To the Editor:

As American Marine units deploy in Afghanistan to locate and kill Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership, domestic critics have already begun to undermine the legal framework that the president has authorized to dispose of our enemies. On Nov. 13, President Bush authorized, by military order, the creation of military tribunals to try and execute the captured terrorists.

This action was both necessary and proper.

The United States is at war. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were a continuation of a decadelong war against those forces in the Muslim world which would deny their societies the benefits of secular, liberal democracy.

Americans were slaughtered in the World Trade Center in 1993. Americans were slaughtered in the Khobar Towers in 1996. Americans were slaughtered in the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998. Americans were slaughtered in the USS Cole in 2000. Americans were slaughtered in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.

This violence must stop. We must kill our enemies to stop it.

The military tribunal is a tool for accomplishing this end. Professor David Cameron (“Rollback of civil rights after Sept. 11 must end,” 11/26) does not understand that rights “widely assumed to apply to others such as resident aliens” may not apply in times of war.

The president’s order only applies to those individuals who are not citizens of the United States. These people cannot enjoy the full due process provisions of American law, especially if they are involved in committing acts of war against our nation. This question of law has been examined before; the U.S. Supreme Court upheld similar tribunals in Ex Parte Quinn (1943) in a case involving German saboteurs.

Cameron also contends that the tribunals will give European Union nations a reason to block the extradition of suspected terrorists to the United States. After Spain arrested eight al Qaeda terrorists on charges of participating in the planning of the World Trade Center attacks, it was made abundantly clear that the Spanish could not in good conscience extradite suspects to a nation that did not provide the same legal guarantees that Spain provides.

This moral obtuseness of the Spanish judiciary is almost comic. The only thing keeping these terrorists from meeting their maker is Spanish self-righteousness, not properly constituted American military tribunals. Spain has been a “liberal” democracy for little over a week and they presume to lecture us, during wartime, on our legal procedures.

Perhaps Spain would do well to focus on their own system that employs, of all things, investigative judges and magistrates rather than hyperventilate about the execution of terrorists.

As President Bush said in his address to a joint session of Congress, “Whether we bring justice to our enemies or our enemies to justice, justice will be done.”

The creation of military tribunals gives me confidence that these were not just empty words.

Patrick Gaughen ’02

November 26, 2001