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Word that the Bush Administration’s goons down in Guantanamo Bay have been detaining children under the age of 16 among the "enemy combatants" that they spirited out of Afghanistan following the rout of the Taliban suggests a new strategy for dealing with America’s daycare crisis.
We know that as Bush and the conservative Congress continue to hack away at the nation’s already tattered welfare "safety net," increasing numbers of single parents are being forced to abandon their small children at home while they go off to remote minimum-wage jobs or workfare assignments in an effort to make enough money to feed them.
Day care is not an option for these people. The federal government has been slashing daycare funding, while financially strapped states are rushing to exit the child-care subsidy business.
What’s a welfare mother to do?
Bush, the Pentagon and John Ashcroft’s increasingly inappropriately named Justice Department have provided us with the answer: detention in the name of national security.
All these working mothers and fathers need to do is get their little offspring to toddle around carrying small arms (the guns don’t have to be loaded, for goodness sake!) while spouting easily taught phrases like "Allah Akhbar!" or "Death to America!" and they’ll quickly be picked up and placed in confinement where they’ll be watched day and night and fed regularly.
Alternately, if the parents in question are undocumented aliens, they might just claim to the Immigration Department that their kids were born overseas and don’t have proper visas. That would lead to their being taken away and put in detention, too.
According to Pentagon officials, the youthful enemy combatants being held at Guantanamo are not being kept in cages like their elders, so presumably they are being treated in a manner more appropriate to their tender years–probably kept in some locked base rec room with a big-screen TV set tuned perpetually to the Cartoon Channel or WB.
Since this is pretty much what unlicensed child care services are doing in low-income neighborhoods anyway, parents can feel confident that their children are getting at least as good care in government custody as they would have been getting in a local child care facility, and at taxpayer expense instead of their own.
The only drawback I can see to this scheme is that under Pentagon and Justice Department rules since 9/11, relatives don’t have visitation rights where illegal aliens or enemy combatants are concerned.
We could work on this, perhaps getting Congress to amend the rules where minor detainees are involved. Surely the "family friendly" Republican majority would see the logic in such a rule change.
If not, at least poor struggling parents would know that their kids were getting three square meals a day in government custody.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A collection of Lindorff’s stories can be found here: http://www.nwuphilly.org/dave.html