Guantanamo Detainees Do Not Belong at Fort Leavenworth (Rep. Lynn Jenkins)

On January 22, 2009, President has received a lot of praise for signing an Executive Order to close the Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay. Unfortunately, this decision was not accompanied by a comprehensive plan to relocate the detainees. As we all learned from Chairman Obey’s refusal to include the President’s requested Guantanamo funding in the Iraq and Afghanistan Supplemental, this issue gets a lot more complicated when you have to decide where to send these suspected terrorists.

While I’ve not found many folks who would be happy to welcome the detainees as their neighbors, one place I am convinced they should not be located is the Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. I represent the Fort and the citizens in the surrounding communities, and while it would be easy to dismiss my opposition as simple politics, the implications to our national security and international relations should be of interest to all Americans. Little known to many outside of the military and those of us from Eastern Kansas is the fact that Fort Leavenworth is home to the Command and General Staff College (CGSC), a 115 year-old program at the Fort that has trained more than 7,200 officers, including Generals Eisenhower, Marshall, MacArthur, Bradley, Arnold, Powell and Petraeus.

The CGSC not only trains our military leaders, but each year students from nations around the world study there.  If suspected terrorists are held at Fort Leavenworth, out of protest or out of safety concerns, I feel confident in saying that many of our allies would stop sending their military officers to train there. This will compromise our existing relationships and sacrifice the valuable perspectives and experiences that those foreign officers share with our own military. In a time when this Administration is looking to extend America’s hand to the global community, this sends exactly the wrong message.

There is no doubt in my mind that the men and women at Fort Leavenworth would be able to hold the detainees, and if tasked with the responsibility, they would make certain the Americans living nearby would not be harmed by the detainees. My concern is that any community that houses these suspected terrorists will immediately become a primary terrorist target from those outside the walls. That means local schools, hospitals, grocery stores and restaurants all increase their risk. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue and as we look more closely at the implications of closing Guantanamo, we see why it was chosen in the first place. If President Obama truly wants to follow through on his campaign promise and close Guantanamo, he needs to work with Congress on a plan that will not jeopardize American safety.

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