Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Making Progress" on Closing Gitmo

The WaPo wants you to know that the Obama administration is making progress on resettling Guantanamo detainees to someplace outside of the United States, even though only eleven of them have actually been released so far and 229 remain in U.S. custody at Gitmo.

The administration has been making steady progress on this matter ever since they got into office. It's just that, as Captain Ellerby explained on page 57 of the script of that fine movie The Departed, "making progress" is a slippery concept.


I'm not making enough progress with Costello?


"Progress" is hard to define. I make progress every day. In fact, I'm making progress now. There are guys in this department make excellent progress for twenty years without ever getting anything you could definitively call a result. It's like any American industry. Nobody minds if you don't succeed as long as you don't fuck up.

In that sense of the word, "progress" is definitely being made in the business of persuading European governments to take the better sort of Gitmo detainees off of our hands.

From the WaPo story:

Six European Union countries -- Britain, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain -- have accepted or publicly agreed to take detainees. Four E.U. countries have privately told the administration that they are committed to resettling detainees, and five other E.U. nations are considering taking some, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

-- snip --

Even if the administration meets its most optimistic targets for transferring prisoners to other countries, it still faces major obstacles to closing Guantanamo Bay. Of the 229 detainees held there, the cases of nearly 120 have yet to be reviewed. Officials are still deciding how to handle detainees they want to hold for a prolonged period, as well as others they want to prosecute.

Moreover, the administration is trying to determine the fate of the 98 Yemenis held at Guantanamo. Officials, wary of repatriating them to a country U.S. officials view as ill-equipped to monitor their activities, say they are negotiating with Saudi Arabia to take them.

Of the detainees cleared for release so far, 11 have been transferred home or to third countries, including Bermuda, which accepted four Chinese Uighurs.

To recap the score, there are 229 detainees, 109 of whom have evidently had their cases reviewed, 80 of which were cleared for release. Another 120 detainees, most of whom are Yemenis and therefore among the hardest of the Gitmo detainees to release, are yet to have their cases reviewed. Let's guess that only half of the last 120 cases will be ruled releasable. That would result in about 140 releasables.

Will the releasable detainees ever be accepted in Europe? A recent article in The Atlanticist suggested that Europe might not be all that eager:

On Wednesday, Ireland's Justice Department announced its intention to resettle two detainees cleared of terrorist affiliation. Add to that figure France's symbolic transfer of one prisoner in May, and the official EU total of accepted foreign prisoners stands at three. The Czech Republic, Austria and Germany have so far refused to resettle any inmates; Italy, Portugal, Belgium and Spain have each pledged to accept several under strict conditions. A modest start, for sure, but notable given Europe's reticence to help clean what is arguably America's own dirty laundry.

"America created Guantanamo. It has to come up with the solution," quipped Austrian Interior Minister Maria Fekter. "None of these prisoners has anything whatsoever to do with Denmark," echoed Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller. "Why should they be taken in?"

-- snip --

Further complicating matters, the resettlement of prisoners in individual EU member states, in theory, affects all members of the 25-country Schengen zone. The open-border EU zone permits its citizens free movement without passport checks, leaving many Europeans worried as to whether a former detainee could relocate to another country. As such, the EU has recently agreed upon a framework whereby any individual country that decides to accept prisoners share dossier information with all others beforehand. Such coordination is a "must," noted EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot, which in turn leaves open the possibility for concerned member states to "impose movement restrictions" as they see fit.

As Europe sorts out its willingness to accept further prisoners, many are left wondering why the US has yet to resettle even one inmate. Initial attempts to do so in June ended in failure when the US Congress, afraid of public backlash, enacted a law to delay the transfer of citizens to American soil for at least another two months. In addition, they stripped $50 million worth of funding for the closing of Guantanamo until after the administration submitted a detailed plan for their approval.

"If none of the U.S. states are ready to take in Guantanamo inmates, then you will have to explain to the European public why the rules for Europe should be different from those in the US," German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble presaged.

I agree with Herr Minister Schaeuble. Were I a German, or an Austrian, or a Dane, I would see no compelling reason to take in any Gitmo detainee who wasn't a citizen of my country. And, as an American, I still say, let's have an orderly return of the Gitmo Gang back to their home countries, or to any other place that will accept them, whether they agree to go or not.

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