South Carolina is proud to be home to U.S. military facilities and proud of the role the state has played in the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
Leaders such as former Sens. Strom Thurmond and Ernest Hollings, and former Reps. Mendell Rivers and Floyd Spence, used their influence in Washington to make the Palmetto State a military bastion.
Though facilities such as the huge naval base at Charleston have closed, South Carolina remains a key player in meeting the nation’s military needs with facilities such as Shaw Air Force Base and the U.S. Army’s training center at Fort Jackson.
With the military connection comes obligations, which South Carolina continues to meet in ways such as “temporarily” storing high-level nuclear waste associated with the nation’s weapons programs. Political opposition in other states and in the nation’s capital have leaders here wondering whether the state is the de facto permanent home.
Fearing South Carolina is again about to become the home that no other state wants to be has leaders rightly standing up against federal plans to transfer terrorist detainees from the U.S. prison facility at Guantanamo Bay near Cuba to military prisons in South Carolina and Kansas. This goes beyond the states’ collective call of duty as there is no agreement on a plan for what to do with the detainees in the long term.
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President Barack Obama is looking to make good on his pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay facility, which became the place to house those detained in the war on terrorism in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. His position is the detainees should be tried in U.S. courts and not held indefinitely at Guantanamo as, in effect, prisoners of war. Congress has disagreed, preventing Obama from closing GTMO.
Federal officials say they are evaluating the Naval Brig near Charleston and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as sites to house the terrorists presently held at GTMO. Not surprisingly, opposition is fierce in both states.
In a letter Tuesday, Govs. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Sam Brownback of Kansas, both Republicans, told Defense Secretary Ash Carter they are prepared to take "any action within our power" to stop the transfers. That would include suing the federal government over Obama’s transfer plan.
Joining in opposition are South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and Kansas U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, who authored an opinion column for the Wall Street Journal making key points about why the Obama plan is unwelcome and a very bad idea.
Quoting the senators:
“Fort Leavenworth is on the Missouri River, adjacent to a public railroad, about 16 miles from Kansas City International Airport, in the middle of communities Leavenworth and Lansing, surrounded by schools and homes. Fort Leavenworth trains the best and brightest through the Army University, at the Command and General Staff College.
“Everyone in the vicinity would live with a target on their back if some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world were housed among them. Millions of taxpayer dollars would need to be spent to retrofit the barracks — and acquire perhaps 2,000 acres of land around them by eminent domain for a security perimeter — to house these prisoners.
“Charleston’s Naval Consolidated Brig was built in the late 1980s as a medium-security military prison for prisoners serving sentences of 10 years or less. It is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, less than a mile from a school, close to the Port of Charleston, roughly five miles from the Charleston International Airport, and surrounded by military facilities.
“It is also a short distance from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, or SPAWAR, Systems Center Atlantic, and the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command. Both of these strategic military installations are vital to national defense and military readiness and would further raise the profile of the area as a target for terrorism.
“Housing some of the world’s most dangerous prisoners next to Charleston, a city repeatedly named the No. 1 tourist destination in the U.S. by readers of Conde Nast Traveler, would be grossly irresponsible.”
Like the governors, the senators are vowing to continue fighting the Obama plan, also promising to do everything in their power to be sure the prisoners remain at Guantanamo.
We echo their reasoning:
“The notion that Kansas, South Carolina or any other state would be an ideal home for terrorist detainees is preposterous. Transferring these prisoners to the mainland puts the well-being of states in danger, posing security risks to the public and wasting taxpayer dollars. The detention facilities at Guantanamo are doing a fantastic job of holding these terrorists.
“Closing Guantanamo Bay isn’t taking the fight to the enemy; it’s bringing it home. Of serious concern is that there is no way to control who the terrorists would attract to our communities. We should be doing everything possible to destroy homegrown terrorism, not encouraging it.”