Don’t look now, but a detainee is hereMaybe because it is, after all, the Big Apple, but New Yorkers were remarkably unfazed by the appearance in their midst Tuesday of Ahmed Ghailani, the first Guantanamo Bay detainee brought to the United States and soon to be the first detainee to stand trial in a civilian criminal court.
By: Dale McFeatters, The Dickinson Press
Maybe because it is, after all, the Big Apple, but New Yorkers were remarkably unfazed by the appearance in their midst Tuesday of Ahmed Ghailani, the first Guantanamo Bay detainee brought to the United States and soon to be the first detainee to stand trial in a civilian criminal court.
A low flyover by Air Force One caused more of a flap than Ghailani’s arrival at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Corrections Center. The indifferent reaction offers hope that we are not the timid, fearful people we seemed to be in the debate this spring over closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, which has become toxic to America’s reputation and, as much as Abu Ghraib, a recruiting tool for Islamic fanatics.
President Bush, who authorized the prison, said it should be closed; so did Republican presidential candidate John McCain. But when President Obama actually ordered it closed, Congress, and especially the Republicans, went all fluttery on him and there was much overheated blather about the detainees, allegedly the worst of the worst, “walking the streets of our cities.”
Well, actually no. They would be pacing a small cell in one of the feds’ supermax prisons from which no one — no one — has ever escaped. But the Senate voted 90-6 to reject Obama’s request for $80 million to close Guantanamo Bay. The lawmakers’ panicky refusal to allow the detainees to be brought to the mainland pretty much guaranteed that no other nation would accept them either, greatly complicating the task of closing the prison.
Ghailani, a Tanzanian national, is the exception because he was indicted by a U.S. court in March 2001, in connection with the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 223. All but 12 of the victims were local citizens. As much as anybody in custody, Ghailani is a candidate for worst of the worst. He faces 286 counts of murder and conspiracy to murder, bomb and maim.
Assuming he is found guilty — and the feds appear to have a good case against him — how long Ghailani is on the mainland depends on his sentence. Either way, he is unlikely ever to leave it.
— McFeatters writes for Scripps Howard News Service.