President Obama Needs to Turn Words Into Action

May 21, 2009

Today President Obama said the right words about returning to the rule of law and reclaiming America’s moral authority.  Now he needs to ensure his actions reflect American values and the rule of law.

The president said that the struggle against terrorism is a struggle rooted in values.  In the past eight years, the United States has abandoned deeply held principles and empowered those who seek to harm Americans. The president recognized the perils of sacrificing our values to pragmatism, which is precisely the challenge he faces in closing Guantanamo.

Revising the military commissions is a mistake.  It is a system so broken, so discredited, that it cannot be saved by any amount of administrative or legislative duct tape. Americans have put faith in their federal court systems for more than 200 years. All detainees can be tried in these courts and brought to justice.  The rule of law must be our guide as the nation seeks to close Guantanamo and reclaim its moral authority.

When the United States wanted to understand how something like September 11th was allowed to happen and how to prevent another occurrence, Americans turned to an independent and bipartisan commission. The country faces similar questions today regarding abuses committed in the name of national security. Americans cannot simply turn the page and pretend that these things never happened.  An independent commission must be established to find the answers.