, justice and adherence to the Constitution of the United States could require blood and sacrifice on my part and my shipmates. Abridging the Bill of Rights for United States citizens to feel somewhat safer is not worth the price. The third president of these United States of America wrote in 1787, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

Unfortunately, it is now apparent that the tree of liberty needs to be refreshed with the blood of Mr. bin Laden, those of like mind and those who must oppose and fight psychopaths. However, we must not join and nurture our enemies with inappropriate behaviors on our part or with sacrificing our moral and political values.

On the front page of the Dec. 28 Juneau Empire, I read with disdain the following quote from the president of the United States of America, "Whatever the procedures are for the military tribunals, our system will be more fair than the system of bin Laden and the Taliban. The prisoners we capture will be given a heck-of-a-lot better chance in court than those citizens of ours who were in the World Trade Center or in the Pentagon were given by Mr. bin Laden." Since there was nothing fair about the World Trade Center attack, Mr. Bush's words are not reassuring - quite the opposite.

Mr. Bush, please read the papers of our founding fathers. In response to English injustice and downright judicial tyranny, they wrote into our constitution safeguards for those accused of crimes. Political expediency or the behaviors of psychopaths should not be and must not be grounds for us to throw the Constitution of the United States and its precious protections into the wastebasket of history.

Imboden is the co-owner Alaska's Tri Bed and Breakfast of Glacier Bay. He has lived in Alaska for 12 years.

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