A letter from a reader: Open trials for detainees

November 12, 2007:

I share the sentiments of Patrick Swearingen '84 (letters, July 18) regarding the devastation that Sept. 11 inflicted upon the families of its victims, his respect for the efforts and sacrifices of our services members and their families, and his fear regarding the consequences that a future attack might inflict on us and our own families. I do not, however, share his apparent conclusions.

With regard to the horror of 9/11, I believe that the first step in punishing those responsible and those who may have been conspiring to perpetrate similar atrocities should be a determination of who those individuals actually are. The brutality of a crime is no justification for punishing the wrong individuals, but rather, the more terrible the crime, the more important it is to make certain that we have found the right perpetrator. I am not suggesting that all or even any of the detainees at Guantánamo is innocent, but I have a deep trust in the American system of justice to illuminate the truth of a person's guilt or innocence, and though not infallible, I believe that a full and open trial for each detainee is the best way to determine whether or not he is guilty. If guilty, you will hear no call for sympathy or mercy from me, but if innocent, you will hear me call for apologies and reparations for the crime that we as a country have perpetrated on such an individual.

I have no doubt that our administration believes in the guilt of these individuals, but at the same time its refusal to hold real trials suggests that the administration has insufficient evidence to support these beliefs. This is the same unjustifiable confidence by government officials in their own ability to ordain the truth in the absence of any real facts that led America to begin a war in Iraq, when that country presented no immediate threat to America and had no connection whatsoever to the 9/11 attacks. 

Yes, I share Mr. Swearingen's respect for the sacrifices of our services members, but I deplore an administration that bears sole responsibility for putting those men and women in harm's way for no reason beyond what we now know to be a misguided hunch.

And with regard to preventing future attacks, I believe that for every one terrorist removed to Guantánamo, our unwillingness to expose the facts that prove his guilt has been directly responsible for the creation of many new terrorists, not to mention the thousands more created by our unjustifiable war in Iraq. Yes, I join Mr. Swearingen in deploring the fear created by 9/11, the fear that brought us Guantánamo, the fear that brought us Iraq, the fear that supports Al-Qaida by allowing them to recruit many additional terrorists, and the fear that leads even those with a Princeton education to irrational conclusions.

Nazareth, Pa.

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