“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

Aldous Huxley must have known about the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay when he wrote those words above. It’s good advice to remember, because there’s a whole lot of ignoring going on. The headlines recently make it sound like the prison at Guantanamo Bay is finally being closed down for good:

From Gitmo to Thomson, Ill.

From Guantánamo to Beyond ‘Supermax’

Tiny town sees big dollar signs in Guantanamo transferees

But when one reads beyond the headline in that last article, there is a fact that is being ignored by everyone who is hailing this move as progress toward restoring the American sense of justice and human rights:

The White House is shipping 100 of the 210 suspected al-Qaeda figures currently held at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base in Cuba, to the Thomson Correctional Center

One hundred of the 210? And what will happen to the 110 not being shipped out to Illinois?

And all those jobs that this influx of prisoners is going to make happen in “tiny town” Thomson? Well, the truth is not quite so bright:

[T]he Department of Defense estimates that it will need “between 1,000 and 1,500 employees” to staff its wing of the prison. “One-third of these employees will be government civilian employees or private contractors with annual salaries between $80,000 and $90,000. The other two-thirds of the employees will be military personnel, with salaries of $65,000, which includes a housing allowance.”

Not surprisingly, the analysis states: “DoD expects few of its direct hires to come from the local communities.”

So what’s left for the locals? Lower salaries, for one (with the exception of some prison guard jobs). And once the construction jobs are done, not much; while the economic analysis reports that “local residents will be excellent candidates for 1,240 to 1,410” of the jobs relating to “the modification, opening, and running of the facility,” it also states that “in total, BoP expects to hire 448 workers locally.” That’s a far cry from the 3,000-job figure being thrown around. Although much stock is being placed in “indirect jobs due to increased spending and economic activity,” as well as potential teaching jobs for theoretical schools that will accommodate military families who move to the region, these estimates are hardly definite.

I would like to believe that we have turned a corner with Guantanamo Bay, but we have not. The facts that we are holding people indefinitely without charging them, and that their transfer to a small struggling town will neither fix that issue nor provide jobs — these facts still exist.



  1. I think we’ve gone well beyond Orwell’s worst dystopian visions when perpetuating human rights violations is viewed as an economic opportunity. As you noted, the reason for the transfer to the supermax in Illinois is to have a place to lock up people indefinitely without benefit of trial or due process. Lucky Thomson, Illinois — they’re about to become an official part of the gulag.

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