Opposing Thomson

Republicans won't win back Illinois by demagoguing the possible transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to a largely vacant state prison in northwestern Illinois.

They've
got too many winning issues -- the bollixed state of Illinois,
corruption

thomson.jpg

Thomson prison

and malfeasance, the cosmic health care legislation, President Barack Obama's
foreign policy weaknesses -- to spend their time whining about the
supposed dangers of depositing suspected terrorists in the Thomson Correctional Center. It's as if Republicans were desperate for something to club Democrats with, so they settled on the most emotional issue they could find.

They
talk about the dangers of putting a "terrorist enclave" (that would be
about 215 detainees) in our state, making us "ground zero" on the
terrorist map. As if terrorists needed an extra reason for attacking
Illinois. The leader of a plot to blow up the former Sears Tower
was just sentenced to 13 1/2 years in prison, remember? I'd be a fool
to try to predict where terrorists will or won't strike, but isn't it
possible that some Republicans have made too much of the risk involved?

Republicans
are handing Democrats a ready-made issue, making the GOP look like they
oppose job creation in a community that badly needs help. Isn't a
better issue for Republicans the fact that a $145 million
maximum-security prison with 1,600 cells is home to only 144 inmates?
That's all the state can afford thanks to years of financial
mismanagement. Most of the blame falls on Democrats, but some of it
also falls on Republicans. If Republicans look like they are attacking
fellow Republicans of yore, too bad. Voters would appreciate the
honesty, for a change.

Ironically, in opposing the Thomson
transfer, Republicans have placed themselves on the side of the
detainees, who would rather stay at Guantanamo. Zak (who for security
reasons was only identified by this name), an Arab-American appointed
by the U.S. government as a liaison to the detainees, told England's
Sunday Telegraph that the detainees would rather stay in Guantanamo
than spend a life sentence, or years waiting for execution, in America.
"They know (they) will not receive the same privileges as here," Zak
said. "Given the choice of being sentenced forever in Guantanamo or
moved to supermax, it is, 'No, can I stay in Gitmo?' Here they can be
outside, they can smell the sea."

If we really wanted to make
life tough for the detainees, we'd find a place for them on Northerly
Island, where they could get a taste of Chicago winters.

In any
case, if Republicans want to make an issue of detainees, they should go
after the Obama administration for transferring the detainees to any
place in the United States and trying them in civilian criminal courts.
Instead of doing the rational thing, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder
are being hemmed in by Obama's campaign rhetoric to shut down
Guantanamo and now have to swallow the much-deserved criticism for
prosecuting in New York the self-described mastermind of the 9/11
attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. If Republicans can be criticized for
opposing the transfers to Thomson prison, then Democrats have a lot
more to answer for by holding a show trial within sight of the actual
ground zero.

Bordering on the bizarre is Obama's justification
for the show trial: If we don't convict him this time, we will the
next. Why haven't civil libertarians shown up to lambaste Obama for
this we'll-hang-him-first-and-try-him-later statement? Fact is, the
detainees are not suspected criminals, they are suspected soldiers in a
war against the United States, which makes them enemy combatants. The
precedent is clear: Enemy combatants are tried in military courts,
where information that is valuable to our enemies need not be disclosed
publicly.

A recent Gallup Poll found that by 59 percent to 36
percent, Americans believe that Mohammed should be tried in a military
court. More important for Republicans, independents favor a military
trial by 63 percent to 32 percent.

Illinois Republicans should
take their cue from that: Instead of wasting time crabbing about a less
than major threat that the Thomson prison decision poses to us, they
have a winner in hanging the decision to try the detainees anywhere in
the United States around Democratic necks.

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