I love all of the sudden consternation over President Obama's decision to close Gitmo within a year.
Obama's been talking about this for a year, and he definitively stated that he would close it a few months ago. Now, suddenly, we have many in the news media speculating as to what will happen to all of those prisoners. David Shuster actually asked Sam Brownback, of all people, how he would feel, should Obama transfer the prisoners to Leavenworth.
Okay, now, Shuster's a great guy and all, and he's a credible jourmalist. But for Chrissakes; what's the point of speculating about such a thing until someone in the Administration suggests that as a possibility? I mean, there is almost as much of a possibility that he'll give them tickets to Disneyland and put them up in the Sheraton Orlando.
The prison at Guantanamo Bay must close. It's really that simple. The message that it says to the rest of the world is that the United States talks a good game, but is too weak to act upon our actual principles. We have to hold true to our principles, and the only way to show true strength is to adhere to those principles through adversity, George W. Bush, in trying to project a measure of "strength," actually showed us as weak. He demonstrated that he, as our leader, was of the opinion that our system of justice was simply not strong enough to be able to try and convict some violent thugs, and put them away legitimately. More than that, he showed the world that, because we're the biggest, baddest kid on the block, we could do whatever we want.
In other words, the prison at Guantanamo Bay doesn't demonstrate our strength; rather, it exposes our weakness for all to see. With it, the United States looks like a bully, and we all know what the other kids want to do to the bully, don't we?
And contrary to the beliefs of some of the David Shusters out there, disposing of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center will not be all that incredibly difficult. We're not talking about thousands, or even hundreds, of prisoners suddenly being dumped on the prison system. In fact, there's a good chance we could be talking about relocating a couple of dozen prisoners, at most.
You see, since the beginning of the Afghan War, about 775 prisoners (numbers are approximate, because the Bushies have largely kept the numbers "secret") have been transported to Gitmo. Of that number, about 420 of them were released without charge.
Yes, you read that right. The Bushies captured 775 people, put them in jail cells, told us they were all "enemy combatants" and were just too dangerous to be believed, and then released 420 of them without charge, presumably after torturing a lot of them and getting no information. As of May 2008, there are 270 detainees at Gitmo, and of those, about 60 of them have already been marked for release by the Bushies, with further plans to release another 130-150. The Bushies only planned to try about 60-80 detainees, at most, eventually, when they got around to it. Of course, many posit that perhaps half of those detainees can no longer be tried, either because of torture, or because the evidence against them has been declared top secret and cannot be used at a trial. Yes, that's right, folks; the Bushies may have made it impossible to even try most of the people they claim are so incredibly "dangerous" with their extraconstitutional actions.
Yet, to hear the press talk about this, one would think we should expect a swarm of nasty terrorists to overrun our legal corrections system, when the reality is, at most we should expect 60-80 detainees to be absorbed into a system that already has more than a million people in it. In other words, our correctional system is not going to be overrun with terrorists; at worst, we'll be adding .008% to the current prison population.
The United States must regain its footing as an ethical and moral superpower, and the to that are to reassert our moral authority with regard to justice and mercy. In two days, President Obama has begun the process of doing just that, by demanding that the prison at Guantanamo Bay be closed, and that the United States will no longer torture anyone for any reason. But don't let the frighty righties scare you; we're not talking about letting thousands of prisoners loose to wreak havoc on the United States and the rest of the world. At most, we'll be trying a few dozen of them, and absorbing them into regular jails. If they're found guilty of terrorist activity, they can serve out their days with the rest of the prison population, where they belong. if they're not guilty, they can be sent back to be with their families.
But the United States of America can never be about grabbing people and holding them, just because we don't trust them. If we have evidence of crime, then try and convict them. Otherwise, they're innocent, and must be allowed to go back to their families.
We are what we stand for. And we should stand for justice.