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The whole argument about "terrorists in our neighborhood" is so absurd as to be laughable.  They're not being placed in the other half of your duplex. They're going to prison.  We have imprisoned terrorists here quite a few times.  However, if you look at who we have imprisoned, you will see that, while they are terrorists, many of them aren't THAT KIND of terrorist (wink wink), if you know what I mean.  

First, let's start with the word "terrorist," because unless we agree on the definition, well, we're just talking in circles.  Obviously, a "terrorist" is a person involved in "terrorism," so I guess that's what we need to define.  Let's see what the UN says, in General Assembly resolution 49/60:

Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.

The United States code has its own, but similar, definition, at U.S. Code Title 22, Ch.38, Para. 2656f(d):

premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.

Curiously, that definition leaves out the "terror" aprt of terrorism, so it is actually far broader than the UN definition.  The violence need merely be "politically motivated," rather than "calculated to provoke a state of terror."  

Okay, on with the show.  First, let's look at a few terrorists who can pretty easily be lumped in with the people in Guantanamo:

Ahmed Ressam was sentenced to 22 years in an American prison for his participation in the foiled "Millenium Bomb" attack planned against LAX.  He could do as little as 13 years, but when he finished his sentence he isn't exactly getting sent to a half-way house down the street.  No, he will be locked up in an immigration prison until he can be deported.  Mr. Ressam will never see a free moment on US soil.  

Just three months ago Christopher Paul, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring with others to use weapons of mass destruction.  Mr. Paul, an Ohio native, joined al Qaeda and fought with them in Bosnia and Afghanistan.  Nobody complained about Mr. Paul being imprisoned in the United State prison system.

Sheif Omar Abdel Rahman, aka "The Blind Sheif," was sentenced to life in prison for plotting a series of bombings and assassinations.  My recollection of that event was that his sentence to the American prison system was victory, not a blow against the safety to America's citizens.

Now for a few that aren't really al Qaeda terrorists, but are better described as "wanna-be" al Qaeda terrorists.

Kevin James fancied himself a home-grown Islamic terrorist.  He formed his own group, Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam
Is-Saheeh, while in the California State prison system, and required his two followers to swear personal loyalty oaths to him.  He planned his own "jihad" against Jews and the American military.  He was sentenced to 16 years in the American prison system, just two months ago.  Nobody complained about "terrorists in our neighborhood."  His two co-defendants got 22 years and 15 years, and again, no complaints.

Of course, James and his group aren't the only people to try to kill and terrorized Jews.  

Buford Furrow is serving a life sentence in the American prison system, you know, "your neighborhood," for shooting at a Jewish day care center then murdering an African American.  Nobody is demanding that he be sent to Guantanamo, or claiming that his presence in a prison cell is threatening the country.

Then we get to the people responsible for the second-worst terror attack on American soil, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.  McVeigh was executed.  Nichols is serving life in prison.  And, shhhhh, don't tell anybody, he's doing it right here in the good ol U S of A.

So is Ted Kaczynski, aka "The Unabomber."  Remember him?  It's hard to get more "terrorist" than a guy who sends bombs in the mail.  What better way to "invoke a state of terror" in the general populace?

Oh wait, I have another way.  

Clayton Waagner was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison for sending hundreds of letters to abortion clinics claiming they were tainted with anthrax.  Yes, that would "invoke a state of terror in ... a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes," don't you think?  I don't remember anybody complaining about his sentence in an American prison. Do you?

Eric Rudolph is serving life in prison, in the American prison system, for bombing an abortion clinic, killing an off-duty police officer and maiming a nurse. I would have to say that planting a bomb in an abortion clinic qualifies as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets."  Don't you think so?  He's doing his time right here in the lower 48.

Michael Griffin is serving a life term for murdering OB/GYN David Gunn.  

Paul Jennings Hill was executed for murdering John Britton and his clinic escort, James Barrett, and injuring Mr. Barrett's wife.  His goal was to terrorize doctors from performing abortions.

John Salvi, another anti-abortion murderer, committed suicide in prison.

We have terrorists of all kinds here in the United States.  Take a look at Timothy Dumas, sentenced to a year in prison for the beating of a black homeless man.  Or Shaun Derifield, sentenced to 37 months in prison for, well, terrorizing people for the color of their skin- "he chased down one of the girls, held a knife to her throat, and screamed 'Remember our faces! This is our town and you better get out before we kill you!'"

Speaking of racially-motivated terror, does the name Edgar Ray Killen ring a bell?  It might, if you also heard the names Michael Schwermer, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman. Those three young men were murdered trying to register black voters in Mississippi.  It doesn't get much more terroristic for political purposes than that.  Most people, even some Republicans, applauded when Mr. Killen was finally sent to see the inside of the American prison system.  

David Wayne Hull combines anti-abortion with white supremacy.  He was sentenced to 12 years in prison for teaching an investigator posing as an anti-abrtion acitivist how to make a pipe bomb.  The meeting took place at a white power gathering.

James Ford Seale was finally sent to prison for the murder of two African American men 43 years earlier.  He was one of a group of two people who kidnapped the two men, beat them, then tied heavy objects to them and threw them into a lake, where they drowned.  All to  'teach them people not to get "uppity,"' right?  Terrorism folks, plain and simple.

Ladies and gentlemen, we put terrorists in American prisons all the time, and nobody complains.  Not all of them are 'scary looking A-Rabs.'  Indeed, many of them look like that guy to your left, or the dude in the cubicle next to yours.  But they have one thing in common, the desire to terrify people into conforming with their desired behavior, or belief, or race, or religion.  They want to kill you.  Well, they want to kill me, and some of you.  And until about two weeks ago, putting people like them in prison was considered a good thing.

I still think it is.

How about you?

Originally posted to Palate Press: The online wine magazine on Thu May 21, 2009 at 12:14 PM PDT.

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