Last week, the House passed legislation that would establish military tribunals for the detainees at Guantanamo Bay and other combatants in the global war on terror.
This bill (H.R. 6166) was brought to the floor after little discussion. It is certain to bring about legal challenges and may not pass Constitutional muster.
Unfortunately, election year politics dictated the legislative agenda pursued by the White House and Congress at the end of this year’s session. The detainees’ legislation should have been crafted in a bipartisan fashion after serious debate. Instead, it was rushed to the floor, serving as a smokescreen for the administration’s failed policy in Iraq.
The Constitutional and civil liberties concerns surrounding this legislation are serious. As former secretary of state Colin Powell has stated, "Part of the war on terror is an ideological and political struggle. Our moral posture is one of our best weapons." Even former military interrogators, who were on the front lines of this issue, do not agree with the direction of this legislation.
I want to share with you the floor speech I delivered during debate on the legislation.
Transcript of Remarks by Congressman Jim Moran about September 27, 2006 (House of Representatives)
I oppose this bill. It would send a message to the world that the United States can disregard international treaties and law and, instead, do as it pleases. For generations, we have been the beacon to guide the actions of other nations. If we descend from the high moral ground, we are, in effect, losing ground to the terrorists.
Secretary of State Colin Powell was so accurate when he said; part of this war on terrorism is an ideological and political struggle. Our moral posture is our best weapon to prevail in that struggle.
Mr. Speaker, this is not a good bill. Since the inception of the Geneva Conventions 60 years ago, no other country in the world has tried to undermine and negate its provisions as this bill would.
For enemy combatants, the bill eliminates the right of habeas corpus. This is a right enshrined in our Constitution that may be abandoned only, and I quote, “when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” The elimination of habeas is not just illegal, it is flat out wrong.
The purpose of habeas corpus is simple. It is to avoid injustice, to avoid the detention by government of any individual that is erroneous, unwarranted, or in violation of law. This purpose and the values from which it stems do not distinguish among individuals or circumstances. They seek to avoid any injustice to any detained individuals.
All Americans want to hold terrorists accountable, but if we try to redefine the nature of torture, whisk people into secret detention facilities and use secret evidence to convict them in special courts, our actions do, in fact, embolden our enemies more than any extremist rhetoric could ever do.