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On the Closing of Guantanamo

January 27, 2009

In this op-ed piece published in The Daily News on Sunday, Michael Burke, the brother of an FDNY captain killed on 9/11, speaks out against the closing of Guantanamo. I sympathize with Burke, but what he advocates is wrong—and, thankfully, with the inauguration of President Obama, it looks like we are moving away from this being the dominant mode of thinking.

The whole op-ed piece is sort of insane, but here are a few highlights:

Obama and the Democrats have had a blind spot for 9/11 and have yet to show they have an ounce of understanding what happened that day.

Here is why we were attacked: Muslim extremists hate Americans and want us dead. Our policies in no way influenced the vitriol perpetuated on innocent Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.

Is that it? They “hate our freedom”? Why? What do they care about our freedom? In fact, what they—the largely Saudi highjackers—hated was U.S. support for the Saudi government, plus our backing of Israel vs. the Palestinians.

Contrary to what Burke says, our policies greatly influenced the “vitriol perpetuated … Sept. 11, 2001.”

Burke goes on:

And we do not enhance our Constitution by applying it to those it was never meant to serve. Rather, the move diminishes and threatens the foundation on which our laws are built.

It’s true, the Constitution may not have been intended to serve non-U.S. citizens, but that’s what’s called following the letter and not the spirit of the law. There is another founding American document that pretty clearly addresses how we should treat others, even those who have committed great crimes against us. It’s called the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Got that? All men. Not just Americans. In addition: If America is meant to be a “Beacon on a Hill,” as so many on the Right maintain, shouldn’t we treat all individuals according to the same Bill of Rights that we live under, namely the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth amendments?

More from Burke:

It is impossible to fight the war on terrorism, like every war, under the Constitution. Consequently, we cannot convict our enemies under it. They will get off. Once free, they will, despite having enjoyed the benevolence of our constitutional rights, strike us again. The Constitution then becomes a means of our destruction.

It’s true, the Constitution will become the means of our destruction—but not in the way Burke is saying. Rather, if we erode the rights established by the Constitution in dealing with criminals or suspected criminals, we move one step closer to eroding the safety, security, and—most importantly—liberty of our own citizens. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Finally, Burke closes his op-ed with this:

With this order to close Guantanamo, the countdown to the next attack has begun.

That’s just stupid, hysterical, and fear-mongering. I would say I expect more from The Daily News—but I don’t.

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