Leaning to the Left

Writing from a liberal persuasion

Posts Tagged ‘detainees’

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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