Missing the OLD (Cold) War

By MaryEllen Kersch

As one who grew up in fear of the total obliteration of the planet, I never thought I would say this, but I sort of miss the Cold War these days.

Not the diving under solid objects during “fall-out drills” in school, or being on the alert for strange-looking airplanes potentially carrying real weapons of mass-destruction, — those were not fond childhood memories. However, in retrospect, The Cold War united the people of our country in a sense of who we were and what we stood for.

The United States, during that era, certainly earned its position as the moral leader of the world. The big difference between us and the Commies was that we valued human dignity. We set the standards, worldwide, for the proper treatment of people under all circumstances; we spoke out against torture, oppression, starvation. We urged all nations to be, as we were, compassionate to those less fortunate than us and courageous against those who degraded our fellow humans. We practiced the golden rule. We did it because we knew it was right.

Here we are, six years after some lunatics, who still remain free, committed atrocious acts against us and we seem to have lost the moral compass that guided us so well. During the Cold War, we never would have put children in prisons. (We even agonized and apologized for our interment camps of WWII!) But that is precisely what we are doing now, under some convoluted grant of power in the name of, but having nothing to do with, Homeland Security.

For over a year now, the Commissioners Court in Williamson County, Texas, has acted as contractual “provider” in a corrupt contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (known chillingly, appropriately, as ICE) for the administration of T Don Hutto “residential” facility.

T Don Hutto was a founder of the firm that owns and operates this prison that is pretending to be a “residential” facility. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest — and hugely profitable — private operator of prisons in America, actually runs this shameful facility on a pass-through contract with the County. Under this arrangement, CCA gets 2.8 million tax dollars a month (approximately $84,000 a year for each tender little body they “detain”), and the County gets a dollar a day a body.

(Curious that the County is even involved; ICE could contract directly with CCA since CCA owns the prison in the first place. But, as some legal experts say, with the County in the loop, the County very likely shares any legal exposure. And the County collects $12-$15 thousand a month from the Feds for going along.)

The human beings held at T Don Hutto are not criminals; they are charged with no crimes, nor are they suspected of being a threat to us, or our homeland security. Many of the children are actually citizens of this country.

The Bush administration (and the Republican Williamson County Commissioner Court) justify this shameful partnership by citing their dedication to “family values.” Keeping the kids together with mom, you know.

Many experts say, and several governmental agencies (including Congressional groups) urge, that people awaiting disposition of their applications for amnesty and/or immigration ought to be equipped with an electronic device and allowed to go with responsible family members or church groups pending a decision by our authorities. It would be considerably cheaper—and far more humane. There are such programs in a number of other communities. But maybe they didn’t have a vacant prison owned by a corporation that donated lots of campaign dollars to lots of elected officials.

In the former era, during the Cold War, this is the sort of dishonorable thing the Commies would have done. But not the United States of America.

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