Anybody agree with Barrett about the Navy brig?

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?

29 thoughts on “Anybody agree with Barrett about the Navy brig?

  1. Susanna K.

    If they’re going to be imprisoned in a place designed to “detain enemy combatants,” I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s not like they’re going to be mingling with the tourists at the Market.

  2. bud

    Since most of these folks are probably not terrorists but just people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time we should just give each of the $10,000 and take them back to the place where we captured them and let them go with our appologies. If we have evidence that they committed som type of crime then let’s put them on trial and if found guilty punished as prescribed by the law.

  3. Karen McLeod

    I suspect that many of these people are actually terrorists. But we should be able to demonstrate that they are. Otherwise we need to repatriate them. In any case, legal limbo is unnacceptable. We should not keep people detained because we think they’re no-good-niks.

  4. Lynn Teague

    Are Americans really so afraid of our own shadows these days? If we can’t trust the military to protect us from people who are already in custody,and who are held within a high security military facility, then perhaps we have much bigger problems than Guantanamo prisoner relocations.

  5. Maude Lebowski

    Why should any suspect detained on charges against the US federal government be detained anywhere besides American soil? As Lynn suggested, we have the facilities and the military manpower. Is our machismo really that much of a put-on?

  6. Kathryn Fenner

    Good one, Lynn.

    I don’t have any idea whether these people are or are not terrorists. We don’t know very much about them, do we? Some of the stories I’ve read give me pause about the selection process for “terrorist” during the prior regime.

    But let’s assume they are. Karen’s right. America can do better than lock people up because they’re no-good-niks. I thought that was what the OTHER side(s) did.

  7. Brad Warthen

    I just don’t know what to say about bud’s assertion that “most” of these folks are innocent bystanders who actually deserve reparations. But while the rest of my friends on this thread don’t go that far, I do notice a variation on a theme running through these comments, and it goes like this: Because George W. Bush was president when these people were captured, the detention of many, or most, or all of these people is somehow unjust.
    This seems to me a variant of what the Repubs called “Bush derangement syndrome.”
    No matter who is president at a given moment — Obama, Bush, Clinton or Millard Fillmore — I trust the professionals in our military to have a damned good reason to send someone to Gitmo. That doesn’t mean they’re not wrong sometimes — and I believe some have been sent home for that reason — but I would assume it to be an honest mistake until I had a specific reason to believe otherwise..

  8. Karen McLeod

    Brad, it’s not the military who are suspect here. They were acting under the parameters given by the previous administration (hereafter known as pv). I don’t agree that most of the detainees are total innocents; I do think that said pv gave us good cause be concerned about those parameters.

  9. bud

    Brad, BY DEFINITION according to the constitution a person is innocent until proven guilty. Unless there is sufficient evidence, beyond a resonable doubt, that these folks are guilty of something then they must be released. Since we have never declared war on anyone this can’t be settled in a military court. These people are citizens of a foreign country that we occupy, unlawfully in my opinion. We therefore must release them.

    And your comment relating our views on this issue to our feeling toward Bush is irrelevant. This is about justice not Bush.

  10. Steve Gordy

    In view of the appalling tragedy at Ft. Hood yesterday, it appears you aren’t any safer on a military base than you would be at home. Our guv wannabee panders with the best of ’em.

  11. Karen McLeod

    The abbreviation should be pa. And said pa. probably gave those incarcerated who are our true enemies a lot better defense than they should have. That is, people are a more likely to find a claim of innocent abduction and/or coerced confession plausible in light of the pa’s policies, than would have been plausible without “enhanced interrogation,” Abu Graib, etc.

  12. Kathryn Fenner

    How about this:

    “Because the Bush administration opposed granting basic habeas corpus rights to the detainees, their continuing detention is unjust and can be justly laid at the doorstep of The Bush Administration, Geo. W. Bush, Prop.”


  13. Burl Burlingame

    Guilty of terrorism until proved innocent?
    If the military had a “damned good reason” to capture and incarcerate ANYBODY, let them lay out the facts in court, convict them and put them away. This legal limbo harms us all.
    And if they are indisputably terrorists, give them to Saudi Arabia for execution.
    The military follows the orders of the administration, whomever is in charge at the moment. They cannot disregard orders. If the president is deranged …

  14. Carl Epps

    I think the Congressman Barrett’s request was one not as a congressman or even a candidate, but more as a fellow South Carolinian. I for one wouldn’t want to give a reason for some would be terrorists to be a martyr and kill innocent people. Look at what just happened in Texas.

  15. Kathryn Fenner

    Hear hear, Burl! Except the President was probably not deranged–merely negligent, in the worst possible way. The Vice President, on the other hand, put the “Vice” into the office.

