Leaning to the Left

Writing from a liberal persuasion

Where Should We Put the Prisoners…Perhaps a Prison

Posted by Beau Winiger on May 21, 2009

Where will they go? That is the current political question in the air when it comes to the detainees being held at Guantanamo. Unfortunately, there are many uncertain answers to that question, but there are two things that are definiteand seem to be agreed upon. President Obama neglected to actually answer that question when he decided that Gitmo would be closed, and near every member of Congress has said there is no way that any prisoners would be held at their prisons. Obviously these two items are interrelated, and if the latter can be resolved it will fix the former.

On the surface the problem of where to put the detainees seems to be pretty simple. They are prisoners, and when prisoners are found guilty of wrongdoing they are normally held in prisons. That is why there are prisons (and America has plenty of prisons). American precedent does exist for housing terrorists who are convicted of crimes. One need look no farther back in history than cases such as Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber, or the “Blind Sheik” to see that both our federal court system and Super Max prisons work perfectly fine when charged with the responsibility for trying terrorists and housing them after conviction. In addition, Super Max prisons house the most dangerous criminals in this country. People that killed for no reason. Say what you might about the legitimacy of the Gitmo detainees rational for wanting to attack this country (and I am not saying that they have reasons which are understandable), but I tend to find people that kill just because much scarier than people that at least try and find a reason for killing. Also, a prison such as Leavenworth in Kansas is actually set inside a military base. Where better to house terrorists than surrounded by military personnel?

So if we already know that prisons can hold terrorists easily, why is there still this objection to holding prisoners there? One line of argument used is that the American taxpayer should not be responsible for housing and caring for prisoners, or as Dick Cheney said in his speech today “it has even been suggested US taxpayer dollars will be used to support them”. Well, Mr. Cheney, who exactly is funding the detention facility located at Gitmo? Are those not taxpayer dollars that were used to pay Halliburton to build a new 1 billion dollar facility there? What exactly will change about tax payer money when they are housed in existing prisons in the US? Anything that is done by our government is funded by taxpayer dollars. Just because prisoners would be housed on American soil does not change that.

So now we know that line of argument doesn’t hold. What next? Another line of argument is that terrorists will simply be released back onto US soil. The only answer to this is pretty obvious. If they are released than they did not do anything wrong. This argument is akin to getting mad when someone is aquitted of murder and then released back onto the streets. If they were innocent, than they should be released. Send them back to their country and say we are sorry for illegally scooping you up and throwing you in jail for a few years. But perhaps their stay at Gitmo has hardened them to America (torture and unlawful imprisonment has a way of doing that), and they might not have done anything wrong to begin with but they will join our enemies now. The problem for conservatives when they argue this latter half is that they are admitting that we did some pretty bad things to detainees at Gitmo, and so far no conservative seems willing to admit that much. Once they do we can have a discussion on the matter, but until then we will just use their line of reasoning and assume that nothing at Gitmo would harden them towards America.

“But if we put them in prisons they will be able to network with other terrorists”. Well, unfortunately that is what happens in prisons. When bad people are around each other they tend to talk about bad things. This is not a unique characteristic that would only be fostered in prisons on American soil. The same could be said for prisoners at Gitmo. And since so many of the detainees at Gitmo have been released without charge (because they didn’t do anything wrong) the longer we keep innocent people locked up with bad people the more opportunity they will have to network with real terrorists, while at the same time being more open to anti-American terrorists because they are being held in a detention camp without cause. Anyone else see a really bad cycle here that is built upon the reasoning conservatives use for not putting terrorists in American prisons?

So we now have found out that American prisons can, and do, hold terrorists. We know that only innocent people will not be put in prison, and that has been happening for some time now. We know that terrorists network in any confinement, including Gitmo, and keeping innocent detainees locked in with real terrorists only strengthens that networking among people that would not be exposed to as strong of terrorist influence. And yet the argument persists that we should not house terrorists in American prisons. Conservatives would instead prefer to put these detainees in limbo, and just hope that everyone forgets that they are there. Human rights groups will not forget though, and neither will the American people. Bring the detainees up on charges, convict them if they are guilty, and then put them in prison. It is that simple. Let us as an American people do that, and then we can move on to trying to reclaim some of the morality that makes America great.

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6 Responses to “Where Should We Put the Prisoners…Perhaps a Prison”

  1. jonolan said

    Bring them up on charges and under what jurisdiction? US civilian courts are both unable to handle such case and have no jurisdiction over most of the crimes committed by these people.

  2. Beau Winiger said

    If a civilian court is not able to handle the charges (and there are definite possibilities where that could happen), than perhaps we should use the same martial courts used for our own soldiers when they are brought up on charges that can’t be handled by civilian courts.

  3. jonolan said

    You mean like the Military Commissions / Tribunals that got the Left all pissed off when President Bush enacted them? Though I admit that the Left seems more sanguine with the same thing under Obama, so there’s some thought that it would work.

    Of course there’s a real issue with that. Under the Geneva Convention, many of the detainees could be charged with such crimes as to be executed. That would piss a lot of people off.

  4. Beau Winiger said

    I am not in favor of the same sort of military tribunals that Bush started, and that Obama has decided to continue. Those tribunals are secret, and the “rules of the game” are not made known, so there is no check on the rights/lack thereof or judgements that are brought down by. The only reason for the military to be used for courts would be the lack of jurisdiction that you pointed out earlier, but by using the same justice system as we give our own troops we would assure the world and the American people that we are following a rule of law, as opposed to arbitrary rulings that are made up for the situation at hand. Also, I find it hard to believe that “many” of the detainees would be charged with crimes that would lead to execution. Only a very small percentage have ever even been charged with any crimes, so I highly doubt that all the detainees still at Gitmo are such egregious offenders that their crimes warrant the death penalty. Otherwise, they probably would of had some charges filed against them by now.

  5. jonolan said

    If they were under arms in a combat zone while wearing no uniform of easily seen badge of identification, they not only have no protections under the Geneva Conventions, but also can be shot under the Geneva Convention rules of warfare. We’ve run into a problem where the laws we currently have cannot properly address the situation at hand.

  6. Deb Boudreau said

    I agree with much of your reasoning, however think it is unfair in your use of the word “conservatives”. As a conservative I think and vote by my own knowledge and gathering of facts, which also means I am open and listen to all opinions before I make a decision, obviously others like me do the same or President Obama would not be in the White House. One person’s ideas (Vice President Chaney) does not represent everyone’s opinion. My only objection to terrorists being housed in US prisons is the opporunity to influence others who do not have a life sentence, become parolled, and now we have more recruited terroists “wanabees” free in our country. I have no problem housing convicted terrorits with life sentences as long as they are imprisoned with others with no chance of paroll, and are not given “opportunities” that hard working low income American citizens are not given such as internet access/web sites to influence on the ouside, and a free college education.

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