A stronger Senate vote on detainees

A STRONGER SENATE VOTE ON DETAINEES…. Five months ago, the Senate voted to deny funding to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The vote was 90 to 6 — most Democrats said they were waiting for a better plan from the Obama administration.

Yesterday, a related vote went much better.

The Senate on Tuesday rejected an attempt to bar using funds from a defense spending bill to build or modify prisons in the United States to hold detainees from Guantanamo Bay, a move that suggested congressional Democrats may be lining up behind President Obama’s vision for closing the military prison.

The Senate vote, largely along party lines, came days after the administration announced plans to bring five alleged terrorists, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to New York for trial. The GOP-backed measure was attached to a $134 billion plan that funded programs for veterans and military construction. The overall bill was passed unanimously.

The measure, championed by right-wing Sen. James Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma, garnered three votes from the Democratic caucus: Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

In a statement, VoteVets.org chairman and Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz called out the amendment’s sponsor: “Nearly 200 terrorists were tried and convicted in U.S. courts, most notably Zacharias Moussavi who was brought to the U.S. by President George W. Bush. All the while, Senator Inhofe was quiet. Playing politics with security like this is a disgrace.”

On a related note, David Kurtz posted an item from a reader yesterday that resonated with me: “Let me get this straight: we kept KSM and his buddies in Gitmo for eight years, no trial, no process, under harsh conditions including torture — and now that we’re finally giving them a trial in civilian court, NOW Al-Qaeda wants to retaliate? NOW they’re going to kidnap the mayor’s daughter and demand that KSM be released? It doesn’t even make sense on its own terms.”

Quite right. The standard Republican rhetoric suggests terrorists are necessary magnets for more terrorists — where one goes, others follow. If there’s a terrorist on trial in NYC, terrorists will go to NYC. If there’s a terrorist locked up for life in Illinois, terrorists will flock to Illinois. As Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) put it the other day, he fears “al Qaeda would follow al Qaeda.”

So, there’s the follow-up question: if the Republican reasoning is correct, shouldn’t the area around Gitmo be the single most dangerous place on earth? Or put another way, if there mere presence of terrorists invites violence, shouldn’t al Qaeda have launched countless attacks against Gitmo at some point in recent years?