Here's a riddle: How do you get the American Civil Liberties Union to stop defending terrorists? Tell the ACLU that the detainees are really Boy Scouts.
Sadly, I am only half joking. This is the same group, after all, that defends pedophiles in the North American Man Boy Love Association, yet sues U.S. servicemembers engaged in a war.
The latest outrage from the "America-does-nothing-right" crowd is a series of lawsuits against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski and Col. Thomas Pappas. The March 1 news release, in which the ACLU announced the lawsuits, would be laughable if not for the serious impact it is already having on military operations. Among the alleged abuses committed by our troops against the peace-loving detainees is "degrading treatment" and "restraint in contorted and excruciating positions." It would be easy to make a comparison to Western hostages who have been beheaded by Islamic terrorists, but we are, and should be, held to a higher standard. In fact, most military servicemembers and veterans were horrified by the photographs taken at Abu Ghraib prison. The military, however, is investigating these abuses and has court-martialed or nonjudicially punished those already determined to be responsible.
These lawsuits represent the latest salvo in a pattern of "lawfare" engaged by the ACLU and fellow litigant Human Rights First. These groups, along with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Veterans for Peace, have exploited the Freedom of Information Act by requiring the Pentagon to release documents to the tune of 15,000 pages per month. All of these documents need to be gathered and reviewed by intelligence personnel and other troops before public release. I suppose these intelligence specialists don't have anything better to do, like maybe prevent the next 9/11 or keep our troops safe in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The effects of Rumsfeld's policies have been devastating both to America's international reputation as a beacon of freedom and democracy, and to the hundreds, even thousands, of individuals who have suffered at the hands of U.S. forces," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.
Thousands? Of the 50,000 detainees processed between September 2001 and August 2004, 300 allegations of abuse have been made. After 150 investigations, only 66 cases have been confirmed- that's a whopping 0.132 percent. Two-thirds of the 66 confirmed abuses occurred at the point of battle, not during the interrogation process.
Department of Defense policy forbids requiring a prisoner to stand more than four hours straight. Under this more than generous rule, nearly every waiter and waitress in the United States could claim "abuse through stress positions." War zones are dangerous places and people do get hurt. A detainee bumping his head while being handcuffed and put in a
humvee should hardly be considered abuse, yet according to some it's a war crime.
The United States "does not permit, tolerate or condone any such torture by its employees under any circumstances," William Haynes, the Defense Department's general counsel, said in a 2003 letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Many war critics claim that the detainees are either entitled to due process in U.S. courts or Geneva Convention protections. I fail to see how foreign terrorists who have never set foot in the United States are being deprived of their "U.S. constitutional rights." Yet some wish to micromanage military operations by judicial fiat at the instigation of the ACLU and other radical organizations.
The protections of Geneva did not come from one convention, but actually a series of meetings that occurred as far back as 1864. It is a body of laws passed piecemeal, most in 1949. It requires a clear distinction between combatants and civilians. For example, combatants must wear uniforms and carry their weapons openly during military operations. As the Society for Professional Journalists correctly states, "Combatants who deliberately violate the rules about maintaining a clear separation between combatant and noncombatant groups - and thus endanger the civilian population - are no longer protected by the Geneva Convention." Despite this, the U.S. military has given Geneva Convention protections to Iraqi soldiers who met the criteria. Unfortunately some who are released return to fight our soldiers again.
In April, the military released a comprehensive report citing 4,000 interrogations of Guantanamo detainees. According to the Los Angeles Times, "captives have described how Al Qaeda trained them to spread deadly poisons and at other times armed them with grenades
stuffed inside soda cans, bombs hidden in pagers and cellphones and wristwatches that could trigger remote control explosions on a 24-hour countdown." It's nice to know that while our intelligence officials are gathering information from detainees on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, the ACLU would advise these terrorists to "lawyer up."
Now back to the Scouts. The legal attacks on the Boy Scouts of America are similar to the ACLU's hostility toward the military. Scouting is a valued experience sought by recruiters searching for candidates at the U.S. service academies. The Secretary of Defense and the Pentagon's top lawyer are Eagle Scouts. Support for Scouts runs deep aboard U.S. military bases worldwide. Yet because the Boy Scouts of America does not share the ACLU's secular, homosexual-rights agenda, activist judges are trying to destroy the organization.
Several recent court decisions, if allowed to stand, would prohibit the military from supporting the National Boy Scout Jamboree. The bonding that occurs between soldiers and Scouts as they camp, eat, hike, study conservation and work together instills values that benefit both military and civilian society. The Pentagon has already succumbed to ACLU pressure by resurrecting a long-forgotten policy to bar the military from officially sponsoring private groups, including Scout troops. Hundreds of troops, many of them overseas, now have to find new sponsors.
The American Legion will stand with the Boy Scouts all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. The ACLU has successfully used the courts to tear down a cross that was intended as a soldiers' monument in California. Moreover, the ACLU is soaking taxpayers with its legal fees. The city of San Diego recently paid $940,000 in ACLU legal fees after the organization
chased the Boy Scouts out of Balboa Park. Nationally, taxpayers fork over millions to ACLU attorneys. To stop this greed, Congress must amend 42 U.S. Code, Section 1988 of the Civil Rights Act, which is being exploited by these radical lawyers.
We are not engaged in a fight over legal doctrine or constitutional interpretation. This is a war on values. It is a war The American Legion intends to win.
Prominently displayed on the ACLU's official Web site is the phrase "Keep America Safe and Free." Ironically, if America were to follow the ACLU's lead, it would be neither.
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Thomas P. Cadmus is national commander of 2.7 million-member American Legion, the nation's largest wartime veterans organization. His message will appear in the July issue of The American Legion Magazine.