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Letter to the Editor: Irresponsible legislation



As a citizen of the United States and member of the U.S. Army currently serving in Iraq, I am alarmed at the passage of the Military Commissions Act. I am shocked and dismayed at the breadth of this irresponsible legislation.

We cannot win the battle with fundamentalist zealots by betraying the principles that have kept us free and independent for more than 200 years. Congress has given considerable aid and comfort to our enemies by handing them a victory they could never have achieved by force.

The only real weapon possessed by terrorists is fear. Congress' evident surrender to fear is a victory for those who wish to destroy the American way of life. How we treat those accused of a crime says less about the alleged transgressor than about who we are as a people. Is our nation ruled by fear? I, for one, refuse to live afraid of cowardly terrorists. And I equally refuse to surrender one ounce of liberty to my government for the appearance of security.

Why do our Congressional representatives find it necessary to destroy the ideals enshrined in the Bill of Rights? I am especially concerned by the new rules of evidence and the suspension of the tradition of habeas corpus. Is our government so weak and indefensible that it cannot withstand fair and public trials? We must all ask ourselves, "Would I feel comfortable if I or a member of my family were to be tried using these new rules?

If the government has a case against an individual, let it - as prescribed by our traditions - make its case in a public court of law, with the accused given full rights to examine the evidence against him and bring evidence in his defense - and to challenge detention itself. If, on the other hand, the government has no credible case to present in public, this reckless legislation permits the use of "secret evidence" which will make it easier to deny innocent persons their fundamental rights. Congress' action has steered us into a dangerous precedent that, if allowed to endure, could destroy our Republic.

Our Constitution, and the rule of law it defines, has survived for over two centuries because we, as a people, have respected the bedrock principles on which it has written. Now it appears those principles are under attack because members of Congress are more interested in their own personal political success than in the future of our Republic. If we are in a life-and-death struggle for the future of the United States, how can our representatives explain subjugating our traditions to petty political expediency? We, as a naare responsible and must answer for the mistakes of our elected representatives. How would we explain our shame to the many tens of thousands of men and women who have given their lives for the ideals of our country, now that Congress has taken the first step to destroying the very ideals for which they sacrificed?

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