By Ernest A. Canning on 8/26/2010, 9:54pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

"The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 do not represent Islam. Far better representatives of Islam are the over 100 Muslims who died at work in the towers that day. No one need apologize for Islam."—Hal Donahue, VoteVets.org

Seeing it as part of their duty to support and defend the Constitution and dismayed by the "toxic effect" of the never-ending "war on terror" upon our society by the process of "dehumanization" which has created "a propensity to violence, a devaluing of others, even our own citizens, and a decided lack of empathy," VoteVet.org, a nation-wide group of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is circulating an "open letter" in support of the right to build a Muslim community center near "Ground Zero"...

The letter, which is addressed to the developer of the site, reads:

As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are writing to support your right to build a community center on the property you purchased in Lower Manhattan, and urge you to continue on with your project. We encourage you to distribute this letter to all those who may be interested, so they know that veterans like us see this as an important issue of our very Constitution and our national security.

There are two very important reasons we are choosing to speak out. First and foremost, when we signed up for service, we swore to uphold the Constitution. For all the talk these days from some quarters about the importance of protecting the Constitution and allowing the free market to work unfettered, those same people are fighting against your community’s right to buy property and worship freely. Our duty to protect the Constitution didn’t end when our service did. It’s up to us to stand up for the right for all Americans to enjoy the Constitutional freedoms that so many around the world don’t have. So, we are standing up for you.

Secondly, allowing the Community Center to move forward will deal a blow to the propaganda of al Qaeda and Islamist extremists, who recruit on the talking point that the United States is in a war against Islam. Of course, we’re not. But, if those forces of intolerance win, it will certainly appear that we are in a war against one religion – Islam.

As Matthew Alexander, a former interrogator in Iraq, and VoteVets.org member wrote at the Huffington Post, “Imagine an al Qaeda recruiter attempting to sway a potential charge by citing an imaginary American war against Muslims but having to face the counterargument that Americans built a Muslim community center near the site of the former Twin Towers. The Cordoba House would be a powerful symbol of U.S. tolerance and freedom that will stand in direct contradiction to al Qaeda's narrative that Americans hate Muslims.”

That’s the point. Defeating al Qaeda will take the use of force. But, it will also take destroying their ability to recruit, and that means winning hearts and minds. As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we know all too well the importance of having the people on your side.

For our Constitution and for the safety of America and our troops currently in the field, we are writing in full support of your project. As veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, we believe the construction of your community center isn’t “anti-America” at all. In fact, building your community center is about as pro-America as one can get.

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).