Letters to The Ethical Spectacle

Last month's lead article, The Disappeared, was a first draft of an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case of Rumsfeld v. Padilla, the third I have worked on, the first I did solo. I obtained the consent of Mr. Padilla's attorneys and the Justice Department and filed the brief in a very august company of more learned and visible amici including the ACLU, law professors, military law experts, retired judges and (most impressive to me) Fred Korematsu. He is the now elderly ex-inmate of our 1940's detention camps for Japanese citizens, whose famous lawsuit, Korematsu v. U.S., invalidated the law under which he was detained. The Padilla case raises the issue of whether the President can hold an American citizen, arrested on U.S. soil, as a military combatant, without access to an attorney, criminal charges or trial. I believe it is the most important Supreme Court case of my lifetime: the real stakes are whether the Constitution is a powerful shield in hard times, or a cardboard stage prop. The justices' questions for the attorneys during argument, which often give an indication of their thinking, were not heartening; Justice O'Connor asked whether we should let a "ticking time bomb" back on the street. Mr. Padilla, by the way, was not carrying explosives; the justice just meant that he had apparent bad intentions. The real question is how far we are from a state of affairs where someone like me could disappear into interminable federal custody, merely because of suspicion inspired by an article I wrote here, or because I published the work of someone who the feds decided was connected to the wrong people. Think I'm being paranoid? In a federal court in Idaho, a Saudi graduate student is on trial for being the webmaster of Islamic sites that link to the wrong people. He was charged under an extremely vague section of the Patriot Act, with providing "expert guidance or assistance" to terrorist groups. See "Computer Student on Trial Over Muslim Web Site Work", The New York Times, April 24, 2004. A government victory in Padilla would embolden the executive branch merely to seize and hold people like him, without giving them the procedural protections of the Constitution: no opportunity to confront the witnesses or evidence against them. If your knee-jerk response is "that could never happen", what you are really saying is "I trust the government to arrest only people who deserve it." But, as I showed in the brief, the framers didn't want us to trust the government. They wanted us to trust the Constitution. Our Commander in Chief not only refuses to credit that document; it is written in a language he does not understand. The Supreme Court's job now, and I hope that they do it, is to defend us against him.

Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net


Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. If you write to me about something you read in the Spectacle, I will assume the letter is for publication. If it is not, please tell me, and I will respect that. If you want the letter published, but without your name attached, I will also respect that. I will not include your email address unless you ask me to. This is in response to many of you who have expressed concern that spammers are finding your email address here. Flames are an exception. They will be published in full, with your name and email address. I have actually had people follow up on a published flame by complaining that they thought they were insulting my ancestry privately. Nope, sorry. The following is this month's example.


hey basketcase--

In your bio you said you helped Haitian refugees get amnesty to stay in this country.

Why the hell do you help get these savages in to the USA?

Those boat people unleashed a crime wave the country has never seen.

You can bet that some of your "clients" went on to murder, rob and rape. Castros emptied his prisions and sent these "oppressed" people to the USA.

Why do you support immigration of people who are incompatable with white people. These people have contributed nothing to America except bleed the welfare system and keep police busy.

tamika swenson javagoat@hotmail.com


I read your Kent State piece.

I lived through it and do not recognise it from your description.

I know it was one of the happiest days of my life.

The rioters had it coming as they were charging the Guardsmen You were right about them being untrained , but that is about it.

Mexico and Dallas Tx had issued shoot to kill orders , Not much trouble there with rioters.

Read your current stuff . You still can't get it right. As far as I am concerned Kerry is as guilty as Jane Fonda.

Not much room for agreement between us . But .. A guy like you shouldn't mind the soldiers who have given their lives so you can express your opinions.

A Vietnam era vet and Cold War warrior.

James Russell


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am a christian and can not believe that ANYONE, would NOT want to censor the internet! Do you not see how corrupt it is?? How corrupt our world is because of attitudes like this?? Why can't we all stand together as a Nation to help save our morals, values and our children??

I am praying that you and others will change their thinking and motives for the betterment of our future, and pray that God will bless you for it because He loves you so much!!

Teresa


Dear Jonathan:

In responding to my article entitled We Few, Spectacle reader Bob Wilson is quick to question my integrity. Ostensibly, he does so because I happen to remember many of the comrades with whom I served in the military. While I would not be as quick to call this overreaction, it is only because my humble capacity for deductive reasoning simply cannot make a similar leap. Integrity? Perhaps Mr. Wilson considers mine an incredible feat of recollection because he seems incapable of remembering what he read long enough to write an accurate critique of my words. Fortunately, I remember what I wrote. But that's the beauty of the written word, one need not remember at all. All one need do is consult the words themselves, still right there in black and white. The words Mr. Wilson wrote are these:

"Mr. Stasi claims to remember every person he was in contact with while in a flying unit. Good for him, but pardon me if I question his integrity. In my years of flying in the Air Force, I well remember a good number of the people in the units I flew with, but certainly not all of them."
No, Mr. Wilson I will not pardon you if you question my integrity. For you need only consult my article once again to confront your own blatant distortion of my words. What I plainly and specifically wrote is this: "I remember scores of people from that hastily assembled unit--" my detachment. Webster's defines the word "scores" as, and I quote: "a great many." I then went on to name some thirteen of my old mates. That's a far cry from my "claiming to remember "every person I came in contact with."

That a reader would question this most normal of behaviors in a misguided attempt to discredit me is less troubling than why he might do so. For it's apparent that Mr. Wilson refuses to recognize the dichotomy in questioning and insulting me, while easily rationalizing that George W. Bush can remember not one single person who served with him in the 187th tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. Not his crew chief, his commander, his wingman, no one. Further, not one single person from that unit can verifiably remember serving with Bush, a guy who became president. Integrity indeed.

Respectfully, Dom Stasi


Dear Mr. Wallace:

Thanks for some great writing. when i'm in the position to make a contribution I will.

Regards

Lesley


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I am a teacher of psychology in a high school. My students found your Auschwitz Alphabet website and are using it as a factual source for the project they are doing for a Holocaust assignment. I am trying to assess where you have obtained your sources so I can better evaluate how accurately the research they are doing. Your biographical info seems to be right on target but I would like to know where the primary source info (personal experience stories) came from.

Please assist me so that I can help my students.

Thank you.

Mary Ann Wilson

I am always really pleased to hear students are using the site in their studies. Thanks for letting me know. On the top page of the site there is a link to a bibiliography. Something about the design of the site results in people often missing this link. Look at the bottom of the page for "Sources: Books". The bibliography's URL is http://www.spectacle.org/695/source.html.


Dear Jonathan,

I've been interested and horrified by the Holocaust since I was in 7th grade and first read "I Cannot Forgive" by Rudolf Vbra, and of course, I'd read Anne Frank's diary. I'm of German heritage and have often felt guilty and wondered if I'd lived in Germany rather than the US would I have been one of those who ignored it or, worse, would I have been a participant? My hope, of course, is that I would have done what I dreamed of as a child. I would have fought for and hidden anyone who needed help. Now that I'm older (52) I realize that it is probably in all of us to have the capability of being on either side. I only pray that the great majority of us will continue to choose not to be depraved because I do think this could happen again, is probably actually happening somewhere on earth right now. Thank you for your Auschwitz Alphabet site; we all need to continue to be disturbed and not let that reality fade away. I will recommend it.

Julie