Despite returning home from Washington Wednesday evening and being grossly overloaded with (real!) work, I had to make time today to join a few other folks for a couple of conference calls.
I’ll cover the first of the two in this posting – a conversation mainly about the situation surrounding the Guantanamo Bay detention facility with Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS).
Senator Brownback actually visited the Guantanamo facility personally three weeks ago, and found it to be (as we’ve often heard) one of the nicer prison facilities he’s ever visited. It has been uniquely arranged to address its unique mission – and all of these uniquenesses would have to be replicated wherever the “replacement” facility would be constructed; the facility is very professionally run.
Senator Brownback noted that the prisoners receive a diet that is about 6000 calories a day; I don’t know if this can be cross-checked quickly, but it’s quite high. Prisoners at Guantanamo tend to put on weight, leading our Australian friend Tim Blair to refer to them as “Talitubbies.” He sampled the food while he was there, and found it to be excellent; perhaps we could send Bert Wolff down to do a show on the cuisine.
The Senator noted that a critical issue is that the facility exists not just to keep the detainees in, but also to keep other terrorists out. A more easily-reachable facility would be a very tempting target – both for the making of a political statement, and for possibly breaking some compadres out. Since one of the possible domestic locations mentioned for a Guantanamo replacement is Fort Leavenworth outside Kansas City, Kansas, the Senator clearly has a direct interest in this situation; placing detainees in a facility at Fort Leavenworth would place them basically in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Another issue is that the cost of any Guantanamo replacement facility would be surprisingly high – in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Due to the unique nature of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, many special accouterments have been added – such as a secure facility for global videoconferencing to allow witnesses anywhere in the world to provide live testimony. Among the likely consequences, the time lost in recreating these facilities elsewhere would greatly slow down the judicial proceedings that are in progress.
The main issue with Guantanamo is that it has supposedly given the United States a “bad image,” particularly with Europe and the Islamic world. However, if a replacement facility were to be constructed, it would quickly become the focal point for the same sort of mindless anti-Guantanamo agitation.
As a final point, the Senator noted that while the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are not eligible for formal Geneva Convention protections and privileges, the United States has been trying to work to a basic Geneva Convention standard. One of those standards is that prisoners of war may not be held in facilities that also hold regular criminal prisoners – thus, as noted above, any closing of the Guantanamo facility would require the construction (or finding) of new facilities that are not directly associated with any conventional incarceration facility. (It also occurred to me that this would also be extremely dangerous, as Islamic radicals have been extremely successful in finding new recruits among conventional prisoner populations.)
There were a number of questions asked, and I had to ask about the situation at this point with notions of “other countries” stepping up to take these detainees – if this idea were even being mentioned anymore from the White House (if just for soothing-Americans purposes). The Senator said that all discussion of that option has been dropped completely – even as a talking point. He also noted that some of the most vociferous critics of the Guantanamo facility (particularly in Europe) have been happy to carp but have been adamant about not taking in any of these detainees themselves – France has agreed to take one detainee, a transfer that apparently happened last week.
While we had time, Senator Brownback also fielded some more wide-ranging questions. The three items I noted were:
o He is appalled at how disengaged and unrealistic the Administration is on all aspects of foreign policy;
o He’s hoping that recent events will allow a push to get North Korea back on the list of nations fingered as terrorist states;
o He believes that the “two-state solution” (Israel and “Palestine”) is now a completely bankrupt idea – and that we need to explore ways to get the present “Palestinian territories” to be re-integrated (respectively) with Egypt and Jordan.
BTW, I once again volunteered to get together a small contingent of RedState contributors to join one of the fact-finding visits to Guantanamo Bay – so that we can see it ourselves and write about it. The Senator has long thought it would be good to get more of us to make that visit – but this is something that has to be run through the public relations area over at DoD. So if anyone over there is reading this….