By HDN Editorial Board
Today's observance of the 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor means a great deal more to most of us than previous anniversaries of the attack.
Because of Sept. 11, we now understand the collective sense of horror and motivation felt in our nation after the surprise attack that took 2,390 American lives in Hawaii.
This 60th anniversary will serve to connect generations and unite us in our purpose to protect the freedoms we enjoy and have tried to share with the rest of the world.
We can also learn other lessons, ones that the World War II generation already knows: that former enemies can become friends, and that hasty actions taken against some of our citizens in our fear robbed them of the natural courses of their lives and shamed the rest of our people who allowed it to happen. We are speaking specifically about the rounding up of Japanese Americans into camps and other violations of our citizens' civil rights.
We can apply that lesson to the Bush administration's rules for dealing with suspected terrorists, including military tribunals in which the usual rules of criminal law are suspended and no appeals are allowed, and eavesdropping on jailhouse conversations between suspects and their attorneys. Military tribunals are fine for terrorist leaders captured abroad. But are the measures in place to safeguard the rights of legal residents of this country enough to protect the innocent from the government's zeal? Why are the rules that have protected our society from the most dangerous elements within it being tossed aside? We know from history that the excesses of our government can be a danger to us all.
We are amazed at Attorney General John Ashcroft's public attempts Thursday before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to prevent debate on this issue. He said: To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.''
We should try to learn from our past mistakes, Mr. Attorney General.