When is a US military base built in a foreign land American
soil and when is such a base foreign soil?
It's American soil when John McCain, born at a US naval air
station in the Panama Canal Zone, is running for president of the United
It's foreign soil when George W. Bush needs somewhere to
indefinitely incarcerate, torture and even execute those he labels
"unlawful enemy combatants."
Now which way is it? American soil or foreign soil? It can't
While some legal gurus and pundits think the accident of
where McCain was born should not make him ineligible for the presidency, the
plight of the Guantanamo detainees, denied the protections and due process
embodied in the US Constitution, are either not mentioned or are shrugged off.
Article II of the Constitution states, "No person
except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time
of the adoption of this constitution, shall be eligible to the office of
president . . ." It even goes on to rule out a natural born citizen who
has not "been fourteen years a resident within the United States,"
alluding to Americans returning from abroad.
Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) would seek to fix McCain's problem by introducing
legislation declaring any child born abroad to citizens serving in the US
military to be a natural born citizen under the constitution, George
Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley says that "it's
not clear whether legislation can resolve the constitutional issue."
What Turley doesn't say is that McCaskill's proposed
"Children of Military Families Natural Born Citizens Act," which
Senator Barack Obama, calling McCain's predicament a "loophole," has
stated he will co-sponsor, is, on its face, grossly discriminatory by elevating
children born abroad to citizens serving in the US military over children born
abroad to civilian citizens. That doesn't trouble Turley one bit.
Moreover, Turley favors an amendment that would throw the
whole provision out: "There should be universal agreement that the
question of McCain�s eligibility for president shows a grossly unfair and
unnecessary limitation within Article II. Indeed, we should amend the
Constitution to get rid entirely of the ban on naturalized citizens becoming
Turley's view that 8 USC, Section 403, which states, "Any person born in the Canal Zone on or after February 26, 1904,
and whether before or after the effective date of this chapter, whose father or
mother or both at the time of the birth of such person was or is a citizen of
the United States, is declared to be a citizen of the United States," is
insufficient to resolve the issue.
"Absent a constitutional amendment (which has been
introduced in prior years), the issue is simply one of constitutional
construction. The zone was a foreign military base like Guantanamo Cuba.
Ironically, the Bush Administration has been arguing for years (with Senate
support) that U.S. laws and jurisdiction do not extend to Cuba in the cases of
the detainees. If such bases are now treated as U.S. soil, it is unclear how
that would affect this long-standing claim that it is not for purposes of civil
liberties," Turley said, bringing us back to the issue of the detainees.
If a foreign-based US military installation is adjudged to
be American soil for the purpose of declaring John McCain a natural born
citizen, then how can all foreign-based US military installations not be
adjudged to also be American soil? Thusly, the Guantanamo detainees are
entitled to the protections and due process embodied in the US Constitution.
The Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments don't distinguish
between citizens and non-citizens -- and non-citizens applies to those here
legally and illegally, as illegal immigrants are given their day in court.
As the old saying goes, what's good for the goose is good
for the gander.
if we amend the Constitution to repeal the natural born citizen requirement,
think of this: Henry Kissinger might have become president and Arnold
Schwarzenegger might yet sit in the Oval Office. The framers may have been
thinking of foreign princes when they made being a natural born citizen a
requirement for seeking the presidency, but they were no fools.