Friday, October 23, 2009

Guantanamo North?

There has been considerable buzz for months now over the idea of closing the Guantanamo Detention Facility and moving its dangerous inmates to the mainland, thereby giving them all the protections of a common American criminal, and then some. Opinions vary widely, and range from outright hatred of the idea to grudging acceptance. But one thing that was somewhat unexpected is the idea that an American city would openly embrace the idea of housing the terrorists and possible terrorists caught on foreign battlefields.

Meet Standish, Michigan. Michigan is known for having some of the largest Muslim enclaves in America, and therefore the largest potential for sleeper cells and radical mosques. But that plays next to no part in Standish's enthusiastic support for bringing the inmates to their hometown. Standish is a town of 1,500 people and is the county seat of a county with an unemployment rate of twenty-five percent. The county is, to be generous, impoverished. To add insult to injury, Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm recently announced that the only economic success in Standish is about to be closed, namely the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility. The facility funds nearly one-quarter of the city's budget and is the county's largest employer.

But in keeping with his promise of hope, the Obama administration announced on August 2 that Standish might yet be saved. Standish Maximum Security was one of two prisons under consideration for a transfer of inmates from Gitmo. The county's Republican state representative Tim Moore said: "First and foremost, our goal is to keep the prison open." The mayor of Standish as well as the maverick city manager, Michael Moran, are enthusiastic supporters of the idea. Moran said "If anybody did escape they'd have a surprise. We're a community of hunters." Moran was formerly an Air Force policeman. Even the Democratic representative in Congress supports the idea, as do both Michigan U.S. Senators. In the best tradition of making a bad situation feasibly successful, it seemed like the perfect solution--a president in search of a place to send terrorists and suspected terrorists (foreign combatants all) and a town willing to take them.

Now you know there has to be a spoiler here, don't you? And that spoiler appears in the form of one Pete Hoekstra, Republican Congressman from Michigan's 2nd District. Hoekstra is a walking gaffe. Hoekstra was a very public champion of a website which published highly scientific instructions on how to construct a nuclear weapon. He was the first to openly announce that large caches of nuclear and biological weapons had been found in Iraq during the invasion phase of the second Iraq war. On a "fact-finding" mission to Iraq this year, he endangered his fellows and the military by announcing the mission's whereabouts in a Twitter tweet.

Hoekstra has no concept of the difference between opposing an idea and sabotaging policy for the sake of headlines. His proposed "Keep Terrorists Out of American Act" has the support of many thinking Americans. "Nobody wants 240 of the world's most dangerous captured terrorists brought into their neighborhoods" he said. Apparently he forgot to check with the citizens of Standish and the surrounding county. He is incapable of understanding that once the decision has been made to transfer the prisoners to the mainland (if indeed it ever is made), then the right move is to make sure that they at least be detained in the optimum location.

In other words, sensible opposition to the prisoner relocation has become intransigence about where to place them if that decision to move them becomes final. The Hoekstra opposition seems to be more political than sensible. In office long after his pledge to term-limit himself had expired, Hoekstra has declared that he was giving up his seat in Congress in order to run for governor of Michigan. Granholm, a Democrat in a Democratic state, is legally term-limited. Granholm's likely successor for the Democratic nomination, Lieutenant Governor John Cherry, is considered to be Granholm's ideological soul-mate. Since her approval ratings are in the low 30s, his chances are far slimmer than would ordinarily be expected.

To gain support statewide, Hoekstra has demagogued the issue at Standish's expense. He argues that putting the facility in the existing Standish Maximum Security prison would "hurt Michigan economically (as if further damage were even possible) by dissuading businesses and tourists from coming to the state." And to really stir up the pot, he adds that a transfer would bring into the state "committed, hard-core radical jihadists who have sworn a religious oath to kill as many Americans as possible." That's pure fear-mongering. Everyone knows what these prisoners are, but how does that relate to the idea that once the decision has been made, they have to go somewhere, and Standish seems to be the best answer to an unpleasant question?

Hoekstra has managed to convince one of the locals. For no reason known by anyone in the area, Hoekstra held a private meeting with Standish tavern owner Dave Munson. Munson had gone to Washington to lobby for the facility, but after a meeting following a cocktail party during which Hoekstra "told him things that are very scary, and Hoekstra is privy to private information," Munson organized a rally to oppose the facility. Although it was intended to be local, the rally which was held on Wednesday drew about 200 people, almost all from areas outside of Standish.

Hoekstra spoke at the rally, declaring in his frequent gaffe-mode that "taking the prisoners would be like accepting the 40 pieces of silver Roman authorities gave Judas to betray Jesus (those of you who read your Bible know that it's 30 pieces of silver)." Other speakers invoked horror stories "invoking scenes of terrorists hurling bodily fluids, taking schoolchildren hostage, and detonating a bomb in the church where the rally was being held" as reported by staff editor Chris Bodenner of the Atlantic.com.

Statewide, the arguments against the facility will probably serve Hoekstra well. In the abstract, nobody in his right mind wants these fanatics anywhere in the United States. But the Standish solution seems viable and a way of providing a facility that may be inevitable by placing it in a location which badly needs it. And if Fox News is correct, this is turning into pure political grandstanding. In an unverified report, Fox news on September 28 cited an administration official claiming that Standish Max was no longer being considered. Though several administration officials have denied the report, Hoekstra told the Detroit News that he was 95% convinced it was true based on conversations his staffer had with Pentagon officials. The word we're getting through back channels is that it's unlikely that these folks are gonna come to Standish."

