Update Feb 16: The City Council rejected the Guantanamo measure 4-1, with four abstentions.

It also approved a resolution calling for the “immediate end to the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment” of Wikileaks whisteblower Bradley Manning, the Army private being held in a military prison on charges of leaking classified documents.

Yesterday’s post
Tonight’s the night, Berkeley watchers. The City Council will consider a resolution inviting former Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared of illegality to take up residence there.

You can peruse the resolution here. It reads:

The Peace and Justice Commission, consistent with its mandate to promote peace and justice, locally, nationally and internationally, recommends that the United States lift its ban on the domestic repatriation of cleared Guantanamo detainees and that following the removal of this legal impediment, that assistance be given for their safe resettlement to the United States. It is proposed that the City of Berkeley then welcome one or two detainees to live in Berkeley, with needed housing and other support offered by the Berkeley community.

The City has a longstanding policy in support of peace and justice including previously welcoming refugees from other countries who unjustly suffered imprisonment, torture, and related traumatic experiences. Consistent with that policy leadership, the Council
of the City of Berkeley is urged to take a position to support the resettlement of one or two Guantanamo detainees to Berkeley. Similar actions were adopted by the cities of Amherst and Leverette, both in Massachusetts.

City Manager Phil Kamlarz, however, is not in harmony with the cause, citing federal law prohibiting the settlement of former detainees in the U.S.

If you want to know before most people how it all comes out, watch the City Council action live on the web, starting at 7 p.m.

KQED News intern Kyung Jin Lee spoke today with Rita Maran, a member of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, who introduced the resolution:

Maran says only funds from donors and non-profit organizations will be used for the resettlements[audio:http://ww2.kqed.org/news/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2011/02/Berekguan11.mp3]

Maran says most of negative feedback has been about the possible cost to the city[audio:http://ww2.kqed.org/news/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2011/02/berkguant2.mp3]

Maran says a myth that city is “welcoming terrorists” exists, and that detainees being considered have been cleared of charges[audio:http://ww2.kqed.org/news/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2011/02/berkguan3.mp3]

KTVU also has a video interview with a member of No More Guantanamos, who says she would invite a detainee to live with her.

This issue, of course, has provided amble fodder for Berkeley-bashers, who no doubt imagine Osama Bin Laden getting his own table at Chez Panisse. Here’s a snippet from an American Thinker blog post called “Plant a Tree and Hug a Terrorist:”

…in response to the recommendation of the Peace and Justice Commission, the Berkeley City Council plans to vote on a motion to share a cup of sugar with a terrorist. According to Peace and Justice Commissioner Rita Maran, the proposal is a way to welcome to the community “the kind of people you’d like to have living next door to you or dating your cousin.”

Receiving “new neighbors” from Guantanamo Bay could make the home to heiress/bank robber Patty Hearst, the late LSD guru Dr. Timothy Leary, and deceased Communist-poet Allen Ginsberg even more notorious than before.

Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders has a marginally less loathing take on the matter:

The Berkeley City Council remains in the easy seat where talk is cheap. Or as UC Berkeley law professor and former Bush White House attorney John Yoo noted, “It’s the perfect combination of futility and stupidity. It is futile, because what happens to Gitmo detainees is up to the federal government. It is stupid because only Berkeley would want to be a magnet for resettlement of Gitmo detainees.”

Pity the poor Peace and Justice crowd. Gone is the cheap thrill of pretending that all of America’s problems would go away if only George W. Bush weren’t in the White House. So in a new act of fiction, Berzerkeley plays make-believe by pretending that two Gitmo detainees should be dating your cousin.

(For a refutation of the case Saunders makes against two detainees cited by Berkeley as possible settlement candidates, check out this Firedoglake post.)

Just recently the city also took another p.r. pounding, on the now-delayed vote to honor Wikileaks’ whistleblower Bradley Manning. And it’s true — what some may consider to be misguided dogooderism does make a tempting target.

But don’t you think there’s something appealing about a place that always tries to do the right thing, even if it doesn’t always get it right?

Berkeley Rejects Resolution on Settling Former Cleared Guantanamo Detainees 16 February,2011Jon Brooks


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of EconomyBeat.org, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor