Tuesday, June 9, 2009

For Sale: Gitmo Detainees, Near Mint Condition

Caught this tonight on the Rachel Maddow Show; the United States is looking for a home for a group of Guantanamo Bay detainees and is willing to pay big bucks to any country that will take them.

The detainees in question are 17 Uighurs - Chinese Muslims - scooped up in Afghanistan by US forces back in 2002. We've been following the saga of the Uighurs here for some time, but briefly - the US decided long ago that the Uighurs weren't terrorists, nor were they trying to become terrorists, they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. So letting them go should be a no-brainer, right? Yes, except that China is trying to eradicate Uighur culture, just like they're trying to wipe out the Tibetan one, shipping the Uighurs back to China then is not an option since they'd likely be jailed by the Chinese authorities for the crime of being an unfavorable minority.

And even though there's a Uighur exile community in the US, giving them asylum is a non-starter politically. So we've been looking for a third-party to take the 17 men, and while we look, they sit in Gitmo.

Now, according to Maddow and the New York Times, the United States is trying to strike a deal with the tiny South Pacific island nation of Palau to take them; and according to Maddow, we're offering big bucks to Palau, one of the world's smallest countries in both size and population - $200 million in foreign aid.

To put that in perspective, according to the CIA World Factbook, Palau's entire Gross Domestic Product for 2008 was only $164 million; divided among Palau's 20,000 residents, the Gitmo payment would give $10,000 to every citizen in a country where the average salary is just over $8,000.

Should Palau go for the deal, the 17 Uighurs would find themselves in a humid tropical climate, quite a departure from the high desert of their native Xinjiang; and while there is no Muslim population to speak of, there is a Chinese population of roughly 1,000, so at least these 17 Uighurs could have some cultural kinsmen, unlike six other Uighurs released to Albania in 2006.

And if Palau doesn't go for the deal, I have a spare bedroom I'm willing to let the Obama Administration use for a mere $3 million.
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