From Guantanamo To The South Pacific: Is This A Joke?

Let's face it, when it comes to Guantanamo, there's little to laugh
about, unless you're an Islamophobic sadist - in which case, there's
still nothing for the rest of us to laugh about.

Let's face it, when it comes to Guantanamo, there's little to laugh
about, unless you're an Islamophobic sadist - in which case, there's
still nothing for the rest of us to laugh about.

The Associated Press
reports that, in a desperate effort to rid itself of the toxic human
debris of Guantanamo, the Obama administration is eyeing up the tiny
Republic of Palau, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, some 500
miles (800 km) east of the Philippines, to dispose of some, or all of
the 17 Uighurs in Guantanamo.

The Uighurs are Muslims from China's Xinjiang province, who were
swept up in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and sold to US forces
by Pakistani villagers after fleeing from a run-down hamlet in which
they had sought solace from their Chinese oppressors, or, in many
cases, because they had found themselves unable to make their way to
Turkey or Europe, to look for work, as they had originally intended.

Despite this, their proposed resettlement in the United States has
caused panic attacks amongst politicians whose understanding of the
prison's inhabitants has clearly gone no further than to curl up at
Dick Cheney's knee, and say, "Gee, tell me again how the prisoners in
Guantanamo are the most dangerous terrorists in the world?"

Apparently unable to understand that the majority of the prisoners in Guantanamo were bought for bounties, and were never adequately screened
to determine their status, these fearful politicians continue to ignore
the copious amounts of research demonstrating that all but a few dozen
of the remaining 239 prisoners are either completely innocent men, or
Taliban foot soldiers, recruited to fight an inter-Muslim civil war in
Afghanistan that began long before the 9/11 attacks, and had nothing to
do with international terrorism.

In this, they have been ably assisted by the appeals court in
Washington D.C., where, in February, a panel of judges led by Judge A.
Raymond Randolph, who has, to date, defended every single Guantanamo
policy decision that was subsequently reversed by the Supreme Court, overturned an earlier ruling by District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina.

In October, Judge Urbina ruled, very sensibly, that the Uighurs were to be allowed to resettle in the United States, in the care
of the large Uighur community in and around Washington D.C. and in a
community in Tallahassee, Florida that had gone out of its way to help

Judge Urbina made his ruling for four very good reasons: firstly,
because the government had been persuaded to drop all its charges
against the Uighurs (after the most humiliating court defeat,
last June); secondly, because they cannot be returned to China, where
they face torture or worse: thirdly, because no other country had been
found that was prepared to take on China by accepting them: and
fourthly, because their continued detention in Guantanamo was, simply,

Having somehow skipped the class that would have informed them that
rocking boats is sometimes required in politics, senior officials in
the Obama administration refused to order the men's release into the
United States in those first few halcyon days in office, when anything
seemed possible, and have now vacillated to such an extent - most
recently, apparently, when Rush Limbaugh started barking - that
releasing them into the US is simply too much to contemplate, even
though it clearly remains the right thing to do.

To make matters worse, while mumbling occasionally about
transferring some of the Uighurs to the mainland, the administration
has, at the same time, been instructing the Justice Department to endorse the views of Judge Randolph in a petition intended to prevent the Supreme Court from reviewing the Uighurs' surreal and intolerable limbo.

Confronted with the problem of rehousing five other Uighurs in 2006, the Bush administration secured, for an undisclosed sum, the cooperation of Albania
(a Muslim nation, albeit a poor one, with no other Uighurs and little
work), but that escape route was soon sealed off as the Albanians found
themselves subjected to the wrath of the People's Republic. Since then
- despite hopeful murmurs from other countries, and the acceptance, in
Sweden, of an asylum claim by one of the Uighurs sent to Albania, who
made a sneaky escape in November 2007 and was finally accepted in February this year - no other country has yet taken the bait.

The Obama administration could probably weather this - the odd Bob Dylan-style protest
notwithstanding - by plying the Uighurs with ever more comfort items in
their secluded camp, away from all the other prisoners, and would,
perhaps, soon be pointing out how marvelous the climate is, but senior
officials are aware that the countries of Europe are unlikely to take
any other prisoners from Guantanamo facing similar repatriation
problems - from countries including
Algeria, China, Libya, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia and
Uzbekistan, who are also low achievers in the field of human rights -
unless the US government also plays ball.

Hence the appeal of Palau, which, although it appears to be have
been chosen as the result of a dart thrown at a globe by a desperate
official, is actually a rather canny option. A former US trust
territory, the island became independent in 1994, but retains close
ties with its former masters, having signed a "Compact of Free
Association" with the US, guaranteeing financial assistance in exchange
for certain defense rights, More importantly, it maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan,
rather than with the People's Republic of China. The fact that it has
no Uighur population and that its population of 21,000 includes no
Muslims is, presumably, neither here nor there.

Could this, then, be the answer to the Obama administration's Uighur
problem? Perhaps, but if so, it will demonstrate only that, when it
comes to cleaning up the mess that is Guantanamo, cowardice,
desperation and the least enviable form of pragmatism available are yet
another example of Bush and Cheney's despicable legacy.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.