by Adele Welty
January 9th, 2007
Guantanamo Document – January 2007
On September 11th, 2001, my son, Firefighter Timothy Welty, was lost in the line of duty at the World Trade Center. He died trying to rescue those trapped in the burning towers. He risked his life because of his commitment to preserving life, because he had a reverence for the value of every human being. I am part of this delegation, which seeks to shut down Guantanamo, because this prison conjures up a caustic connection to September 11th by justifying the inhumane and unwarranted treatment of many innocent individuals, in the names of my son and all those precious souls we lost that day.
The Constitution of the United States is a document written by ordinary men, who based its proclamations on the profound wisdom of centuries, the works of philosophers and teachers, whose ideas about freedom and the value of a human being have survived for hundreds of years. The Constitution recognizes human dignity and affirms the rights of all persons to be treated justly. It recognizes that the government must take extraordinary care and adhere to a strict process before it can interfere with individual liberty. The foundation of these ideas is freedom, and the right to exercise that freedom is a concept tens of thousands of men and women have fought and died to protect. To surrender these rights is to dishonor their sacrifice. Due Process of Law is not and was never meant to be optional
But in these times of endless cycles of violence, we have, as a nation, been willing to compromise the freedom we are told our attackers are trying to destroy. We have been bombarded with language meant to instill fear in us, fear that will intimidate us into giving up our freedom willingly, and to have no compunction about taking away the freedom of others. We no longer trust the rule of law that we have held out as a beacon of hope to the world.
Today, our country holds alleged terrorists in detention in prisons like Guantanamo, in Afghanistan, Iraq and in privately owned and operated detention facilities around our nation – without charging them with crimes, without giving them access to legal counsel, without trial before an impartial judge and jury where they would have the opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses that might exonerate them. And they are tortured in the expectation that they will provide information. Why should that be of concern to us? Because as Martin Luther King so rightly said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
I agree with Senator John McCain, at least in this; “It is not about who they are, it’s about who we are”. Senator McCain knows something about being deprived of personal liberty. He also knows something about torture. “It is not about who they are, it’s about who we are”. And we, as Americans, must make a conscious choice about what kind of people we aspire to be as a nation and not surrender our way of life to those who would undermine the Constitution. Ironically, they are some of the same people who swore to uphold the Constitution when they took the oath of office.
If we do not trust the rule of law, if we do not uphold the process for insuring that all individuals accused of crime have access to the means of defending themselves, we have no claim to the moral high ground. Due Process of Law is the lynchpin of our way of life. If we do not trust that process, if we must bypass it in time of peril, then who is the enemy that will destroy our freedom? In the words of that precocious possum, Pogo, “We have seen the enemy and they are us”.
For more information:
International Day of Action to Shut Down Guantánamo