“We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own
commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to
She also said it should be closed.
Non-American outlets Reuters and the BBC picked up on her statement, as did Iran’s PressTV
and the Russian media. (And, in its retaliation for the Magnitsky bill, Russia included the names of Geoffrey Miller—who, in addition to serving as commander at Guantanamo, advised the Abu Grahib
subsidiary on interrogation best practices, and perhaps deserves a harsher sanction than the withdrawal of his Russian travel privileges—and Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson, who ran the facility during the first Obama administration--in their list of banned Americans.)
But nada in the NYT/WaPo/LA Times universe, as far as I can tell.
The key problem is well-orchestrated political resistance on both sides of the aisle to the necessary precondition for closing Guantanamo--moving detainees off the island and into more conventional custody conditions on the US mainland.
Release of the putatively harmless Uighur detainees into probation in Virginia was meant to be the opening salvo in the campaign to close Guantanamo. But it didn't happen, for the reasons described below, and most of the Uighur detainees were quietly and uncermoniously dumped into whatever bribable foreign jurisdictions that were willing to receive them.
The issue of what to do with troublesome detainees who can't be repatriated or sent into de facto exile, and instead require the continued attention of the US legal system, remains unresolved.
As does the issue of Guantanamo itself.
As of 2013, three Chinese Uighurs are left at Guantanamo. In an update on the five Uighurs stranded on Palau and living in poverty, AP reported:
But officials on Palau say they are not even sure who to contact in Washington. Special envoy Daniel Fried, who negotiated the Palau deal and was in charge of finding placements for cleared detainees at Guantánamo, was transferred to a new job in January. No replacement has been named, which has been widely seen as more evidence that President Obama’s zeal to close Guantánamo – a major campaign promise before his election in 2008 – has waned under congressional opposition.
Monday, January 16, 2012
How Newt Gingrich Sabotaged the Closing of Guantanamo
January 2012 marks the 10th melancholy anniversary of the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay; if polling is correct, it will also mark the end of Newt Gingrich’s presidential ambitions, as the immense, gas-filled Hindenburg of his ego approaches its Lakehurst in South Carolina.
The two intersect in remarkable fashion.
Gingrich was key to igniting the firestorm of criticism that prevented the public release of 17 Uighur captives from Guantanamo to Germany and the United States in early 2009.
Uighurs were considered to be the cutest and cuddliest of detainees, largely because of a rather bizarre finding that, though they might be terrorists, if they were terrorists they would be anti-China terrorists, not anti-US terrorists.
The term of art was “non-enemy combatants”.
The Uighur detainees were championed by politicians across the board, from liberal Democrats to conservative Republicans…until clearing out Guantanamo became a signature Obama issue, and releasing the Uighurs was advertised as the first victory of President Obama’s humane post-Bush post-terror policy.
Obstruction became the name of the game, Newt Gingrich jumped in, the Democrats stampeded, and the Republicans--including Republican Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, who advertised himself as the champion of the Uighur cause--faded into the woodwork.
The high profile Uighur release fell apart.
Subsequently, the Obama administration followed the precedent of the Bush administration, and quietly dribbled the detainees out to remote, low profile jurisdictions sufficiently insulated from the wrath of the PRC: four to Bermuda in June 2009 and six to Palau (an atoll off the east coast of the Philippines which relies on US aid for a third of its budget; it was reported they agreed to accept the six Uighurs in return for a $200 million payday). Two are apparently destined for Switzerland. The last five have refused resettlement to whatever exotic locale the US has arranged for them, and are fighting in the courts to try to resettle in the US.
Meanwhile, Guantanamo remains open and an embarrassing symbol, both of US reliance on extrajudicial detention and harsh interrogation (which will continue on US military bases and in black offshore prison no matter what happens to the flagship enterprise in Guantanamo) and American political gridlock.
Here’s a piece I wrote on the issue in May 2009: