No NIMBYism for new Gitmo

Gitmo will be relocated to a site not far from the president's home city


Thomas Schaller
December 15, 2009 7:16PM (UTC)

Whatever else might be said about President Obama's policies related to terrorist detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, news that they will be relocated to a facility about two hours' driving distance west of Chicago disproves the idea that NIMBYism -- not in my back yard -- prevailed in the decision.

Conservatives long justified Guantánamo as a geographic limbo because, they said, we wouldn't want these terrorists living among us right here in the good ole U.S. of A. Now, I suppose an attempt by a terrorist group to break them out of their new home in Illinois could very well result in casualties or even fatalities for domestic Americans, but I doubt that will happen and there's even less chance of a breakout from within. Why? Because you can bet on this place being locked down like the supermax out in Florence, Colo.

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On a related note, by sheer coincidence this is the second consecutive day I've linked to a New York Daily News story that had an accompanying reader poll. (Yesterday's was about the B+ grade President Obama gave himself.) And sure enough, as of this writing reader-respondents -- more than half of whom gave Obama an "F" yesterday -- by about a 2-to-1 margin to this on-scientific survey, in reply to a question about the propriety of moving the facility to Illinois, agreed with the statement "No. This only jeopardizes the safety of Americans."

Of course, local officials in Thomson, Ill., seem less worried about physical security than they do economic security. To wit:

With Guantanamo set to close next year, the economically ailing town about 150 miles west of Chicago repeatedly petitioned the feds to utilize its empty lockup, which was built as a maximum-security facility. Only about 200 of the 1,600 beds are filled at the $140 million prison that opened in 2001.

Seems fear of terrorism stops at the water's edge of local economic development.


Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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