Now to the substance of what Mullins McLeod was getting on Gresham Barrett about.
As I mentioned before in one of my last columns for the paper, Rep. Barrett didn’t seem to have a reason for running for governor. He could clearly state what he wanted to do, or anything special that he brought to the job (which is probably why he dodged talking to me for a couple of weeks, until I got really insufferable with one of his staffers — avoiding free media is just bizarre behavior in a gubernatorial candidate, and it really stood out), which was not good.
Now, he’s apparently decided he wants to grab attention and break out of the pack in the worst way — which is exactly what he’s done.
In the playbook of the kind of politician who has a very low opinion of the electorate, he’s doing everything right: He’s appealing to xenophobia, to the Not In My Backyard mentality, to insecurity, and sticking it to the administration that happens to be of the other party. He accomplishes all that by griping loudly and obnoxiously about the idea of the Obama administration bringing “detainees” from Guantanamo to the Navy Brig in Charleston.
Folks, I’d just as soon they stay in Gitmo, because I’ve always thought that was an excellent place to keep them, practically speaking. First, it’s off our soil, which keeps them in limbo as far as our legal system is concerned. You’ll say, “But that’s just what’s WRONG with Gitmo,” but the fact is that prisoners who are taken in such unconventional warfare, many of whom are sworn to do anything to harm Americans if given the chance, are different either from people arrested in this country under civil laws or captured in a conventional conflict.
And it’s secure as all get-out.
But… and this is a big “but”… as convenient as it might be for us to keep people whom we believe to be terrorists on a sort of Devil’s Island, as practical as it might be — it hasn’t been good for our country. Why? Because we’re not the 19th century French. We aren’t governed by a Napoleonic Code. We’re all about innocence until proven guilty. And while we may sound like damnable fools for extending such niceties to people who thought 9/11 was really cool and would like to see another, we do stand for certain things, and Gitmo has given this country a huge black eye that it can’t afford. We have to be better than that.
For that reason, even if John McCain had been elected instead of Obama, we’d be closing Guantanamo. (As Lindsey Graham says, we might have done it in a more organized manner, but we’d still be doing it.) And finding a secure place to put those people is part of that process. Guess what? Our allies don’t want them. So we’re stuck with them.
And that makes the brig down in Charleston as good a place as any. Hey, I don’t want them there, but sometimes, somebody besides our men and women in uniform has to put up with something they don’t like in our nation’s greater interest in this War on Terror.
And does anyone truly doubt the ability of the United States Navy to keep those people secure there? I don’t. I suspect we could always transfer up a few more Marines from Guantanamo if we think we don’t have enough security there. It certainly fits the brig’s mission, which is officially stated as follows:
The mission of the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston is to ensure the security, good order, discipline, and safety of prisoners and detained personnel; to retrain and restore the maximum number of personnel to honorable service; to prepare prisoners for return to civilian life as productive citizens; to prepare long term prisoners for transfer to the Federal Bureau of Prisons or the United States Army Disciplinary Barracks; and when directed by superior authority, detain enemy combatants under laws of war.
So basically, Rep. Barrett’s attempt to score points on this issue is ugly, petty, and insulting.
Just for the sake of argument, does anyone agree with him?