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Where Terrorism Meets the Constitution

June 18, 2002

Re "This Is War, and Military Justice Is Appropriate," Commentary, June 14: Douglas Kmiec's history lesson and reasoning are persuasive except for one critical point. His first sentence is, "We are at war." But, in fact, we are not at war. Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution is clear that "the Congress shall have power ... to declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water." That's Congress, not the president.

This was no accident. The founders wanted to make sure that no one man could define the existence, scope and duration of war. If George W. Bush wants to exercise extraordinary powers, let him go before the people's representatives and make his case for a declaration of war. Until Congress makes such a declaration, Bush's use of military justice against Jose Padilla is beyond his authority.

Personally, I wish Congress would declare war. Then we the people would be having our say in who can decrease certain of our rights, how they can be decreased and for how long. And vermin like Padilla could be dealt with in a way that is true to the system we're all trying to protect. C'mon, Mr. President. Have the guts to do it right.

Joel C. Karafin

Los Angeles

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Kmiec deftly reiterates that "the Constitution is not a suicide pact." I would suggest it is a pact with those who have died for it. What amount of fear and what national purpose are served by the suspension of due process? The strictest scrutiny does not justify holding a citizen incommunicado and without an indictment.

How broad is Kmiec's constitutional analysis? Does this extend to antiabortionists who are engaged in what they see as "God's holy war to save the unborn"? Does it extend to gun-toting survivalists who see themselves at war with the federal government? Or is this type of self-serving reasoning just what the Constitution intended to prevent?

Due process is what separates us from those who would harm us. We cannot bow to evil because of fear. Is it still OK to say, "Give me liberty or give me death"?

Glenn Davis

Laguna Woods

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When one joins the forces of a foreign army one is deemed to have forfeited one's American citizenship. Hence Padilla's current detainment. Padilla does have rights, though, and he should be afforded all the privileges of any other person attempting to kill us all and destroy our civilization.

Michaela Tupta

Los Angeles

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