24 July 2007

Revised Letter to Bush

  • I received help from my son, from an English teacher friend, and from a kind and talented reader named Jim White of Gainesville, FL. This will go out in today's snail mail with copies to my senators and representative (who sits on the Judiciary committee). There is still time ( a couple of hours) to make further suggestions. -- GG

Dear Mr. President:

I am troubled by your actions over the past four years that undermine the basic premise of our country. This premise is to be found in the freedoms and protections listed in our Constitution’s First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. It seems you have decided that the 9/11 attacks on our country justified extraordinary curtailment of civil liberties and due process. Many Americans feel that the level of offense against us on that terrible day does not justify the continuation of the extreme measures you imposed. Further, the unilateral nature of these actions and your absolute secrecy in developing and enforcing these measures are in direct contradiction of the Constitution and the American tradition of open government by consent of the governed.

I understand that you are doing what you think is right, yet I disagree with the assertion that"9/11 changed everything." It is fair to say that it changed some things. For example, as a nation, we are now more aware of the infrastructure we need for response to domestic crises, whether they are natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or industrial accidents. This is a correct thing.

Eroding civil liberties codified in the Constitution is not a correct thing. Further, as a beacon of liberty for the world, we should not be reserving those rights for our own citizens only, on our own soil. Our traditional practices as a free nation ought to be extended to all, without regard to nationality and without regard to presence inside or outside our borders. America's moral standing in the world was at its highest as World War II drew to a close and the humane treatment we provided to our prisoners of war was made public by those very prisoners as they returned to their homes.

Further it is important to note that the individual liberties of the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment are not luxury items reserved for times of peace. Instead, they are necessities for our national identity at all times. The fact that our United States has in the past sometimes fallen short on issues like habeas corpus, unreasonable searches and seizures, due process, and unlawful imprisonment does not make it right for us to do those things today. We always must strive to be better, to improve on our nation’s founders’ ideas about how a country of truly free citizens should govern itself.

It’s my understanding that Civics classes get less emphasis these days than when I attended grammar school a few decades ago. I loved those classes and their lessons stuck with me. They left me with a notion of service that guided me to my current career as a municipal firefighter.

I was at working at the firehouse the day those infamous Al Qaeda members from Saudi Arabia, U.A.R., and Egypt executed their attack. I was an active member of the Federal Urban Search and Rescue Response team that responded first to the Pentagon site that day and the wounds of 9/11 remain. I love my country and have faith in the strength of our ideals.

The damage you have inflicted on our Constitution far exceeds that inflicted on the country by the terrorists. It is not necessary to subvert the Constitution of the United States of America to prevent more attacks against us. I don't believe you properly honor the memory of my fallen brothers and sisters in Public Safety by dismantling the very foundations of freedom and liberty that they lived to serve and protect.

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