It was last summer that I first saw a screening of The Response at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago in connection with the American Bar Association meeting. The Response opened my eyes to what Guantanamo means for all of us.
Sure, the film The Response itself is an import to Chicago (it came out of the University of Maryland School of Law), but many of the attorneys who have taken on the habeus corpus cases of Guantanamo detainees on a pro bono basis are based right here in Chicago.
I met one of them, Tom Sullivan, at the first screening of The Response, and another, Gary Isaac, at a followup screening in Evanston; both of them participated on panels and described their work, including arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on the important Constitutional issues raised by Guantanamo. Another center of pro bono Guantanamo effort is the Northwestern Law -- Roderick MacArthur Justice Center
I also discovered the leading role that our Illinois representatives in the U.S. Congress are playing on these issues. In particular, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (9th) participated in the Evanston screening. In the course of the panel discussion, upon hearing that The Response had a slate of high profile screenings lined up at Columbia, Harvard, and other places, Congresswoman Schakowsky expressed an interest in arranging a screening for members of Congress on Capitol Hill. She has since arranged an official invitation to the film's producers, and a screening is projected for early 2010.
Then, about a month ago, Illinois became really prominent in the national response to Guantanamo, when Governor Pat Quinn and Senator Dick Durbin put forward a recommendation that the federal penitentiary in Thomon, IL, be used to house the Guantanamo detainees. Yesterday, the newspapers announced it's official: "ILLINOIS PICKED FOR GITMO DETAINEES: Obama orders feds to buy state prison in Thomson as part of plan to close facility in Cuba."
The plot thickened today, when even bigger headlines appeared: "TERROR TRIALS IN ILLINOIS: Feds moving Gimo inmates to Thomson prison - and they plan to hold military tribunals there." Coverage included the obligatory scare cartoons.
((A completely separate issue is the "Communication Management Unit" in the federal super maximum security ("supermax") prison in Marion, IL. According to reports, this facility -- and one like it in Terre Haute, IN --already house "an almost completely Muslim and/or Arab prison population" under secret or semi-secret conditions.))
A tremendously important election is getting underway in Illinois, for the Senate seat formerly held by Barack Obama. Even though officials in Thomson are expressing a practical Illinois focus on job creation and a typically Midwestern unflappability in the face of fear-mongering, the presumptive Republican candidate for the Senate seat, Congressman Mark Kirk (10th), is already stirring the pot over the dangers of the Thomson plan.
The Sun-Times reports that all seven Republican members of the Illinois congressional delegation are criticizing the Thomson move. They are Peter Roskam (6th), John Shimkus (19th), Kirk, Judy Biggert (13th), Don Manzullo (16th), Aaron Schock (18th) and Tim Johnson (15th).
People in Illinois who care about America's response to Guantanamo need to communicate with their representatives -- be they Republican or Democrat -- and engage them in conversation about the important issues that Guantanamo raises. (See the separate blog post on what people are saying on Twitter and in polls about "#GitmoNorth".)
Information on how to contact your representative, and on their Guantanamo positions, is shown below.
(Don't know who your representative is? Look him/her up by zip code here.)
(Don't know how what to say? Suggestions for getting started here.)
|Bean, Melissa L.||D||8th||Contact|
|Biggert, Judy||R||13th||Contact||On Gitmo||above|
|Costello, Jerry F.||D||12th||Contact|
|Davis, Danny K.||D||7th||Contact|
|Gutierrez, Luis V.||D||4th||Contact|
|Halvorson, Deborah L.||D||11th||Contact|
|Hare, Phil||D||17th||Contact||On Gitmo|
|Jackson, Jesse L. Jr.||D||2nd||Contact||On Gitmo|
|Johnson, Timothy V.||R||15th||Contact||On Gitmo||above|
|Kirk, Mark||R||10th||Contact||On Gitmo||above|
|Manzullo, Donald A.||R||16th||Contact||On Gitmo||above|
|Quigley, Mike||D||5th||Contact||On Gitmo|
|Roskam, Peter J.||R||6th||Contact||On Gitmo||above|
|Rush, Bobby L.||D||1st||Contact|
|Schakowsky, Jan||D||9th||Contact||On Gitmo||above|
|Shimkus, John||R||19th||Contact||On Gitmo||above|