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Paranoia in the heartland

The woman was sincere. And completely wrong.

She was among the dozens of protesters outside a Tuesday hearing about President Obama's plan to move Guantanamo detainees to a prison in Thomson, Ill. The woman, identified by the Associated Press as Amanda Norms, worried that if Guantanamo detainees were relocated to Thomson, "Terrorists would want to hit us to make a point, here in the Midwest, in the American heartland."

Certainly terrorists always try to make a point. That's why they struck at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- the financial and military symbols of the country. That's why they tried to strike at the U.S. Capitol. And, by that logic, it's not unthinkable that these craven thugs would use the presence of a prison housing some of their alleged comrades as a pretext for launching an attack nearby.

But to suggest that keeping the prison out of Illinois would keep that part of the country safe is ignoring reality. And, in fact, there are strong arguments that shuttering Guantanamo and moving detainees to the United States may make us all safer.

The heartland is not immune to terrorism. Nor is anywhere else. That's not meant to frighten. It's simply true. Plots have been thwarted that either originated in or targeted landmarks in Colorado, Florida, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, California, Georgia and, yes, Illinois. Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri was a student in Peoria when he was arrested in 2001 and identified as an al-Qaeda operative who had met with Osama bin Laden and trained at one of his notorious camps. More recently, an Illinois man and would-be mujahid was apprehended after a failed attempt to blow up a federal building in the capital city of Springfield.

So keeping terrorist suspects out of Illinois wouldn't eliminate the terrorist threat. But holding suspects in a U.S. facility and prosecuting them in federal courts, or in the much-improved military commissions, would give the United States a chance to start wiping out horrendous images of torture and abuse and to demonstrate that all suspects -- Muslim or otherwise -- will be treated fairly. Terrorists would no longer be able to point to Gitmo as "proof" of America's enmity toward all Muslims. And the power of one of their most successful recruiting tools would be eliminated.

By Eva Rodgriguez  | December 23, 2009; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodgriguez  
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I have had conversations with some who were guards at Guantanamo. From those conversations, it would appear that the biggest security risk from the incarcerated terrorists stems not from the inmates, but from dealing with demonstrators at the gates of the facility. The facility will become a symbolic target for terrorists outside the prison (homegrown or foreign). If you think Guantanamo was a force for propaganda for jihadists, imagine what propaganda they will get when violence is provoked in those demonstrations. Remember the violence of the Chicago police force beating the Vietnam antiwar demonstrators? Do the people in the community really want to become a new target? If the terrorists need to be brought to American soil, why not place them somewhere that is already a prime target (and more experienced with peaceful demonstrators trying to provoke a violent response)?

Posted by: 4makingitsimple | December 23, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

"If the terrorists need to be brought to American soil, why not place them somewhere that is already a prime target (and more experienced with peaceful demonstrators trying to provoke a violent response)?"

Why not man up and accept responsbility for your nation's policies? It sickens me that this same heartland that was so bloodthirsty for war now quivers with fear because a couple alleged terrorists might rot in a supermax prison in the middle of nowhere. There are 100 times as many dangerous thugs in the South Side of Chicago as there will ever be in this prison.

Oh, and Rodriguez forgets Jose Padilla, who was arrested at O'Hare airport and became one of the first enemy combatants to fall down Bush's extrajudicial rabbit hole.

Posted by: simpleton1 | December 23, 2009 8:28 PM | Report abuse

One of the arguments against Guantanamo is that "the world community" looked at it with suspicion because of allegations of abuse. Moving the prison to within US borders is unlikely to assuage arguments of leftists the world over and in the US that everything there is run humanely. Hate-America liberals certainly will not change their outlook. The issue is not reality but the leftist need to denigrate the United States in any way they are able.
Rodriguez is a knee jerk liberal and of course would believe that having dozens of violent jihadists in prison in Illinois will make us safer. But she does not live in Illinois.

Posted by: mhr614 | December 23, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

When I livd at Lake Tahoe, I was only 20-30 minutes from Carson City, NV. Located there was the Nevada State Pen. where they carried out the executions for the state. Everytime there was an execution scheduled, the state would have to call everyone in from vacation and days off to bring up the manpower pool to ensure a peaceful and orderly outcome to the day. Bus loads of protesters would be brought in by the various groups, who would hit the strip in CC, and then stagger on out to the Pen's front gates to raise hell.
A year or so before I left, the Death Chamber was moved to the other side of the Ely. In the middle of nowhere. Safety for the locals, no place to go in case of an escape, no messy mass confusion and circus train outside...
Gitmo serves that purpose.

Posted by: kentuckythunder | December 23, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

In the election of Barack Obama, "in 2008, millions actually broke out of the grasp of those who prefer a world of haves and have-nots. A giant step was taken toward the Light of Community, of the Common good and the General Welfare. Bridge heads were established. A Way was opened, and a true leader, "a spirit linked with the Forces of Light", was elected president.

