In recent days, members of Congress have been "shocked, shocked," to use the words and cynical meaning of Claude Rains in "Casablanca," to learn that Barack Obama might consider bringing some of "the worst of the worst" from the SuperMax cells of Guantanamo to the mainland United States (for some reason no one has mentioned Hawaii). These prisoners fall into two camps - those who are completely or mostly innocent (but really angry now because they've been held in Guantanamo for up to seven years) or the very few really bad guys - like Khalid Sheik Mohammed - who may be tried in one of the many legal systems that Obama is rigging (less blatantly than Bush) to insure conviction.
Well, here are a few proposals to solve the political problems of the esteemed and principled Representatives and Senators like Lindsey Graham, who recently announced that it might be necessary to bring Gitmo detainees to the US, so long as they didn't land anywhere close to South Carolina.
Modest Proposal #1: Eat Them.
OK, you're saying, this is a bit extreme. After all, these men are living breathing human beings. Well, don't worry: We would kill them first.
There are a number of benefits to this approach. First of all, we would eliminate any evidence of wrongdoing. For those nitpicky Europeans, who are always decrying Guantanamo, let them try to lecture us if they can't find the bodies. With sated smiles, we could honestly say: "What detainees?" And no self-flagellating moral qualms. After all, most God-fearing Americans say Grace before dinner. Pick one: "bless this food that we have before us." "Now we lay them down to sleep." "Bless us, O Commander-in-Chief, and thy gifts, which we have received from your hunters bulging with bounty."
This proposal also addresses certain budgetary issues in a time of record deficits. As many of us know, Gitmo pampered detainees. When they first arrived, many of these enemy combatants were sickly and thin as rails. Then we fattened them up. When I visited Gitmo, a proud officer let our package tour group know that, for compliant detainees, there was "ice cream night, Pizza night and Pepsi night." I was fit to be tied. How much was I paying for this "Pepsi for perps" program? In my new proposal, we'd be getting something back for our tax dollars. All the junk food that caused these towelheads to gain so much weight, well...now these chickens have come home to roast!
Worth its weight in Mint Chip, this proposal is revenue positive and consistent with Grover Norquist's tax pledge: put your mouth where your money is.
OK, you say, I'm all for eating these guys - so long as the meat pies aren't all thumbs - but what about the distasteful task of killing them. Wouldn't that upset our boys and girls in uniform. Right about that. Also, there aren't really enough of them to set up a proper Arab Abbattoir. Luckily, we have a good solution that has been proven in the field. We arm Dick Cheney with a shotgun, give him "one or two beers," in his words, and then the rest is taken care of with a small cartage fee.
Now, on to marketing. Let's face it, when it comes to selling food, "the worst of the worst" just won't cut it. How about "The wurst of the wurst"? It's elegant and the cost would be minimal - only two vowels. Truth is, we could probably raise some more money for the Federal Treasury - in order to be able to sufficiently incentivize our poor put-upon bankers with more hookers and Porsches - by having a contest. Just to start the process, I suggest a few: "Super Size Them!"; "Homeland Hummus"; Apple Kabuller"; "Tehran Tenders"; "Special KSM"; "Freedom Fries!"
Modest Proposal #2: Let the Market Work Its Magic.
I realize that the Vegan lobby is strong and would likely resist MP#1. Even for more moderate vegetarians, it would probably be objectionable. After all, as fishy as these enemy combatants are, they are not fish.
One is tempted to say, what's the matter, you don't want to give our president the tools he needs - "aggressive cooking" or "enhanced kitchen techniques" - to protect our nation? Well politics is the art of compromise so let's consider this: shipping all our violent prisoners to Guantanamo.
Let's face it: there is something fundamentally dishonest about saying these Gitmo detainees are too dangerous to bring to America. Cmon, nobody's better at taking care of tough guys than America. We lead the world in "aggressive" and "enhanced" prisons - in prisons period! According to The Sentencing Project, the US rate of incarceration is a world beater: five to eight times that of other highly developed countries. And we have more people in prison - 2.31 million - than any other nation except for China. (China - you better watch out: we are gaining on you!)
