Congressman Ike Skelton, in an open letter to Gates yesterday, became the most senior Democrat to oppose the transfer of detainees to Fort Leavenworth. Although Skelton recognizes that Gitmo is a "recruiting tool for those who would seek to harm us," he insists that the USDB - the military's only maximum-security prison - is not a suitable alternative.
His first concern is over the cost of outfitting the facility to ensure that foreign and domestic prisoners are segregated, per military law. But any Gitmo transfer is going to cost millions in added security. And the USDB, just seven years old, is already top notch. Also, are alleged terrorists really the issue Skelton wants to spend his fiscally-conservative capital on?
His second concern is even less comprehensible:
I have strong indications that, if detainees from Guantanamo were to be transferred to Fort Leavenworth, a number of Muslim countries would decline to continue to send their students to the Command and General Staff College. This would have a very negative outcome for our military officers, the school, and the health of our relationships with Muslim nations.
Brownback has used this same excuse for a while now, but I have yet to see a single statement from a Muslim student or foreign official expressing such concerns. What exactly are these "strong indications"? Skelton's logic is confounding: If Gitmo has "tarnished the otherwise sterling reputation of our Armed Forces and our country," then why haven't Muslim students boycotted the college already? And now that Obama has ended the torture policies of Gitmo, and its closure would erase the stigma of Gitmo, what else is there to protest?
While Skelton avoids using the NIMBY rhetoric of his Republican counterparts, the fact that his Missouri congressional district is just a few dozen miles from Fort Leavenworth sends an implicit "not in my backyard." At least Republicans like Brownback have the consistency to oppose both the Gitmo closure and the transfer; they don't think that detainees should be in the US at all. Skelton does - just not near his voters.