That there has been a vicious and highly orchestrated opposition to this step was to be expected. "Truly, when a large ship increases its speed the resistance of the waves increases too. Similarly, many obstacles are brought about by our own striving. It is this process that attracts to us unexpected actions by an opposing will."

Many of the individuals who responded to the awakening call are presently very upset by the current situation. They are feeling sold out and betrayed. These folks are not very far-sighted. Like inexperienced warriors, they expected the opposition to fold up after one defeat. This would not, could not happen. Further, the lines of power and involvement in this nation are deeply intertwined. "The soul of a nation is hidden, and he who represents the state must possess the whole synthesis of the nation." This leader is not trying to defeat anyone or anything. He is striving to synthesize the national Life. He is trying to bring the Soul of the Nation to the forefront of the Nation.

This is not done by using the divisive and corrupt power politics of the past, even if these are being used against him. It is done by enhancing, or growing the Light, by valuing and using the methods of the Soul, cooperation, co-creation, revealing the fact of the Common Good and the General Welfare. The will of the people, the deep love of liberty and freedom which characterizes the soul of this nation must be evoked into the field. This is the source of this leader's, of any true leader's power.

"If [the actions of the opposition] are very strong, our own counter stroke will develop accordingly. Now is the time for all of those experienced warriors of the Light who have a little foresight to double and triple their efforts to bring Light and Love into the fields in which we live and move, and have our being. We need to spread encouragement and hope and vision and love as we walk through the ranks of those who are involved in this mighty struggle for the Soul of our nation, and probably Humanity. As we go, we radiate what we are. As we move through the fields of our brothers and sisters let us be conscious beacons of triumph.

Tom Carney - January's Issue of Thoughtline"

Posted by: wdsoulplane | December 23, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

When did Americans suddenly become afraid?

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure. THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787.

I heared some people quote that, often of late who it seems to me do not understand it.

When Terrorists kill American's it does not matter if it is in Middle America or say the East Coast burg; like say New York.

Of course there are some people who claim their bit of America is the real America and is in some way sacrosanct and more important than any other bit.

Heck, it makes no never mind if they kill Americans in Middle America or Guantanamo or Baghdad or Khandahar or some dusty flea infested arm pit of a desert village.

You see because even the earth of that dusty flea infested arm pit of a desert village is as hallowed as Ground Zero in New York by the American blood spilt upon it.

Seems to me some people have forgoten what it means to be American.

Posted by: walker1 | December 23, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Since it won't be in Guantanamo any more I suggest the name of the facility be changed to Gulagtanamo. The Thomson, Ill. town motto should also be changed to "The Last Vestige of Stalinism".

Down the road the Supreme Court could use its presence as precedent for incarcerating Americans without trial, citing the legal principle that "if John Yoo thinks you're guilty then you're guilty."

All in all a nice piece of work to ring in this brave new century.

Posted by: patrick3 | December 23, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

"Terrorists would want to hit us to make a point, here in the Midwest...". Since I'm located in Oregon the "heartland" would geographically be considered the Mideast. So why would terrorists want to hit the Mideast? See, no need for paranoia.

Posted by: whocares666 | December 23, 2009 11:55 PM | Report abuse

I come from the midwest, but ever since 9/11 have been downright embarrassed to admit it. Anymore it seems like to be allowed to live there, you must have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder will do, though full-blown psychotic paranoia is preferred in order to really be popular at the PTA and Lion's Club meetings.

It was downright bizarre after 9/11 to be living in one of the metro areas attacked, yet to suddenly have the distinct impression that these provincial yahoos that I grew up with in the "heartland" were more terrified of another terrorist attack than WE were in DC. Then, just to add some absurdity, it was largely THEY who fell for Bush's terrorist campaign against the US, when he tried to make us all see some strange conglomeration of Sunni-Iraqi-AlQaida (tm) massing on the outskirts of Topeka, etc., getting ready to "strike" if anyone in the area voted Democratic.

Why are these people such terrified wimps? It beats the hell outta me. They're largely provincial and uninformed, often FauxNews viewers, and so easily manipulated. But that's probably a circular explanation as they watch FauxNews because they are attracted to fearmongering manipulators in the first place. Who knows.

Tell 'em to suck it up and do their part in the wonderful new "war on terror" that has given this post-cold-war militaristic country a fresh new avenue of self-esteem and purpose (as it seems congenitally incapable of conjuring pride through any more constructive means).

Posted by: B2O2 | December 24, 2009 12:09 AM | Report abuse

My point was, a police force inexperienced with demonstrators is more likely to respond with violence when provoked. This will be another propaganda opportunity for jihadists.

Posted by: 4makingitsimple | December 24, 2009 1:32 AM | Report abuse

Tell me again why the "heartland" is held as more American than the rest of us.

