On Groundhog Day, and my birthday, the Lady I Live With gave me among other surprises the gift of her company at a lovely candlelit dinner. We dined at the graceful old hotel, Wentworth by the Sea. I had never been inside the place, though I have certainly passed by it a number of times. No one, of course, lives long in New Hampshire without remembering that it is famous not only for being old and pleasantly situated, but for its view of the Portsmouth Naval Prison.
Oh, there’s that old stuff about the Russo-Japanese War treaty and Old Rough and Ready Teddy Roosevelt, and all of his “Speak softly and carry a big stick…” folderol, but that’s so 20th Century. If one speaks at all of course one must speak softly, so as not to disturb or upset. And, nowadays, no one carries a stick of any size, or ought to: unless one is an Iranian president, or some such persecuted and fevered minority.
If you saw “The Last Detail” you are already familiar with the Portsmouth Naval Prison, at least cinematically, as being a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. Of course no one lives there, now, but it was for about seventy years home to a few dozen thousand carefully selected tenants, guests of the nation so to speak. Probably not many of them who spent time there when it was accommodating guests will remember those accommodations as being at all worthy of recommendation. It never appeared on any lists, such as AAA, AARP or the Michelin Guide. Not much could be said about the appointments, I guess, or the services provided. But, the view was certainly worth while. Considering what else was available, the view was about all it had going; Portsmouth Harbor, the Isles of Shoals three miles offshore and the stately Wentworth by the Sea Hotel being just a few of the things one might see between the bars of one’s cell.
Now, the other night, as I sat there thinking of some old salt languishing inside the white walls and bleak cells of this now long empty prison, gazing longingly on the exquisite beauty of nature and the quaint beauty of his man made surroundings, I thought of those poor fellows now sitting deprived of such things in the chigger infested wastes of our Guantanamo holding tank for mad dog terrorist murderers; the mad dogs and their attorneys, especially. I thought of all the agonizing currently going on at the highest levels of our new and hope filled federal administration over where to put them, since, umm, Guantanamo is, what, too far from home, too hot, too…well too something, that’s for sure.
Why else would we be troubling ourselves to move them?
Why? I shall suggest why. Some of these guys, after plotting bloody murders around the globe, carrying them out in the name of Allah, the all merciful, and his prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, and failing their heroic martyrdom while murduring innocent men, women and children, and missing out on the promised stadium full of virgins have languished down there for years. Think of it. Since the few who have been released have been able to get back in the game as it were in various sandpiles and rockpiles in places known for sudden death in Allah’s merciful name it behooves those interested in fair play and the rule of law (I mean defense attorneys and Democrats) to ease the burden we place on these fellows still cooped up and waiting for another shot at mayhem and salvation.
One of the things the fair play/rule of law folks want to do is get them out of that hot, humid sand pit and bring them closer to us all…and them. They argue, and the argument has weight in the newly ensconced government, that no one has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that these fellows are fanatical cold blooded murderers. Of course, the fact that they are fanatical cold blooded murderers is quite beside the point. To establish the fact in a court room where rules of evidence and such like prevail is all the thing. And that cannot, must not, will not (now) be done in the flea infested wastes of Guantanamo.
Well, the other night I could think of no reasons why this cannot be done except these two. There are no nice hotels for defense attorneys to stay while at Guantanamo establishing the facts, and there are no federal judges (and nice hotels in which they may stay) who will allow the defense attorneys to establish them.
And so I think now that moving everyone to Portsmouth and the Wentworth by the Sea would be a perfect solution to the current problem of what to do with Guantanamo. Move all of them, attorneys, murderers and judges to the hotel. I would relinquish eating lovely candlelit dinners there on my birthday for at least another 67 years in the interests of fairness to murderers and comfort for defense attorneys…and judges, of course.
I suspect you thought I was going to suggest rehabilitating the old prison to hold the nation’s current guests lingering in Guantanamo. That would not be fair. It has been shuttered since 1974, and there are asbestos issues. To subject these men to those rigors and expose them to the ugliness of asbestosis would be inhuman after all they have endured. (It occurs that their guards could be placed there; temporarily of course.)
How would we get them there? This, too, I have thought of. Both Guantanamo and Portsmouth are Naval bases, open to the sea. They could swim.