Not in my backyard, not in my country; People against Gitmo transfer speak up at town hall


STANDISH — People adamantly against transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility (SMF) flowed to the Resurrection of the Lord Catholic Church in Standish for an anti-Guantanamo Bay to Standish town hall meeting on Thursday.

After a brief introduction by Standish businessman Dave Munson, Congressman Pete Hoekstra (R – Holland) was the first to speak out against Gitmo detainees coming to Michigan, citing a lack of information and national security as reasons for his thinking.

“One thing I’m pushing for and I hope you’re pushing for, is a process that is transparent,” Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said. “These are people that are committed to destroying our way of life.”

According to Hoekstra, if the detainees were imprisoned on American soil, they would enjoy the same civil liberties all Americans currently do.

“I’m not about extending these liberties to them,” he said, adding President Bush also attempted to close Gitmo, but was unsuccessful, adding he hopes the same occurs for President Obama. “I hope he finds it impossible.

“Keeping Guantanamo open is a good idea.”

Hoekstra was asked later if a federal detention center in Florence, Colo., which also houses terrorists, was ever the site of an attempted jailbreak by terrorists’ allies.

Hoekstra said that the Colorado facility, which he said only detains terrorists captured on American soil, not in foreign countries during wartime, had never had an incident like that.

The Florence, Colo. facility is currently holding Zacarias Moussaoui, who was a co-conspirator in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Moussaoui, a French citizen, moved to the U.S. prior to 2001. He was sentenced to a life sentence by the United States District Court for the Eastern Division of Virginia ( Hoekstra says terrorists involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing are also held there.

Hoekstra was the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee until 2006.

After Hoekstra spoke, David Littmann, Senior Economist for Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, talked about the bad economics of the move.

Littman said the closing of the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility was the result of bad moves in Lansing and added that “bullies” in Washington who were trying to “ramrod terrorists down our throat in the state of Michigan.”

He added that the administration should continue to use the pre-existing facility that is already paid for in Cuba.

As for public safety, Littman said Gitmo detainees were “human trash,” and said they shouldn’t be placed near Detroit, which due to its high Muslim population, he called “Home to a cluster of Hezbollah sympathizers.”

He also said privatizing prisons should have been looked at long ago in Michigan.

“Lansing has been acting irresponsibly for far too long,” Littman said. “Michigan today, in my estimate of an economy, is an economic poster child for an economically depressed area.”

Debra Burlingame, Founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America and sister of the pilot of the plane which was crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, gave the day’s most personal account when opposing the Gitmo closing and prospective move to Michigan.

“These detainees are not like ordinary criminals,” Burlingame said, adding one should not only be concerned about terrorists escaping from the facility. “You have to be concerned with homegrown terrorists taking interest in these facilities.”

According to Burlingame, she spoke with President Obama in February and asked him why he couldn’t rehabilitate the image of Gitmo, rather than closing it altogether, since she says the President told her it had become a symbol of shame.

“He (Obama) shrugged. He put his head down and he said nothing,” she said. “You are owed a better answer than that.”

Burlingame also said that 450 physical attacks on guards at Guantanamo Bay have taken place and that terrorists wouldn’t hesitate to attack soft targets on American soil, if a Guantanamo Bay-type facility was moved here. She also said ones released in court proceedings would stay in the area, although Congressman Bart Stupak (D – Menominee) said at a meeting with Arenac County officials recently that detainees released from Gitmo would be extradited to their homeland.

Tom Kerrins, chief steward for the Michigan Corrections Organization, and State Sen. Jim Barcia (D – Bay City) also sat on the panel at the meeting and expressed concern about the overall proposal and lack of information available on it.

After all members of the meeting’s panel spoke, the floor was open for questions and comments from the public.

Jeff McQueen said his biggest concern about Gitmo coming to Standish was “Who breaks them (detainees) out? … How will they break them out?

“I see all Muslims as my cousins,” McQueen added after calling himself a “Son of Abraham.” “But these guys are true threats.”

Standish resident Kelly Kimball asked about eminent domain, saying she has heard the federal government would seize one-quarter mile to one mile around the prison.

