The Corner

Amherst’s Welcome Mat for Gitmo Detainees

With John Kerry overseas fixing Afghanistan, it’s good to see that Massachusetts hasn’t forgotten jihadists on the home front. From our pal Michael Graham comes this remarkable story: Amherst is close to offering itself as a resettlement site for two of the Gitmo detainees. The town board voted 2-1 to endorse the proposal (a “warrant article”) filed by a group of mainstream Americans (as the mainstream goes in Amherst) that calls itself “Pioneer Valley No More Guantanamos.” The resolution now goes to the Town Meeting for final approval.

The proposal evidently “calls on Congress [i.e., the U.S. Congress] to lift a ban on relocating former Guantanamo prisoners — even those cleared of wrongdoing — from resettling in the U.S,” and supporters point out that ”Ahmed Belbacha and Ravil Mingazov … have been wrongly detained and never committed hostile attacks against the U.S.”

It’s idiotic, but of course that won’t stop it from being enacted. However futile it may be, I feel obliged to point out that (a) there is nothing wrongful about detaining an enemy combatant without trial, let alone conviction, during wartime – the U.S. has done it in millions of cases throughout our history and even the current Supreme Court reaffirmed combatant detention in 2004 (in fact, it has been federal law since 1798 that, in a declared war, the citizens of an enemy nation-state may be detained just because they are citzens of the enemy — no requirement that they be soldiers or commit hostile acts); and (b) the main congressional provision that bars relocating Gitmo detainees in the U.S. is the REAL ID Act, which bars admission for aliens who have either (or both) been members of a foreign terrorist organization or (and) have received training in terrorist camps. Given that the idea is to prevent “hostile attacks against the U.S.,” there is no requirement that the alien be shown to have committed such acts before the ban kicks in.

Up until nine months ago, my instinct would have been to note that such enactments — like Lefty localities that declared themselves nuclear-free or Patriot Act-free zones — are just publicity stunts that have no significance since foreign policy and the conduct of war are duties assigned to the national government. With the Obama administration still angling to relocate trained jihadists here, however, who knows?