The Fourth of July is, of course, a time to celebrate this great country and all that it stands for – both at home and abroad. Arguably, such collective remembrances and celebrations are more needed than ever in time of war. And that is particularly true at a moment when reverses of one kind or another are shaking some Americans’ confidence in their government and/or its ability to prosecute the war successfully.
In every reverse, however, lies an opportunity. For example, the Supreme Court’s appalling ruling last week in the case of Osama bin Laden’s trusted driver, Salim Hamdan, affords the President and the Congress a chance not only to provide a legislative mandate for the military tribunals needed to prosecute such terrorists.
The Court’s skewed interpretation of international law, and then its subordination of the U.S. Constitution to that misreading, also invites farther-reaching corrective action. Five justices held that enemy combatants like al Qaeda’s Hamdan were entitled to the treatment afforded prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. In fact, the only provision of those accords that explicitly extends such protections is Protocol I. But President Reagan formally rejected U.S. adherence to that protocol and its equation of terrorists with soldiers like ours, who (with very few and wholly illegal exceptions) abide by the laws of war.
We now have the opportunity both to affirm the wisdom of the Reagan decision and to discourage the courts – Supreme and others – from the practice of reflexively, and often arbitrarily, subordinating this country’s democratically and constitutionally adopted statutes and executive orders to subjective applications of so-called “customary” international law. An even more important chance to offset the effects of a grievous blow to the war effort can be found in the aftermath of the treacherous, if not actually treasonous, disclosures last week by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. These papers revealed that the United States government had been secretly (albeit legally) using an international clearinghouse for banking information to “follow the money” – by monitoring terrorists’ financial transactions.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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