Stumbling around the net tonight, I came across this bit of propaganda from Newt Gingrich — he is objecting to the domestic release of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, ethnic Uighurs who would otherwise be returned to the People’s Republic of China. His concern is that these guys — fanatical Muslims, trained as terrorists, and dudes prone to throw televisions across jail cells when they see images of women with bared arms — are going to be put in suburban homes in Fairfax, Virginia, where they will apparently be expected to get jobs at Kinko’s Copies.
Methinks Newt may be exaggerating just a tad here. But he does nevertheless touch on the problem of what to do with the Guantanamo Guys. Because these are by definition, Very Bad Dudes. We wouldn’t have taken them to Guantanamo if they were mild-mannered semiotics professors.
So what do we do with them?
In the case of the Uighurs, we can’t send them back to the PRC. That’s because we know perfectly well that the PRC will collect these guys from us, sign the prisoner transfer papers, assure us with a straight face that no harm will become of them, immediately turn around and harvest their vital organs for spare parts and hard cash, and then tell the U.N. human rights investigators later that records of their incarceration have been “lost.” Since we know that, we can’t give them up to die, that would be the same thing as executing them ourselves, which we’re not going to do because they haven’t ever committed any violations of our criminal laws — they just had atrocious taste in friends.
No one else is going to take them.
And we can’t let them simply go free, as Gingrich correctly points out.
It’s a bit like having a booger on the finger in public. It’s not supposed to be there in the first place. But given that somehow you got a booger on your finger, what do you do with it? There’s no kleenex handy. You can’t wipe it on your clothes, because then you’ve got a booger smeared all over your clothes. You can’t wipe it on the wall or the chair in front of you, that’s just rude and gross. And it’s going to take time and trouble, which you may not have, to get rid of the disgusting thing.
The British had a problem like this with Napoleon. Their solution was to put him up in a house on St. Helena, one of the remotest spots on earth, with a Royal Navy ship on constant patrol to prevent unauthorized landings, and supplies dropped off every couple of months or so. He got to bring along his drinking buddies and some girlfriends; he wrote his memoirs; he squabbled with his British minders about riding his horse and took up gardening while French exiles in Texas considered building a primitive submarine to rescue him and try to get him to set up an empire in Argentina. (Seriously, that’s what happened to him after Waterloo.)
So I’m thinking, “Alaska.” There are surely lots of places up there where they can hunt and fish and find what they need to survive, well out of the way of the civilian population, well out of the ability of their old buddies to come and get them without us knowing what’s up, well out of the way of anyplace where they might have to endure the blasphemous sight of women with bare arms. We can set up a Quonset hut for them, fly in or paradrop supplies and survival equipment for them every six months or so, paint an arrow on the ground that points towards Mecca so they can pray, and otherwise leave them to their own devices. Lots of wilderness. Lots of islands. People live up there all year round and survive — they can, too. Really, what could go wrong in Alaska?
Now, if this were something we were doing as punishment for a crime, I’d say standing them out in the wilderness in Alaska may very well be cruel and unusual punishment. But we’re releasing them because they’re not criminals, in the technical sense of the word. Just really dangerous dudes that we can reasonably predict will become criminals if given a chance. So the Eighth Amendment doesn’t apply; and if they decide they’d rather be latter-day Grizzly Adamses than residents at the Hotel Guantanamo, well, I might make the same deal if I were in their shoes.