Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A spectacle unworthy of Americans


By PAT MURPHY

In the Memorial Day week when Americans devote their most sacred tributes to the valor of Americans in war, raw Washington politics erupted to reveal more cowardice than heroism, more demagoguery than statesmanship, more fear than courageous straight talk.

It was a spectacle that shamed Republicans and Democrats alike. Americans might reasonably have wondered if their government was in the hands of scared-stiff wimps—men and women who were able to fund wars in which others must die, but turned and ran when their responsibilities called for guts.

A simple matter confronted Congress—voting funds for President Obama's proposal to close the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison and move terrorism suspects.

Democrats riding Obama's coattails during the 2008 presidential campaign made the Gitmo closing a moral imperative. Yet, when voting last week, Democrats deserted the president, abandoned their outrage about Gitmo's shameful international reputation and forgot their claims that Guantanamo was Uncle Sam's recruiting tool for more terrorists.

What transformed once-stout disciples of closing Gitmo into sudden, cowering opponents of funds to close the thoroughly despised prison?

Who else but former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose documented introduction of torture has made him a candidate for war crimes prosecution and who can muster approval from only 20 percent of Americans?

But Cheney had a scare tactic to stampede Democrats. He wildly claimed that closing Gitmo would mean terrorists' being sent into mainland U.S. neighborhoods. Cheney's "boo!" was enough to panic Democrats (Republicans were automatic "No" votes to the Obama request).

Now Obama must produce "plans" to satisfy nervous Democrats that where Gitmo detainees will be housed will not expose Main Street U.S.A. to wild-eyed Muslim escapees roaming neighborhoods.

Once again, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry have demonstrated their incompetence, not only unable to forge their Democratic majorities into support for Obama priorities but also too spineless to stand up to Cheney's fear mongering and expose his irrational assertions as pure hoaxes.

With some 2.5 million inmates in federal and state prisons and local jails, the 240 Gitmo detainees that would be moved hardly pose credible risks to communities if scattered among the nation's correctional institutions, including maximum security sites.

The so-called Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., already holds nearly three dozen prisoners labeled "terrorist" suspects. And the City Council of Hardin, Mont., shows no reluctance to house terrorists; it has asked President Obama to send the Gitmo detainees to the empty $27 million Three Rivers Detention Facility to help boost the town's economy.

The little Montana town of Hardin shows more spunk than all of Congress.




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