Will Guantanamo Prisoners New Home Be in Montana or in Your Neck of the Woods?

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The current buzz around my home state of Montana is whether or not the Guantanamo Bay prisoners, should that facility actually close, be moved to the Two Rivers Authority in Hardin, Montana. Wow! Many feathers have been ruffled, politicians are spewing threats and the debate is getting heated. Since there are two distinct sides to this argument, let me preface my remarks by explaining the dual dynamic at work concerning this hot issue.

First and foremost, one should understand that the town of Hardin, Montana (population 3,400) is at the heart of this dilemma. The Two Rivers Authority located there was completed in July, 2007 at a cost of $27 million dollars and has remained empty since that time. Rocket science is not necessary here to figure out why the owners and Executive Director of this facility, Greg Smith, and the town "leaders" are pursuing prisoners; any prisoners! Mr. Smith actually made the very bootlicking-like statement: "I think it's our duty at times to help the President if he believes he wants to do this. We believe we have a facility we think can help. I think the law enforcement people can be up to the task. We would share the concern that we would want the public to be safe. Obviously, we live in the community as well." A more self-interested position could not be taken here, but at least the "we want to help" line is easily seen through by most everyone in the state. It won't be a surprise to anyone to learn that since this jail is completely empty, and has been since its inception, that its construction loans are now in default. Imagine that? This is apparently what got the city council's butt in gear to lobby the new president.

The other side of this farcical argument of course is the political element. What a chance for the state's "representatives" to grandstand and spew anti-terrorist rhetoric. Both sides of the aisle are in rare form. U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg R-Mont. said, "Whether or not the Obama Administration calls them terrorists, that's exactly what these Guantanamo prisoners are. (He apparently knows this without benefit of evidence). We should be doing everything possible to keep them out of our country, let alone our state." Senator Jon Tester D-Mont. released a statement saying, "If these prisoners need a new place, it's not going to be anywhere near the "Last Best Place." Max Baucus D-Mont., our senior senator, had a more measured tone when he said, "It's a security risk that I don't think we want to have. It's just not the right thing to do. Now clearly we have to help those folks in Hardin in finding some other solution to this, but I don't think the Guantanamo prisoners should come to Montana. That's not a good thing to do." This last part sounds like a bribe in the making to me, or at least some sort of bailout proposition, but who am I to question the good intent of a U.S. Senator?

With all the state in a rage, no one to my knowledge has yet bothered to ask about the well-being or legal rights of these prisoners. No one has asked if they will continue to be tortured should they be moved to Montana. No one has asked why they don't have proper council or have access to the rule of law. No one has asked why most are being held without charge. But they have been called terrorists, murderers, rapists and animals; all this without the benefit of charge or trial. Isn't this an immoral and backwards approach? Scott McPherson began his article today on Jacob Hornberger's Future of Freedom site with this quote:

He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. ~Thomas Paine

Nothing could be truer! Has this precedent already been set? I certainly think so. Just look around. What do you see? Not only are the rights of those foreigners who are being held without the benefit of trial lost, but our precious rights are all but lost as well. Is it too late to reverse this trend, or will the subservient and duteous sheep in this country continue hiding from the truth; allowing this rights-stealing behemoth to expand even more? If so, what then?

The political rhetoric is fast flowing but moral sanity has disappeared from view. It is irrelevant whether or not these U.S. government prisoners are moved from Guantanamo Bay to Montana or anywhere else. What is relevant, regardless of the venue, is when will these human beings be given the normal and natural rights they deserve? When will this country's good citizens demand that all be treated equally under the law? If we don't protest and change this heinous course we're on, and by force if necessary, how long will it be before you or I or your neighbor are hauled away, and without the benefit of proper representation and trial? Just think of the recently leaked government directives sent to our jack-booted local, state and federal police forces warning that many of us are right-wing extremists and need to be watched. Any of us could be branded a terrorist or enemy combatant you see, and at any time, so why should I risk my safety for you or you for me just to protect liberty? Because if we won't, who will? And if we don't, what will be our and our future generation's destiny? This is one slippery slope that leads straight to hell, and this hell is a one-way street away from freedom and into the arms of servitude to the state!

None of us can afford or allow this to happen. All of human-kind is born with a God-given natural and inherent right to life and liberty. By allowing the manipulation of the system in favor of some over others, we will all eventually suffer. By stopping this totalitarian assault on those we don't know or understand we are only benefitting ourselves and in turn, all of mankind.

Gary D. Barnett [send him mail] is president of Barnett Financial Services, Inc., in Lewistown, Montana.

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