In the past two weeks, President Obama has appealed to a hundred foreign nations to take in the seventeen Uyghurs imprisoned at Guantanamo, as fierce congressional opposition has prevented their resettlement in the United States. The primary candidates-- Australia, Canada, and Germany-- all have rejected these men, presumably due to economic repercussions and diplomatic threats from China. Moreover, returning the detainees to China would result in certain torture or execution, for they had trained with Islamic separatists in Afghanistan prior to their capture. Even so, the American courts determined that these men were not "enemy combatants" to the United States.
Today, the Associated Press has learned, the president is negotiating the transfer of these Uyghurs to the island nation of ... Palau. A former "trust territory" of the U.S. 500 miles east of the Philippines, Palau offers exotic, tropical scenery-- and not much else. Because it refuses to recognize the People's Republic of China, and instead maintains political relations with Taiwan, Palau represents an ideal location for the Uyghurs, diplomatically speaking. More than three quarters of its population, however, practices Christianity; there is hardly a Muslim community, let alone a Uyghur one, which means that the detainees will face considerable challenges to sustain their own language, religion, and culture if resettled there. In accepting these Uyghurs, the Palauan government will receive up to $200 million dollars from the U.S. for its development projects and national budget, although one senior member of the State Department denied that it is quid pro quo. If it were, it would have amounted to roughly $11.7 million dollars per prisoner!
Given the current financial downturn in the U.S., I am surprised to hear that the government still has enough funds to consider this generous deal with Palau. Do Americans fear that Uyghur detainees will resort to terrorism in their own backyards, so much as to part with millions of dollars in tax-payer money? The Uyghur community in Washington D.C. has already offered to house and care for these men for free. This agreement with Palau typifies how the American government tends to solve dilemmas of its own creation, in international relations, the environment, economics, and so on-- by thrusting those problems onto developing countries, some of whom are lucky enough to collect financial compensation. Rather, the state should take responsibility for Guantanamo, and confront the actual obstacle to this ordeal, that is the rampant fear of "dangerous" Muslims, both within the government and in the general public.