Retired Military Leaders, Illinois Congressional Candidates to Talk Terrorism

Retired military leaders committed to making interrogation and detention policies consistent with America’s laws, values and security interests are in Illinois this week to meet with congressional candidates of both parties about rejecting torture, closing Guantanamo and pending legislative restrictions on detainee transfers to the United States, including for trial and to Illinois’ Thomson Correctional Center. The leaders chose to target Illinois because that state has been at the epicenter of debate about the transfer of detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In addition to pressing for closure of the Guantanamo facility, the retired military leaders will also emphasize the effectiveness of federal courts in handling terrorism trials.

“Federal courts have convicted more than 400 terrorists since 9/11. Military commissions have convicted only four,” said Major General William L. Nash, who served in peacekeeping operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. “Terrorists are not warriors. They are thugs who should stand trial in our federal courts, just like any criminal should.”

Joining Major General Nash in Illinois will be General David Maddox, former Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Army in Europe, Lieutenant General Harry “Ed” Soyster, former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Brigadier General Jim Cullen, former Judge Advocate General (more complete bios below). This group is slated to meet with more than dozen Illinois congressional candidates, including Senate hopeful Alexi Giannoulias. Beyond the frank, one-on-one discussions planned with each candidate, the retired military leaders plan to hand-deliver a petition signed by nearly 5,500 people to each nominee. The document reinforces the retired military leaders’ stances and calls on candidates to close Guantanamo and try suspected terrorists in federal court.

During the retired military leaders’ trip to Illinois, the group will also launch an online video advertisement calling on lawmakers to try terrorism suspects in federal courts. The ad will launch on August 17.

These same retired military leaders were active in the last election cycle and met with eight of the presidential candidates to urge action on these same issues. President Obama, Vice President Biden, Governor Huckabee and Secretary Clinton have all publicly credited this group with influencing their thinking on the treatment of enemy prisoners.  This year, fueled by concerns regarding the hostile tenor that has shaped the “inside the beltway” debate on detention and interrogation policies, the military leaders have renewed their commitment to educate candidates and make themselves available for candid discussions. Earlier this summer, they held similar meetings with congressional candidates from Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Among other concerns, Lieutenant General Soyster plans to let candidates know that combating terrorism depends on winning the support of local populations. He notes, “Troops in the field depend on local community members to share information about threats. Our use of torture and abuse are not only wrong and ineffective, they compromise crucial relationships that can keep our soldiers safe.”

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