If the report is true, Hoekstra will claim credit for keeping them out, and his bid for the governor's chair will be enhanced, everywhere except in impoverished Standish. The citizens are so desperate, that they show up to donate blood largely in order to get the $20 gambling coupons offered to them by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian casino. As reported in The New Republic, "an older gentleman says that he only comes once or twice a year, 'just when I'm trying to help pay the light bill.'" Hoekstra seems determined to make that the last hope in Standish. "Maybe I'll win at the casino." Hoekstra seems to have learned his concept of "hope" from another famous politician.

11 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

very interesting post, hawk, as always. I don't quite understand why the governor is announcing closure of the facility. Seems like there would be enough maximum security prisoner needs without going to Gitmo to fill the place up.

Hoekstra does appear to be more of a grandstanding politician than a thoughtful member of the legislative branch, though. If they have to house the Gitmo prisoners, I do think if it becomes inevitable they come to U.S. soil, it should be on the White House lawn until Obama is defeated in2012 and then moved with him to wherever he moves to after his defeat 9he is kind of an honorary Al Quaeda, don't you think?)

AndrewPrice said...

It's all about money. They know that the government would pay well for them to run the prison, so they view it as a plus. What else are you going to do with all those union workers whose jobs were "saved" by Obama.

Writer X said...

Very interesting, LawHawk. I had no idea that Hoekstra was such a clown. Seems he missed a good opportunity to highlight/help two issues: (1) Why are terrorists being brought anywhere outside of Gitmo and (2) Is there no other way to help the economic development of Standish? Instead Hoekstra behaves like a carnival barker.

I agree with Jed. House the terrorists on the White House lawn where they can play hoola hoops with Michelle. It'll be one big party.

LawHawkSF said...

Tennessee: Amen. You want 'em, you got 'em. Right on the White House lawn. And then--the South Side of Chicago.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: Money is indeed a serious motivator here. But I can certainly sympathize with the citizens of Standish. If the morons in DC are going to do this thing, why not put it in an already maximum security prison where the citizens have an attitude of "if they go over the wall, they won't get far?" If they put them on Alcatraz, the next thing we know they'd be on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

LawHawkSF said...

WriterX: Of course Michelle would have to be wearing a burka while hula-hooping, or they would kill her. But where are they going to put the "unclean" Portuguese water dog?

StanH said...

That was perfect Lawhawk, they’d wind up on the SF Board of Supervisors. LOL! The key to the city would be in order. Put’em on one of the gay parade floats, could be interesting.

You have to feel awful for the good people of Michigan to have to consider this a viable option. Not to be unfeeling, but, damn, perhaps a change of address is in order for the unemployed in Michigan. Are the Gitmo Goons going to stay in perpetuity? What happens when the blood thirsty savages go to trial and a percentage are released, what then? I would prefer except for a chosen few release them in their own countries, no matter what their home countries say, make it their problem. This is an unnecessary situation given to us by Witless Barry the Doofus and Chief.

LawHawkSF said...

StanH: People who are out of their twenties tend to put down roots, and the people in Standish tend to have roots going back generations. I agree with you wholeheartedly that all logic says they should move, but for many of them it would be difficult, if not impossible. But at least I can offer them one piece of advice: Don't come to California, our unemployment rate and financial meltdown are quickly matching Michigan's. And if you're a farmer, don't come anywhere near the state until we poison all the delta smelt and get the water flowing to what is quickly becoming the largest desert in the nation.

HamiltonsGhost said...

I don't think bringing the jihadist "combatants" to US mainland soil is ever really likely to happen. But if it does, I don't see why Standish wouldn't be as good a place as any. The local armed citizens don't have to read Miranda rights to escapees, and we might ultimately get the result we really want.

Hoekstra seems to suffer from the same problem too many Republican "leaders" suffer from. Self-aggrandizement combined with opposition to anything the Democrats propose, with no backup plan. I'd have been impressed with Hoekstra if he had honestly opposed bringing these degenerates to US soil while also being prepared to lobby for Standish in the event that Obama succeeds in his idiotic plan. Instead he played the demagogue game of pitting Michigan's own citzens against each other, knowing that Standish would lose on sheer numbers alone.

LawHawkSF said...

HamiltonsGhost: Exactly right. When it comes to the decision about the detainees, Obama can do pretty much whatever he wants by executive decree. So if he's in one of his frequent "I'm right and everybody else is wrong" phases, somebody is going to get stuck with the jihadists. The wisest course would be to vociferously oppose the transfer, but as the representative of Michigan, Hoekstra should also be prepared to lobby for Standish.

DCAlleyKat said...

For too long communities have been held hostage by the rules, regulations, and downright economic disaster stance of people in power. Much of the auto industry ruined by unfair regulatory measures. Banks and financial institutions done in by a government run system that forced them to give loans to people they otherwise would not have...I could go on. It culminates in people having to sell their blood for money, giving true meaning to the term 'bloodsucking politicians'! And the last time I heard Michigans governor that's exactly what she sounded like, a bloodsucking politician. Oh, and have a nice day.

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