By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Rasmussen released a poll today showing that Illinois voters oppose moving prisoners currently held at Guantanamo Bay to the supermax Thomson Correctional Center, by a margin of 51-38. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn favors selling the facility--which is currently close to empty--to the federal government and letting them turn it into a Guantanamo Bay north. The feds plan to fortify the facility to a level "beyond supermax" in order to handle its new inmates. (The citizens of Thomson, Ill., where unemployment is 10.5 percent, reportedly favor the deal as a potential job creator.)
If Rasmussen's polling is correct, we have a triumph of cheap demagoguery.
Critics play upon a couple of different fears in regard to a possible Gitmo North, and they are much like the ones voiced in relation to the notion of trying Khalid Shaikh Muhammed in New York City. One is that, as GOP Rep. Mark Kirk put it to the Washington Post, "our state and the Chicago metropolitan area will become ground zero for Jihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization." But al Qaeda and its allies don't need extra incentive to hit the United States. Whether Chicago (150 miles from Thomson ) would become "ground zero" (nice choice of words) is highly debatable.
I am particularly amused by the other scenario--terrorist prison break! Put aside that no one has ever escaped a supermax prison. Critics are behaving as if the terrorist are 10 feet tall, or, as President Obama put it to CNN, "possess some special powers." It's like we're not talking about moving Guantanamo to Illinois but Arkham Asylum. Suppose the new Thomson inmates somehow managed to stage the first prison break ever from a supermax. What then? Are people worried that they would melt into the tribal mountainous regions areas on the border between Illinois and Iowa?
As one local with a talent for understatement told Reuters:
"It would be hard for an insurgent-type outfit to blend in. People who aren't from here don't blend in well, it's too small. Any unusual activity gets people's attention," he said.
Kirk, the GOP House member, has pointed out that there's a nuclear power plant in the general vicinity. As if newly-escaped terrorists would, with just the power of their evilness, be able to take a power plant. We live in the real world, and those places actually have a fair amount of security.
Kirk of course is running for the senate seat that President Obama used to hold, which comes open next year. As a moderate who has warily eyed the tea party conservative backlash (even courting its doyenne), he must thank his lucky stars every day that he has this as a campaign issue.