Our guest blogger is Ken Gude, Associate Director of the International Rights and Responsibility Program at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D) added her voice yesterday to a predictable chorus of Kansas politicians campaigning to prohibit any detainees from Guantanamo ending up at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth when President-elect Obama closes the prison. Concerns about future acts terrorism are understandable, if misguided, in the debate surrounding the closure of Guantanamo. Yet, it is not enough to say Guantanamo is a problem and it must be closed and then refuse to be part of the solution.
Home-state politicians screaming “not-in-my-back-yard” (NIMBY) will certainly become a major feature of the debate surrounding Guantanamo in the weeks and months to come. Sen. Sam Brownback (R) is driving this effort which has led to legislation being introduced at the local, state, and national level to keep Guantanamo detainees out of Kansas. It is disappointing that Gov. Sebelius has jumped on the Brownback NIMBY bandwagon, not least because the motivation to protect American lives should encourage our leaders to explore every available option to close Guantanamo quickly and responsibly.
The U.S. military officer who led the interrogation team that rapidly and humanely persuaded one of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s associates to give up his location leading to his death in a 2006 airstrike recently wrote in the Washington Post that he “learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo… It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse.”
This echoes former Bush Pentagon official Alberto J. Mora’s testimony to Congress last year that “there are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq – as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat – are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.” Hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans have died as a result of Guantanamo, surely among them some of the 43 Kansans killed in Iraq. It is our responsibility as Americans to be ready to do our part to help close Guantanamo.
Kansas’ contribution could be that a small number of lower-level Guantanamo detainees that might be convicted in military courts-martial end up in the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) at Ft. Leavenworth. The USDB, the only maximum security prison in the entire military system, is a state-of-the art 515-cell facility built in 2002 that has a special housing unit designed precisely for maximum security detainees.
No one is suggesting that all of the approximately 235 remaining Guantanamo detainees be moved to Leavenworth, and no one is suggesting that it would be an easy job no matter how small the number. Leavenworth may not end up being chosen, but it should be on the table because for far too long we have allowed our fear of the small chance that some Americans may be harmed in the future to cloud our judgment about what to do to prevent more Americans being killed right now.