Ray Yumul has proposed that the CNMI seek to be the new home of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay's facility, according to today's headline news in both the Tribune and Variety.
Gitmo is the detention facility where the US has kept suspected terrorists in conditions that have garnered international contempt. Gitmo is where the US has sunk to the levels of the terrorists themselves, with the US using torture and other illegal investigative means. President Obama has ordered the closing of Gitmo within one year.
So the question becomes what should the US do with the men who are presently imprisoned at Gitmo? Our illustrious legislator, Mr. Yumul, suggests that prisoners who will be detained after the facility's closing be transferred to the CNMI.
There's been negative comment on the proposal already. Not surprisingly. I also think the proposal has that crazy, desperate, ridiculous feel to it.
From the US's point of view: It would be expensive to send all of those men here. The CNMI has no facilities at present, meaning an expensive building plan and costly development of infrastructure. Note that the CNMI does not even have reliable power generation. This would all take time. The CNMI has inadequate manpower in both numbers and abilities. The CNMI's immigration will be newly federalized only starting 6/1/2009, so that protections and procedures will not be at their best, and existing populations will have entered without having been subjected to American immigration screening. The US is not looking to recreate the Guantanamo experience somewhere else. Distance makes oversight more difficult. The CNMI is closer to Asia, and especially to possible terrorist elements in Mindanao and Indonesia--security might be more problematic.
From the CNMI's point of view: We are desperately in need of a new image-but is being a federal prison the image we want? We have an opportunity to develop our face to the world as a place of natural physical beauty, pristine environment, rare geological features-we have a national marine monument designation to help us. An image as a new Guantanamo is strikingly at odds with that possible image. Housing terrorists isn't likely to improve our only reliable industry-tourism. We are so small that any problems with such a prison project could have huge ramifications. Our people are having a difficult time qualifying for jobs as immigration officers, how many would qualify as high-level security cleared officials in a Gitmo-like prison?
Nothing about the suggestion resonates. It all reeks. Even if Pennsylvania's John Murtha thinks it's a good idea to send them there.
What is more interesting to me, though, in the whole context of Gitmo, is the accountability of US officials for the situation. What will Obama do? What should he do? There are many ideas, but this discussion seems particularly good to me. The US must not only decide how to deal with the prisoners, but how to deal with the "leaders" who brought us to this point. And allowing war crimes to go unpunished just seems wrong to me, even if they were committed by Americans in the name of security.