Today in an interview broadcast live exclusively on YouTube, Americans asked President Obama questions via email or video submissions. One questioner asked the President why it is taking so long to close Guantanamo Bay. Obama noted the various complicating factors in closing the facility, including what to do with the detainees, where they can be tried, and where they will be held. He also noted that one key problem has been “rank politics”:
OBAMA: One of the things that we’ve had to try to communicate to the country at large is that, historically, we’ve tried a lot of terrorists in our courts; we have them in our federal prisons; they’ve never escaped. And these folks are no different. But it’s been one of those things that’s been subject to a lot of, in some cases, pretty rank politics.
Of course, Obama is right — Republicans and conservatives have launched attack after attack with baseless fear-mongering since the President announced his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and in particular, for proposals to move some of the detainees to maximum security prisons in the U.S.:
– Rep. Steve King (R-IA): “What happens then if another judge grants him asylum in the United States and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is on a path to citizenship.”
— Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL): “If your Administration brings Al Qaeda terrorists to Illinois, our state and the Chicago Metropolitan Area will become ground zero for Jihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization.”
— Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL): “[U.S. prisons housing terrorists] could be a target for future terrorist activity.”
— Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): “Transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay to U.S. soil will endanger American lives.”
— House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH): “I think the administration wasn’t around for 9/11.”
— Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL): “They wouldn’t be treated any better in the United States, and they wouldn’t have the tropical breezes blowing through.”
Fox News hosts have joined in on the act, too. Fox & Friends even showed photos of Muslim men and asked, “Would you want a guy like this living in your backyard?” One local conservative even suggested that the al Qaeda suspects would indoctrinate the other American inmates. “You intermix them with the prison population, and there’s the very real possibility they would influence those individuals in prison,” she said.
Many terrorists have already been convicted in U.S. courts and currently reside in federal maximum security prisons, where they remain to this day without incident, whether indoctrinating inmates or escaping into locals’ “backyards.” In fact, many local residents have welcomed the idea of bringing the detainees to their prisons. Even Gen. David Petraeus — the right wing’s go-to man on national security issues — has said the U.S. needs to close Gitmo. “Gitmo has caused us problems, there’s no question about it. I oversee a region in which the existence of Gitmo has indeed been used by the enemy against us,” he said.