It's another awkward fact that we already imprison many violent people in the US: mafiosi, serial killers, hit men, and terrorists, including some from Al Qaeda. Here are a few examples: Charles Manson; David Berkowitz (aka "Son of Sam"); Gary Ridgway (known as the "Green River Killer" for the way he dumped the 48 prostitutes he killed in Washington's Green River); Al Qaeda's Abul Hakim Murad; Dandeny Munoz Mosquera, chief assassin for Pablo Escobar; The Unabomber; Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer (that stands for Bind, Torture and Kill); Al Qaeda's Ahmed Omar Abu Ali; and El Sayyid Nosair, of the World Trade Center bombing. (See a longer list below of those detained in Florence, Colorado.)
We can't really claim that the folks in Guantanamo - one of whom was 14 when we captured him - are more dangerous than the guys we already have in prison in the US. Indeed, it's even more foolish to claim that the innocent men of Gitmo (most of those remaining) would be more dangerous than the Unabomber or the guy responsible for murdering Sharon Tate.
So, to be consistent, it might make more sense to admit that we already have too many dangerous people in prison in the US. Rather than move the relatively innocuous folks from Gitmo here, it would be better to move the "worst of the worst" of America to Gitmo. Now, this will pose some problems. After all, there are currently 1.2 million violent offenders in US prisons. Luckily we have a philosophy that will get us out of our jam: the free market's view that the survival of the fittest is always the best solution to every problem.
Here's how it will work. There are approximately 700 prison cell units at Guantanamo. With only 240 detainees there now, the facilities are embarrassingly underutilized. So if we sent all 1.2 million violent offenders there, that would result in approximately 1,714 detainees per unit. We would continue the Pepsi and Pizza night policy and then let the market work its magic. Over time, the most ambitious and entrepreneurial detainees would survive, and the rest would be referred to our cartage program (see above). Not only would this be efficient, this policy would keep us safe and be consistent with our free market principles.
Modest Proposal #3: If They're All Guilty, We're Free from Guilt.
I once gave my sister a spray can called "Guilt Away," a special elixir for liberals, allowing for the instant removal of any feelings of guilt. Well, thanks to President Bush and, seemingly, President Obama, we now have a detention formula that will work that same "guilt away" magic on all Americans: guilty even if proven innocent.
For years, the Bush Administration eviscerated all the military and legal structures that were designed to separate the innocent from the guilty in the "Global War on Terror." We eliminated the military's system of competent tribunals in the field of battle (where JAG officers would conduct hearings to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys) and instituted a system of Combatant Status Review Tribunals that allowed us - without showing a whiff of proof - to tell the detainees over and over again that they were guilty, while turning a deaf ear to any solid evidence that would prove their innocence.
Dude! How good was that system! Whenever we made a mistake, and got all "aggressive" with the wrong person, we could cover our tracks and pretend we were right all along. If only our criminal justice system worked like that more consistently. Talk about "guilt away"!
Now, unfortunately, some prissy card-carrying members of the US Constitution have made us all look bad by pointing out that many of the Gitmo detainees weren't guilty of anything. Whoops! However, even more problematic for President Obama, it appears that many of these previously "innocent" men have become radicalized and pissed off after being held for seven years in Supermax prisons in southeastern Cuba. We can't possibly let them go now because they don't like us anymore. As we know from our own experience with American prisons, being locked up with hardened criminals (or terrorists) doesn't turn prisoners away from crime; it educates them on how to commit bigger and better crimes.
So now that we've turned nice Afghan farmers into hardened jihadis, what do we do: apologize and turn them loose to grow wheat in Idaho? No way.
Luckily, we have found a wonderful all-encompassing phrase: preventive detention. That means we can lock 'em up forever (preferably in Bagram where no one pays attention) unless and until they agree to work for us. If they do, we can export terror the way we used to export cars. Trade deficits? Not any more. Want to mess with America on wheat or sugar subsidies? How about a taste of Gitmo-grown terror from Uighur warriors? Trouble with North Korean nukes? How about a parachute drop of a few hardened peanut farmers! If you're not on your best behavior with America, count on a visit from the worst of the worst. Guilt Awaaaaaaaaaaay!
- Abdul Hakim Murad, of al-Qaeda's Operation Bojinka
- Accardo Simonelli, gangster from the New Mexico mafia. Hitman with more than 30 counts of murder.
- Adolph Reynoso, of the Mexican Mafia
- Ahmed Ajaj, of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing
- Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, Al Qaeda conspirator in several plots, including one to assassinate U.S. President George W. Bush
Alex Gibney is a documentary filmmaker who made Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. He has won an Emmy, a Peabody, the duPont Columbia Award, and a Grammy.