Friday, April 24, 2009

More On The Uighurs

The seventeen Uighurs mistakenly rounded up in Pakistan are still sitting in Guantanamo Bay, awaiting the release a federal judge ordered months ago. The problem cited by the Bush administration (and now the Obama administration) is that the government isn't quite sure where to release them, even though sponsors and friends across the nation offered to take them in. The real problem, however, is that the Bush administration saw that their release would be a tacit admission that our government screwed up by detaining them, and the Bushistas weren't having any of that. The Obama administration, not hamstrung by fears of admitting the last administration screwed up, has been hesitant to release them for fear of angering China, which wants these "terrorists" returned to China for investigation and punishment.

Apparently there has been some movement by the US government, however. The Los Angeles Times reports that as many as seven of the Uighurs will be released in the US, presumably in the Washington, DC suburbs where there are other Uighurs living. The Obama administration is still moving slowly, however, citing fears that China will be angered at the move and that Americans will be unhappy at having men held as terrorists moved into their neighborhoods.

Both fears, even if not baseless, could be handled effectively with a little openness and honesty by our government. To begin with, the Chinese have to be well aware by this time that the US has no intention of returning the Uighurs to China, a point confirmed in the article.

"If these people are terrorists, they should be punished. If they are not terrorists, the United States should apologize to China for holding them so long and make compensation," said Zhang Jiadong, an expert in terrorism at Fudan University's Center for American Studies. Zhang said, however, that he did not expect the Chinese government to retaliate because it was already widely anticipated in Beijing that the United States would not return the Uighurs to China. [Emphasis added]

As to the concern that we're setting loose a group of terrorists in the US, most agree that the Uighurs are not a real danger, no matter what some hold-overs from the Bush administration will claim. The Uighurs' beef has been with China, not the US, and even though illegally detained by the US at Gitmo for years, they have been treated a little better than most of the other detainees. Released to compatriots who have been living freely in the US would serve to ease some of the pain these men must feel.

There is also a very good, albeit pragmatic, reason for releasing at least seven of the Uighurs into the US. President Obama has been urging other nations to accept some of the detainees as part of his plan to close Gitmo. The response has been chilly, primarily because the US has refused to accept any. The White House surely understands that, and, as the article points out, "the Uighurs would be the easiest detainees to relocate in the U.S."

Hopefully the Obama administration will move quickly. These men have been held for far too long. It's time to change that.

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Blogger shrimplate said...

Here in Phoenix we could use a decent Uighur restaurant.

That's maybe just a little too flip for good taste, but I would welcome in my community. We owe them.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Not flip at all, shrimplate, and, yes, we do owe them.

Hopefully this article was accurate and at least seven will be released soon.

Then we need to get busy for the other ten.

It's way past time.

Thanks for the comment.

2:08 PM  

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