Posted by: jckdoors | December 24, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Rodriguez writes, "there are strong arguments that shuttering Guantanamo and moving detainees to the United States may make us all safer." Unhappily, she does not make any, nor have I read of any. I have heard some very stupid arguments about how much safer we will be when the world sees us transfer prisoners from one inaccessible prison to an accessible one; and how granting some Guantanamo detainees their day in criminal court in New York City will convince the world of the justice of our cause, despite the fact that the President and the Attorney General have evinced assurance that the defendants will be convicted and executed.

Maybe the President and the Attorney General are convinced the Moscow show trials in the lae 1930's convinced everyone that Stalin stood foursquare for truth and justice. Not many other people who could speak freely would agree. It doesn't appear to me that the trials of our captives will convince those who need to be convinced we are a just and compassionate people.

Posted by: sailhardy | December 24, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Because ManBearPig is a uniter not a divider, how about this compromise:

- The left wants to move the prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Illinois.
- The right wants to keep them where they are.

How about we turn the prison in Illinois into a cemetery and then send the prisoners there?

Doesn't everybody win? Who's with me?

Peace (through strength),

Posted by: manbearpig4 | December 24, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree with the people who point out that the conservatives are becoming a national embarrassment. The goal of a terrorist is to intimidate their targets and these guys are so cowed that they can't stand the thought of incarcerating one anywhere in the country, it's just too terrifying to allow, goes their arguments.
These people need to bite their littls lips and man up.
Every time you guys wet yourselves in fear, the terrorists win.

Posted by: dijetlo | December 24, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Rodriguez says that "keeping the prison out of Illinois would keep that part of the country safe is ignoring reality" and then goes on to cite some foiled terrorist plots in the Midwest. Please share with us, Ms. Rodriguez, the security analysis that confirms your point of view that moving GITMO to Thomson will improve the safety and security of Illinois, Iowa and other Midwest residents. If you examined some of the al Qaeda videos on YouTube, you'll discover that they not only include GITMO on their list of grievances against the West but even prisons where there were rumors that the GITMO detainees would be eventually sent (Fort Leavenworth, KS; Standish, MI, etc.). They are upset that any Muslim is imprisoned and will use any prison where they are sent as a recruiting tool. Al Qaeda wants all the GITMO detainees free! Before mid-November, nobody ever heard of Thomson, Illinois. Now, the whole world knows this is where the U.S. government wants to transfer the remaining GITMO detainees that they cannot unload on other countries and who are too dangerous to release but cannot be brought to trial; thus keeping up to 100 accused terrorists in indefinite detention. This is the main reason why many in the world hates GITMO because of indefinite detention. If there were a handful of foiled terrorist plots in the Midwest in the past, it is logical to assume that there will be an escalation of plots, now focused around the area surrounding Thomson. There was never a terrorist plot in the past focused on Thomson, IL or the surrounding counties in both Illinois and Iowa. Now, they are a target. Just look at the one foiled attack in 2007 outside of the Charleston (SC) Naval Brig where the shoe bomber was temporarily held. And, I not even considering the increased number of protestors on both sides of this issue that will emerge if these GITMO detainees will be held indefinitely (as pointed out by other posters). Thus, I would respectfully urge you to rethink your position.

Posted by: Norsk | December 24, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

“She was among the dozens of protesters outside a Tuesday hearing about President Obama's plan to move Guantanamo detainees to a prison in Thomson, Ill. The woman, identified by the Associated Press as Amanda Norms, worried that if Guantanamo detainees were relocated to Thomson, "Terrorists would want to hit us to make a point, here in the Midwest, in the American heartland."”

As others have noted, when did America become the land of the fearful, land of the timid?
Ms Norms should become the poster child for restarting the draft for women and men. The military is already sending women/mothers and fathers to Iraq, No deferments for any reason!

Posted by: knjincvc | December 25, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

If they move there it will increase the risk. Rodriguez is really wrong believing that bringing the trials to the US and putting them in Federal Court will matter to the terrorists. They could care less, they certainly won't stop their propoganda machine simply because we move them to the Heartland. Give me a break these guys are evil, they laugh when people such as Rodriquez write such drival, they think how weak America is and how much easier it is going to be to bring about our downfall. They are simply evil and could care less if the facility is in Cuba or in Ohio. But right now they don't have to worry the current Congress and Administration are bringing America down from within...the terrorists just have to sit back and watch and laugh...

Posted by: staterighter | December 25, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

When did the US turn into a cowering pack of sissies?

Oh, yeah, that's right 2001-2008 - the bush admin PR campaign FOR the war on terror. Old GW Bada$$ pumped fear into the public like oxygen - and the lemmings lined up for more.

The reaction from the right, hyperventillating and being outright afraid of everything gives the terrorists a big win - they bullied the big bad US and the legislators peed on themselves. Wrong message gop, wrong message.

Posted by: NotFooledTX | December 27, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

I think you need a new picture. The one you're using looks like it has a 5 o'clock shadow. Yikes.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | December 28, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

"And, in fact, there are strong arguments that shuttering Guantanamo and moving detainees to the United States may make us all safer." These "Strong arguments" are effective on weak minds only.

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | December 29, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

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