The Coalition of the Unwilling

Our national headache, otherwise known as the detainee prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be a lot more tolerable if our so-called allies in the war on terrorism were willing to step up and accept custody of some of their own nationals. And, indeed, just yesterday, two detainees were released from Gitmo and returned to their native Pakistan. But as Craig Whitlock writes in this morning's Post we are not getting the sort of help and cooperation we could use in dispersing the detainees- even from some countries that would like to count themselves as some of our staunchest allies.

Whitlock writes: "According to documents made public this month in London, officials there recently rejected a U.S. offer to transfer 10 former British residents from Guantanamo to the United Kingdom, arguing that it would be too expensive to keep them under surveillance. Britain has also staved off a legal challenge by the relatives of some prisoners who sued to require the British government to seek their release. Other European governments, which have been equally vocal in assailing Guantanamo as a human rights liability, have also balked at accepting prisoner transfers. A Turkish citizen who was born and raised in Germany was finally permitted to return from Guantanamo in August, four years after the German government turned down a U.S. proposal to release him.

"In addition, virtually every country in Europe refused to grant asylum to several Guantanamo prisoners from China who were not being sent home because of fears they could face political harassment there. The Balkan nation of Albania agreed to take in five of the Chinese in May, but only after more than 100 other nations rebuffed U.S. pleas to accept them on humanitarian grounds, State Department officials said."

What's happening down there at our makeshift prison is the legal and diplomatic equivalent of the "you break it, you buy it" doctrine. Having created an ambiguous and legally dubious class of prisoner, the United States now finds itself unable to pawn most of these men off on any other nation, even those nations that obviously have an interest in what happens to their own citizens. The nations of the world don't want to spend the time and energy and money prosecuting these men upon their return. Or they don't want to open up their own legal system to the sorts of challenges we've seen here. Or they are fearful that their detainees will foment unrest upon their return.

Whatever it is, we seem to be stuck with these men, the vast majority of whom, as the U.S. government itself has conceded, are not terrorists or otherwise a threat to our national security. Welcome to the war on terrorism-- where the Coalition of the Willing doesn't really mean what it is supposed to mean.

By Andrew Cohen |  October 17, 2006; 11:30 AM ET
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It shouldn't be a surprise that other countries are very reluctant to take GITMO detainees, given the usual conditions. "Please take John Doe, and keep him confined or under close surveillance for the rest of his life. We can't legally tell you what we did, since the evidence for that was obtained through our tough, approved, but classified interrogation techniques." What a mess we're throwing at them.

Posted by: David Seibert | October 17, 2006 02:43 PM

The Coalition replies: "We may be Willing, but we're not Stupid. You lot, on the other hand ..."

Posted by: Realist | October 17, 2006 02:45 PM

Why not leave them for Fidel?

Posted by: Brian | October 17, 2006 02:48 PM

Awww. I feel so sorry for the Bush administration. I can't believe that they set up an extra-legal gulag on an island belonging to one of our enemies, filled it with people who have nothing to do with terrorism, and then wonder why those mean coalition parters aren't willing to share the burden Bush created.

Good thing we have The Post to point this out for us so we can easily shift blame for a problem Bush created to the real culprits.

Posted by: Byron | October 17, 2006 02:52 PM

Yeah, it's all their fault, da noive of some countries.

Posted by: johannesrolf | October 17, 2006 03:33 PM

Why not just shoot them or throw them into Guantanamo Bay for the sharks? After sniveling for years about Gitmo the Europeans should be overjoyed to welcome such wonderful, tolerant, and productive elements back home.

Posted by: Samuel Taylor | October 17, 2006 03:41 PM

So, if a guy soaks his his house with gasoline and sets it on fire, he can blame his neighbor for not helping him put out the flames? This is yet another example of how this president takes no responsibility for his screwups. He's the only sane person in a world full of crazy people.

We got what we wanted, didn't we. We wanted the opposite of Clinton. Clinton was an intellectual; Bush isn't. Clinton cheated on his wife; Bush hasn't (that we know of). Clinton dealt with problems thoughtfully; Bush doesn't.

I know people who voted for Bush because they thought, "He's one of us." He's a regular guy who goes with his gut feelings in tough situations. He thinks with his heart rather than his head. He likes NASCAR, and he clears brush. OK, fine. I can name 20 other guys who fit that description, but it doesn't make them qualified to be president.

If we have learned anything from the debacle of a presidency it should be that intelligence matters.

Posted by: Frank | October 17, 2006 04:20 PM

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