Monday, May 5, 2008


It's motto: "Oops."

51st state? Try Guantanamo

Peter M. Ryan

is a Philadelphia lawyer with clients

at Guantanamo Bay

The world slaps us with Guantanamo as though it's a sack of wet nickels. Guantanamo is an albatross, wrapped in a scarlet letter, inside an Alcatraz. What to do with Guantanamo?

The Supreme Court is mulling the question. The president and the secretary of defense say they want to close Guantanamo. All three presidential candidates and five former U.S. secretaries of state want to close Guantanamo.

Fortunately, the answer is obvious. Congress should pass, and the president sign, legislation making Guantanamo the 51st state. Sorry, Puerto Rico, you had your chance. District of Columbia, you never had a chance.

Wake up, America! Shake off your recessionary gloom with Guantanamo, the Limbo State! Our Manifest Destiny has lain dormant since the Aloha State surfed into the Union in 1959. The turkey vulture, the Guantanamo State Bird, will devour a roadkill banana rat on the back of the 2010 Commemorative Quarter.

Consider the benefits of making Guantanamo El Grande Cincuenta y Uno:

Florida will be so distracted it may miss the November election.

Democrats and Republicans will love it. Democrats will thrill at a feeding frenzy for one . . . more . . . delegate. And with Guantanamo's high concentration of military voters (100 percent), two new Republican senators will likely travel to Washington, D.C., to tip the balance of the Senate.

Guantanamo is the model solution to the immigration dilemma. It has a big fence around it. The guys on the other side shoot anyone who tries to climb over.

Guantanamo will become a uniter, not a divider. Statehood will bring the detainees into the United States and keep them out of Leavenworth, Kan.

Most important, statehood will take the pressure off Rhode Island. The tiny Ocean State will finally have someone to push around.

Of course, some will say it can't be done. Nay, they will say, we have no right to make Guantanamo a state, because Cuba retains sovereignty and we have only a 105-year-old lease.

But the Guantanamo lease is no ordinary lease. For six years, this mild-mannered lease has knocked the stuffing out of our Constitution and the writ of habeas corpus. Surely, the legixecutives in the office of the vice president can make statehood happen.

Let's face it: Guantanamo already is part of the United States. Our flag flies there. Our law governs. Guantanamo is a true melting pot. Men and women of all ranks, races, creeds and colors in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard work together at Guantanamo as a Joint Task Force.

Outside the armed services, there are scads of Filipino construction workers and a company of Jamaican firefighters. And, big fence notwithstanding, there are Cubans practically everywhere. They work at the McDonald's, the Subway and the Navy Exchange.

Then there are the detainees from 47 countries. In December, the government told the Supreme Court the detainees "enjoy more procedural protections than any other captured enemy combatants in the history of warfare." Pardon me while I indefinitely hold my applause.

Before 2004, the government insisted the detainees had no rights. With statehood, everyone will agree that the right to habeas corpus exists at Guantanamo. This will delight the Supreme Court, which won't have to decide the question.

Consider Haji Nusrat, internee serial number 1009. An 80-year-old stroke victim, he wobbled around Guantanamo with a walker for four years. He spoke in riddles, like "How could I be an enemy combatant if I was not able to stand up?" I never heard him say that he wanted to destroy our way of life. I think he just wanted our way of life. Or at least one of our rehab centers.

Consider, too, Haji Rohullah, ISN 798. He enjoyed the solitary amenities of Guantanamo's Camp V for more than five years. Just last week, we sent him home for more indefinite detention, this time by the Afghan government. He once tried to comfort a young man in a neighboring cell at Guantanamo, who said "Haji, all I see is a white wall and a white wall and a white wall and a white wall. I feel like I am in a grave." We eventually sent the boy back to Afghanistan, too, but some of his mind stayed in Guantanamo.

Finally, consider Ali Shah Mousovi, ISN 1154. He is a pediatrician - a nefarious profession. After he had spent two years in Guantanamo, an Air Force colonel told him: "I do find it hard to believe that someone could make an allegation against you, no matter how strong, and the United States government would imprison you and fly you all the way to Cuba. I find that difficult to believe."

Three cheers for Guantanamo, our 51st state! Its state motto is "Oops." One day, we might give the land back to Cuba. But we'll always have Guantanamo.

Peter Ryan, a lawyer at Dechert L.L.P. in Philadelphia, represents several Afghan nationals detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba.

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