When President Woodrow Wilson went to Paris in 1918, he had one goal in mind. This goal was restoration and peace. Restoration to those oppressed nations that had suffered horribly during the Great War, and peace among all nations. As he introduced his 14 point plan, he spent 6 months in Paris negotiating, compromising, and holding true to the values revered so much by his American convictions! Once an agreement was made, all parties went home and frankly were happy the whole negotiation process was over. With negotiations quite strenuous to many parties, especially to Wilson, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Wilson convinced Europe to join the League of Nations but was unsuccessful in convincing the United States Congress…especially those within the Senate. It is said that the stress behind not having the Senate’s support, brought on the severe stroke that left him paralyzed on one side and in bad shape during the final years of his administration.
Barak Obama got a taste of “making promises assuming that he has the support”, but when coming down to the vote, the Senate takes another direction. He had vowed on his second day in office to close the prison within a year as part of his effort to repair America’s tarnished image abroad. This vow will now be coupled with his game plan when he speaks at the National Archives; ironically former Vice-President Cheney will be speaking at the same time.
My question is: Why did the Senate turn their support from the President. A poll done at “The Escapist” (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/18.90564?page=3) showed that 63.7 percent of those surveyed approved of the President’s move to close down the facility while 19.6 percent were against it. A CNN poll showed after asking the question, “Do you think the policies being proposed by Barack Obama will move the country in the right direction or the wrong direction?” Those who believed his proposed policies were in the right direction 63%, those who thought they were the wrong direction 35%. If these polls are the true voice of the American public, should not the representatives who represent these constituents also reflect these results?
The major concern spouted by Senate members stated that they were opposed to the prisoners being transported to prisons on American soil. Michele Flournoy, Pentagon policy chief, says it’s unrealistic to think that no detainees will come to the U.S., and that the U.S. can’t ask allies to take detainees while refusing to take on the same burden. Senator Harry Reid stated, “We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States…Part of what we don’t want is for them to be put in prisons in the United States. We don’t want them around in the United States.” Where do you place the POW’s?
For members of congress to question the ability and strength of the American Prison System is walking a tight rope, and it also sends signals to our enemies that our domestic security is weak, and can be penetrated…which couldn’t be further from the truth. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world. As of the year 2000, our facilities include: 3,365 local jails, 1,558 state facilities, 146 federal facilities. As of January 17th 2007, 245 prisoners remained at Gitmo equaling to 1.67 persons going to each one of our Federal Facilities.
There is one member of the Senate that stood in support of the Presidents efforts. Dianne Feinstein, who not only gained in wealth during the war (by 2005 her net worth had increased to between $43 million and $99 million), had pretty good reason to stand behind her statements to bring the prisoners to US prisons. Stating, “I believe that American justice is what makes this country strong in the eyes of the world. American justice is what people believe separates the United States from other countries. And American justice has to be applied to everyone, because if it isn’t, we then become hypocrites in the eyes of the world.”, the Senator just stated what she was vested in emotionally and financially. Feinstein holds stock in the URS Corporation, which as a major U.S. federal contractor, URS provides critical support to the Departments of Defense (DoD), Homeland Security (DHS) and Energy (DOE), as well as to National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies. (No wonder she’s on the Senate Intelligence Committee!)
Obama’s showdown today will tell whether or not Congress will stand behind the promise he made to the American People. Perhaps, he could use a little advice from a former President who has approached this similar problem:
“I would rather lose in a cause that will someday win, than win in a cause that will someday lose.”
~Former President Woodrow Wilson