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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