As readers know, I’ve been generally supportive of U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Egan, over the years. I especially applaud his hard work aimed at restoring America’s manufacturing sector to prominence. But today, I will disagree with him. I can’t support Manzullo’s position on an Obama administration plan to move al-Qaida and Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Thomson prison, 70 miles from Rockford. I think Don and the staff are suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome, a common Republican virus.

As readers know, I’ve been generally supportive of U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Egan, over the years. I especially applaud his hard work aimed at restoring America’s manufacturing sector to prominence.

But today, I will disagree with him. I can’t support Manzullo’s position on an Obama administration plan to move al-Qaida and Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Thomson prison, 70 miles from Rockford. I think Don and the staff are suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome, a common Republican virus. Manzullo even told WREX-13-TV that the detainees practice “some savage religion.” The terrorist suspects at Gitmo are Muslims, and Manzullo seemed to be slamming Islam. He later said he just meant the Gitmo detainees, not a billion Muslims.

Manzullo said he’s voted 10 times against allowing Gitmo detainees to come to the U.S. mainland, but I never heard him raise a ruckus when George W. Bush wanted to close Gitmo. But he says the Obama administration’s plan to buy Thomson state prison and convert it to a federal prison with a military-operated wing for about 100 Gitmo detainees would make northwest Illinois a terrorism target. It would also bring 2,000 to 3,000 jobs.

“I would hate to think that people will accept a threat to national security for the promise of jobs,” Manzullo said.

State Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, knows about security threats. For nearly three decades he was an FBI man. Although he preferred Gitmo remain open, he said that as long as it’s going to close, let’s get those jobs for northwest Illinois. He minces no words.

“If we pass up this opportunity I think we’re buffoons. We have a state-of-the-art facility designed as a maximum-security prison that is the second-largest expenditure for a building in the history of the state of Illinois. It has been sitting mostly vacant for eight years,” said Sacia, who represents Thomson.

“We have an opportunity to bring 2,000 to 3,000 good jobs to Illinois, and the prison would be doing exactly what it was intended to do. If President Barack Obama is going to do this, we are literally idiots if we don’t pursue this opportunity,” Sacia said.

“I see this differently from Manzullo,” said the ex-G-man. “We already have 340 (convicted terrorists) in U.S. prisons; there are 40 at Marion, 40 at Terre Haute, Ind., and there is another prison in Illinois that has approximately 40. I listened to (U.S. Rep.) Mark Kirk (R-Highland Park) say this will be a threat to Chicago. This is 150 miles away. A terror target? What a joke. I almost have to laugh at that. Why would it be any different from any maximum-security prison in this country?”

Sacia noted that in Savanna, which is close to Thomson, “up until 15 years ago we had more nuclear weapons stored than anywhere in the world, and nobody blew us off the map.” And in World War II, the POW camp at Rockford’s Camp Grant was home to Nazi stormtroopers who worked daily on area farms. Our grandparents survived.

Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp consulted Sacia and decided to back the prison transfer.

“The pulse of Carroll County and Thomson is very supportive of this. We do a very good job protecting ourselves in the U.S. I don’t see anything wrong with having the prison there, bringing $1 billion in revenue in the next four years,” said Gaulrapp.

Gaulrapp is Manzullo’s Democratic opponent in the November 2010 election.

Rockford Register Star Senior Editor Chuck Sweeny can be reached at (815) 987-1366 or csweeny@rrstar.com.