Commentary: Fearmongering about Guantanamo must stop

May 22, 2009 

This editorial appeared in The Wichita Eagle.

The sound decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility by January is turning into a daunting test of President Obama's leadership, with even members of his own party balking at funding the closure of the prison and the transfer of detainees to U.S. soil. To the president's credit, he underscored his promise to shut down Gitmo in a speech Thursday, saying that "by any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it."

It's useful to recall that before Obama took office, those calling for Gitmo's closure included President Bush, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Unfortunately, members of Kansas' delegation are among the worst fearmongers on Capitol Hill on the issue, acting as if terrorist suspects will be unshackled and dropped off in neighborhoods around the state.

Have our lawmakers forgotten that more than 400,000 prisoners from the Axis powers were held at 500 camps during World War II, including at Concordia, Salina, Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley? Don't they realize that, according to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., nearly 350 convicted terrorists already are securely held at U.S. prisons? And that a comparatively few 50 to 100 Gitmo detainees may need to be moved to U.S. facilities, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who also supports closing Gitmo?

There surely are legitimate logistical reasons that certain U.S. facilities won't work, but as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said this week, the idea that we cannot find a place to securely house detainees within the United States "is not rational."

The fearmongering is unwarranted as well as unproductive. Such resistance among states also undermines the administration's efforts to persuade other countries to take more of the detainees. If we're afraid to take them, why should other countries?

To read the complete editorial, visit The Wichita Eagle.

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