Gitmo North

November 19, 2009

Gitmo North

IBD: 19 Nov. 2009

War On Terror: Sen. Dick Durbin calls a plan to transfer 100 Guantanamo detainees to northwest Illinois “a dream come true.” It would paint a bull’s-eye on America’s heartland in time for the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

It seems the question of where to put the Guantanamo detainees is being settled as we speak, with liberal Democrats in the very blue state of Illinois welcoming them with open arms and outstretched hands for the federal dollars that will come with them.

Federal officials last Friday inspected the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Ill., a town of 500 on the Iowa border, with the thought of transferring as many as 100 Gitmo inmates there. The prison, built to house 1,600 prisoners, now holds around 200, and has fallen victim to state budget problems.

At press conferences held in Chicago, Moline and Rockford, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who took over from the disgraced Rod Blagojevich, and Illinois’ senior U.S. senator, Dick Durbin, stumped for the plan, calling it “a dream come true.” We call it a nightmare on Main Street.

They argued a revived Thomson sold to the feds as a supermax facility could bring in $1 billion in development and up to 3,000 jobs in that economically strapped part of the state. GOP members of the Illinois congressional delegation see it differently.

Rep. Don Manzullo, who sits on the House foreign affairs subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade, and whose district includes Thomson, joined Mark Kirk, Peter Roskam and Judy Biggert in sending a letter to the White House saying Illinois “will become ground zero for jihadist terrorist plots” if Gitmo detainees end up there.

Durbin said opponents were “unfortunately sowing the seeds of fear among people” and that there’s “not been a single escape from a supermax prison in the history of the United States.” Well, there’s never been an escape from Gitmo either. So your point is what, senator?

If we need to build more prisons to create jobs, then build them. We would applaud that use of federal stimulus money. We have plenty of domestic criminals to deal with. But taking terrorists from Gitmo and plunking them in the cornfields of the Midwest is based on ideology, not practicality or even economics.

Guantanamo was selected for terrorist detention not because it’s the American equivalent of Abu Ghraib, but because of its physical separation from the continental United States and its citizens. The facility is impossible to escape from, though some inmates have been released to return to the battlefield to kill Americans one more time, something that should give everyone pause.

Closing it to bow to world opinion makes no sense. Moving these terrorist suspects to the American heartland will not make the criticisms go away. Rather we would look forward to round-the-clock protests near the facility as terrorists worldwide salivate over the prospect of an attack on the facility or on the citizens of nearby communities.

If Fort Dix and Fort Hood have shown anything, it is that we are still vulnerable to terrorist attacks right here at home. There are plenty of jihadists and domestic recruits, even inside our own army, willing to take on and carry out any task. Imagine a small town in Illinois or Iowa being attacked or held hostage during the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

Fear is a healthy thing, Sen. Durbin, if it leads to eternal vigilance and common sense. Let’s leave the Gitmo detainees right where they are — on a U.S. military base surrounded by Marines on an island surrounded by water.

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