What Can Comic Books Tell Us About the Guantanamo Debate?
Atrios, I think, has the right response to the bewildering furor over keeping terrorists in domestic prisons. These are not "actual supervillains with special powers." And if indeed they were actual supervillains with special powers, our prisons would probably still hold them. As Glenn Greenwald points out, our SuperMax prison "has had no escapes or serious attempts to escape." And half of that remains true even in comic books. Greenwald continues: "Actually, the only person to even make an escape attempt from a SuperMax is Green Arrow, who hasn't succeeded despite the help of Joker and Lex Luthor." That's strong evidence for the security of the Supermax. Even comic book authors can't credibly imagine an effective method of escape.
Adam Serwer replies that this is "completely incorrect." He notes that Magneto, nemesis of the X-Men, did indeed escape from a high-powered holding facility after his minion injected iron into his blood. But contra Adam, there's no evidence that Magneto was held in a Supermax facility during that period. Thus, Greenwald's central objection stands. (Though I think Ta-Nehisi Coates raises some fair concerns.)
But here's what I think we can safely say: A terrorist capable of escaping from a Supermax prison is probably capable of swimming, too. So it's not clear how much protection Guantanamo offers.
The more serious objection was raised by FBI director Robert Mueller yesterday. "The concerns we have about individuals who may support terrorism being in the United States run from concerns about providing financing, radicalizing others," he said. It's hard, however, to mesh that argument with our current system of imprisonment. We don't want to encourage drug dealing, but we put drug dealers in cells together with both other dealers and other types of criminals. We don't want anyone converted to the wanton joys of murder, but murderers regularly interact with the general prison population. And it's certainly not clear that converting to Islam and conducting terrorism against the United States is a more intuitively attractive post-prison profession than, say, selling cocaine.
(Image credit: Wikipedia.)
May 21, 2009; 2:00 PM ET
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