Two top US Senators on Tuesday urged lawmakers to back their drive to restore basic legal rights to inmates of the US "war on terror" camp at Guantanamo Bay.
The bill, an amendment to a defense funding measure being debated in the Senate, would restore the writ of Habeas Corpus to camp inmates -- which would allow the accused to challenge their detention in a US court.
"Like the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the elimination of habeas rights was an action driven by fear, and it was a stain on America's reputation in the world," said Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee.
Several hundred inmates at the notorious camp in Cuba were deprived of the right, which legal and human rights activists say is a fundamental underpinning of justice, by a bill passed when Congress was in Republican hands last year.
Senator Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, is co-sponsoring the move, which is expected to face a challenge from a dueling amendment, also from the Republican side.
"If we lose the basic fundamental rights to require evidence before somebody is held in detention, if we lose the right of habeas corpus, it is a very sad day in America," Specter said.
So Senator Leahy is equating al-Qaeda terrorists with Japanese-American internees? How interesting. Perhaps someone should point out to the good Senator that the detainees at Guantanamo are accused of something more than merely being of a certain race or national origin. Whereas the Japanese-American internees were rounded up based on a fear of what they might do because of who they were, the Guantanamo detainees are in custody for what they have already done.
Senator Specter is equally demented. "We" haven't lost the right of habeas corpus. Guantanamo was selected for the purpose of detaining enemy combatants precisely because it isn't in America. And if we have to start treating enemy combatants as criminal defendants, perhaps we had better require our troops in the field to Mirandize the enemy before shooting them.
There is one other interesting point. Despite what the U.S. government did to Japanese-Americans by interning them in relocation camps, a fair number of young men in those camps responded by volunteering for service in the U.S. Army in the Fighting 442nd Nisei brigade, fighting with valor in Europe. Sen. Leahy can ask his colleague Daniel Inouye of Hawaii about his experience in the Nisei Brigade. And then they can ponder, along with Sen. Specter and all of the other Senators so tenderly concerned for the detainees at Guantanamo, why it is that Muslim-Americans did not volunteer in droves in the aftermath of 9/11 to form an Islamic version of the Fighting 442nd.