Daily Show host Jon Stewart last night skewered Republicans who have been decrying the closing of Guantanamo and suggesting that Americans ought to be terrified by the prospect of having Gitmo terrorists like Khalid Sheik Muhammed housed in American prisons by pointing out that the USA is simply number one in the world when it comes to locking up people. [Watch the episode, may be time limited].
Indeed, there is something comical about the degree to which mass incarceration remains invisible to American political leaders both left and right. On the left, lawyers, activists and politicians have decried Guantanamo without mention of the fact that preemptively locking up members of a dangerous class has been our policy toward domestic urban insecurity for decades. On the right, references to closed Alcatraz as a possible site for Gitmo detainees belie the proliferation of super-max prisons across America since the 1980s.
But in the spirit of John Stewart, we should note that at at time when American global prowess in industries like banking and automobiles is melting away, the closing of Guantanamo poses little danger of a long term decline in our status as the clear global leader in incarceration.