Hoekstra answered her, saying her question was an example of the many unanswered ones that must be addressed before a proposal on Gitmo moving to Standish is considered.

One person in the crowd, Brent Snelgrove, a Standish businessman, agreed that there was a lack of information, but showed displeasure with one-sidedness of the meeting.

“I’m disappointed in this panel,” he said. “I don’t see both sides of the conversation

“20 years ago I heard some of the same concerns… almost identical,” he added.

Snelgrove also made note of the Patriot Act and technological advances in locating people that have been made in order to keep Americans safer.

Hoekstra was also asked about intelligence regarding Sept. 11 and the War in Iraq, since the intelligence regarding both has been criticized over the years.

"Saddam Hussein did everything he could to convince us that he had them (weapons of mass destruction)," Hoekstra said. "I'm not going to stand up here and say that we ever have perfect intelligence. ... We don't have perfect intelligence."

He added that 9/11 was not the result of faulty intelligence or a mistake in that area.

About 250 people, most from the Standish area, attended the town hall.


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Many claim that these terrorists are trying to destroy the American way of life, but I think our leaders are pretty good at doing that themselves (i.e. suspending habeus corpus, other civil liberties).

“I’m not about extending these liberties to them,” Hoekstra said on civil liberties to suspected terrorists. Seriously, a leader who openly opposes civil rights?!?! Our constitution that grants these civil rights is the only thing that defines the "American way of life."

I know who I will not be voting for.

Thursday, August 20, 2009 | Report this

I am concerned about the report that the people of Standish overwhelmingly protested the chance of keeping the prison open by accepting detainees from Guantanamo. I have seen the "dirty tricks" used by the Party of No and their effectivesness in a campaign of misinformation. I do not see how the people can be against the detainees being housed in the state of art, maximum security prison which has an excellent record of NO escapes and an excellent staff which is proud of their record. Questions: Was the "townhall" meeting on the level, or was it another clever manifestation of a political party grasping at anything they can find for attention? Has the city been put upon by those who are grandstanding and trying to get their names in the news by spreading fear and threats of evil happenings? Why were no local civic leaders on the panel? It all looks very contrived in an area desperately in need of employment.

Friday, August 21, 2009 | Report this

The bigger picture is---THE PRISON SHOULD NOT BE CLOSED AT ALL--closing the prison means a lot of prisoners who WERE NOT model citizens are going to be let out to terrorize unsuspecting citizens!.

IF these prisoners are so well behaved and their program of retraining them is working so well, then why are so many prison guards complaining about all of the increased fighting? Why are more guards being sent to the hospitals because of injuries sustained in breaking up these fights?

There were people invited to come to this town hall meeting who chose not to show up.

The great City of Standish Manager Mike Moran was at the meeting, why didn't he get up and speak?

Friday, August 21, 2009 | Report this

Our past prisoners have not been exactly model citizens. They have been the worst of the worst and the community did well. I would rather have terrorists behind double razor wire, gun towers, and high walls than running loose in the world.

Also as long as we have to pay the federal bills, we might as well get some of it back in this county.

Saturday, August 22, 2009 | Report this

Okay, Question: Where was the City Manager, Mike Moran, during the pseudo-town meeting, and why did he not support the need for continued employment in Standish?

Saturday, August 22, 2009 | Report this

City Manager Mike Moran sat there with his mouth shut and NEVER said a word. That is what the City Manager was doing through this town hall meeting.

Saturday, August 22, 2009 | Report this

If I remember the many stories I read and also heard about the craziness and grandstanding from the elementary thinking types when the State first came here to put the prison here - It looks like we have the next generation doing the same thing. Wake-up and wish-up Arenac County and especially the City of Standish, we need to work as a strong force to make this community grow in a positive way. However, we do need to find better representation that can show an intelligent and an informed point of view. Our leaders, County and City need to find plan, stand by the plan, damn the politics side and move this community forward. We need to have plan and keep the doors open to new ideas, not knee jerking from a bunch of people who only come out for personal gratification or they are the ones who always come out and kick the poor downed animal, instead of help it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009 | Report this

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