    Look–what’s the difference between Argentina’s military’s “disappearing” people and our military’s doing so? You, Brad Warthen, trust our military?

    Would you have felt the same about Robert McNamara & Co. back in their heyday?

    [and no facetious remarks about certain people who disappeared voluntarily into Argentina, please.]

  16. Jarrett

    If we allow the terrorists to be held in the Charleston Brig, we will be placing a big bullseye on South Carolina, for all the other terrorists around the world. Congressman Barrett has co-sponsored three bills to keep the terrorists out of SC, and it is not xenophobic, it is looking out for the security of the people of this state. We should be overjoyed that there is a candidate that is willing to stand up for the safety of this state.

  17. Maude Lebowski

    “In view of the appalling tragedy at Ft. Hood yesterday, it appears you aren’t any safer on a military base than you would be at home.”

    To take it one step further: if our military is killing each other on American soil, how effective are they in decreasing terrorist attacks against us by maintaining a violent presence halfway around the world?

  18. Greg Flowers

    Kathryn and Burl, I could not agree with you more. How can you claim to be fighting for liberty and deny the most basic human rights. It does not matter so much whose fault it is, it is time to fix it.

    And Burl, our treatment of the Uighurs, fighting for their homeland, has been shameful. Not only at Gitmo but in allowing them to be declared a terrorist group in order to score points with China. This is a group which needs and deserves our respect and support.

  19. martin

    I always thought SC was a giant bull’s eye throughout the Cold War with all the military bases and SRS making plutonium. If the nukes had ever gone off, we would have been obliterated.

    Back to the question…I have no problem with these alleged terrorists being in Charleston Naval Brig. We need to find out which are terrorists and which are not, try the ones who are and free the rest.
    The USA I grew up in did not just lock suspects up and never try them.

    Like with Iraq and Afganistan, this is another can the Bush administration apparently just wanted to kick down the road until they were out of office. We have to clean it up and move on.

    BTW, Barrett, Haley and McMaster would have been saying “yes, sir, Mr. President”, to Mr. Bush if he had proposed this. The fact they had no problem with the prisoners already held there says it all. If Democrats had been reacting like they are to Bush, they would have been screaming “traitor”.

  20. Libb

    Jarrett, The Brig has already housed 3 detainees (moved there by G W Bush). Where was Barrett’s concern for SC’s security then? This is merely political pandering by him, DeMint, Wilson, etal.

  21. Burl Burlingame

    Maybe I don’t understand the concern. Are people afraid the prisoners will escape and go underground and terrorize the United States? Unlikely. Or that international terrorists will target the home city of the prison? If so, why haven’t they attacked Guantanimo?

    Oh, I didn’t mean that Bush in particular was deranged. I was postulating that if ANY president gave deranged orders, what would the military do? The thing I actually disliked most about the last administration was the way they overrode the traditional checks and balances on government. And for all the lip service they gave about supporting the military and patriotism when they were actually letting our troops dangle in harm’s way without any strategic plan, and also cutting their pay and support.

    It will be interesting to compare the courts-martial of soldiers who refuse to serve in Iraq because they think the war is illegal, and those of soldiers who refuse because they think Obama is not an American.

  22. Karen McLeod

    Martin, yes we have “locked up” innocent groups of people. Consider the WWII internment camps. The pity is, we haven’t learned from it.

  23. Bart Rogers

    Don’t mean to be snippy, but it is said that “hindsight is 20/20”. It seems as if there is a group on this blog who enjoy perfect eyesight/hindsight – well after the fact. bud is perhaps the exception. I think he held the same viewpoint from the beginning. Maybe all of those who have such brilliant insight could tell us where the “Manual for Responding to Terrorism Warfare” was on and immediately after 9/11.

    Just like the manual for Obama to deal with the evolving financial crisis left behind by the past five administrations.

  24. Kathryn Fenner

    growing up in Aiken, periodically “psychic” Jeane Dixon would predict an attack on SRS (it was SRP then) and we’d get a frisson of worry, but after a while…

    I had a problem from the get-go. I went to a forum in 2002 or maybe very early 2003 at the law school back when Strom Jr was US Attorney, and blasted the encroachment on many civil liberties–Strom said he trusted our government. I muttered to the person next to me that the government had been “bery bery good to Strom Jr.” I have always spoken out against preserving our “freedom” by destroying our civil rights and the civil rights of others. Peace without justice is tyranny, a phrase which is often cited to justify wars, but it also applies here.

    Denying justice–basic habeas corpus rights in the first case– to preserve our sense of peace, is the worst kind of tyranny.

    Strom Jr. was carrying on about how wonderful it was that prosecutors would not have to get search warrants–as if that were such a huge burden. Sheesh–at the Richland County courthouse, they don’t even have to go upstairs to find a judge.I knew that then and so did he.


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