Stuck In Hotel Guantanamo

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
USA Today
October 14, 2008
Pg. 10
Our View

Cleared for release, Chinese Muslim detainees deserve asylum in USA.

Kafkaesque. Catch-22. Call it either —or both. Seventeen men imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by the United States are enduring a surreal limbo thanks to U.S. mistakes in the post-9/11 war on terror.
The Bush administration long ago agreed that the 17 aren't "enemy combatants" eligible for trial in special tribunals. The problem is that as members of the Uighur minority, they face persecution if they return to their native China. No other country will take them in.
So, in the words of the Eagles' hit song Hotel California: They can check out any time they like, but they can never leave.
The fix is simple. President Bush can grant them asylum in the USA. That would be the best, and the right, apology for the mistake of taking away years of freedom without evidence of wrongdoing —or at least any that has been made public. Instead, the administration is going through tortured illogic to ensure the U.S. doesn't take them in. It is an offense to American principles.
The Uighurs (WEE-ger) have drawn renewed attention because a federal judge ordered last week that they be brought to his Washington, D.C., court and released, pending further hearings. He cited a Supreme Court decision in June that Guantanamo Bay prisoners had a right to challenge their imprisonment. The administration got a temporary stay of the judge's ruling. Legal wrangling will continue.
But this should not be a matter for legal wrangling. The Chinese Muslims were swept up as U.S. forces hunted Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda forces and their Taliban protectors in Afghanistan just after Sept. 11, 2001. The administration has one obligation to them: to make amends.
Instead, it charges that the Uighurs have terrorist training, though not linked to al-Qaeda, and would be a threat if allowed into the U.S. Even the State Department, however, has said that at least some of the Uighurs could be settled in the USA. If the administration is so worried, it could put conditions on their lives here.
The Uighurs' U.S. lawyers say that the men are not a threat and that, in Afghanistan, they were living in a community of Uighurs who had fled from western China. They had one gun and no bullets. Uighurs in general are some of the most pro-U.S. people in the world because America regularly grants them asylum from Chinese persecution.
The administration has tried, and failed, to find other countries to accept them. Nations fear retribution from China. In 2006, five Uighurs in the same situation who were accepted by Albania exchanged one kind of hell for another: The men don't speak Albanian and have been kept isolated.
In the U.S., groups are eager to help —from members of a sizeable Uighur community to Christian organizations. America has long been well-prepared to accept foreigners who flee horrors only to land in a culturally alien place, be they former Vietnamese boat people or Sudanese refugees.
The 17 Uighurs are perhaps the starkest examples of how the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay has been an affront to U.S. notions of justice, to the bedrock principles that a person is innocent until proven guilty and entitled to a day in court. They should immediately be granted asylum, not left in Gitmo limbo, cleared to leave with no place to go.