Steve McQueen is one of our favorite actors. Starting out as Josh Randall – on TV in “Wanted Dead or Alive”, his sawed off Winchester Lever-Action 30-30 and his special holster and attitude epitomized the late 50’s and early 60’s in America. McQueen’s career included some real keeper blockbusters including “The Great Escape”, “Nevada Smith”, “Bullitt”, “LeMan’s”, “The Thomas Crown Affair” and a whole bunch more. Yet, one of his more poignant roles was that of Henri “Papillon” Charierre…who served on the French Guyanan Prison – Devil’s Island for nearly 20 years. 1852 to 1953 Devil’s Island held French political extremists, foreign agents and a variety of other prisoners with a recidivism rate of nearly 75%. The real Charierre supposedly escaped on a burlap bag filled with coconuts. There is some contention that anyone ever really escaped from Devil’s Island. One thing for sure, Devil’s Island closed in 1953 for good.
Today, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is an American Base in the midst of Fidel Castro’s Island. Currently the United States Government is holding approximately 163 folks called “Enemy Combatants”. They had been captured in several locales across the world either directly engaged in terrorism or had been determined that they had associated with known terrorists. They have been considered “too dangerous to release” and not qualifying for return to their native countries because their retention may not be assured. The concept basically is that they know people and would become recidivism terrorist if given the chance to find their freedom. In fact, several of those that have been released from “Gitmo” have gone back to terrorist activities.
The famous case of John Walker Lindh….the American Taliban tells us something about irrational concepts. He was probably responsible for the death of CIA Agent Mike Spahn in Afghanistan. The rebellion he helped create left 86 survivors out of over 500 to begin with. Lindh is doing 20 years in a high security prison close to his home in Northern California – so his dad and family can visit. This boy should be doing Life – without parole, but that is just a response to the days when a few Americans went to Cuba to fight with Fidel against Battista. Fidel and Che Guevara however, had way of losing these folks in the jungles of the Sierra Maestra – so not many we have heard about – ever returned.
Right now, the “Detainee’s” as they are called, have engaged in a mass hunger strike involving approximately 100 of the 163 prisoners. After several months of allowing social inter-action between the detainee’s, the Commandant of Gitmo found a continuing degradation of “willing cooperation” by those incarcerated. Cereal boxes were placed over surveillance cameras, areas were blocked by blankets and other items and feces and urine were thrown at Marine guards. Then came the first of the hunger strikers…..and eventually – the Commandant called for entry into the social areas….and have removed them all by force to individual solitary cells. The prisoners made improvised weapons which many looked like box cutters and injured a few guards. Some prisoners are being force fed because of varying health conditions.
The first inclination of course is that we simply close Gitmo and send all these un-charged terrorists back to their native countries. A get out of jail free card, because the situation is just too inconvenient. A question: If we allow these 163 folks to go home, how many will become Jihadi Heroes and Al-Qaeda Leaders, setting up cells around the world? What if putting these folks into the Criminal Justice System will expose not only National Security Issues, but further expose current CIA agents – deployed both foreign and domestic? How much of what these “Detainee’s” have learned will further affect our Intelligence gathering and methods for years to come?
Many suggest, that we just put these folks into the Federal Prison System. Perhaps, even sub-contract them to Private Prison Systems situated around the United States and other countries? Pelican Bay – each and every one of them – so to speak. Sequester them. One thing is for sure: They have been identified as a Clear and Present Danger to the United States of America. So, what do we do with them? President Obama says that he wants to close Gitmo, but says that the Congress is holding that process up or hostage. No pun intended. So what does Senator John McCain think about what we should do with these folks at Gitmo? How about Senator Lindsay Graham? What about Marco Rubio? What about our folks: Senator’s Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein? Time to look at a Draw Down Strategy…perhaps. We need some serious Federal Investigators to either file some charges on some, release some contingent upon further incarceration in foreign climes or we need to send them to Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The reality is of course, that there will be more “Detainee’s” in America’s future. The Tzaranev Brothers are simply “wine from the teaspoon” of so-called non-affiliated, undetermined, lone wolf, off the rails, disgruntled employee Muslim Jihad Terrorists to still be found. When the truth finally comes out on the Boston Marathon bombing…..the facts may be deep, dark and mysterious. They may indeed involve a variety of countries, families and associations. If not, we can all look back and call them Non-NRA trained shooters…that had to use bombs instead. Yet, the questions are many and still remain: Who made the bombs? Who knew about the bombs? Why didn’t they report any of this?
So, as we look at Gitmo and try our best to compare it to Devil’s Island….we are still faced with the fact that there were more people injured and killed at the Boston Marathon than presently reside as “Detainee’s” at Gitmo. Finding a suitable and reasonable answer to the conundrum of Gitmo will require some thought, intelligence and an answer which can assure the American people that their safety will not be compromised. Papillon and Gitmo Memories……brings tears to eyes….doesn’t it? Steve McQueen, left us far too early….he was a great actor!