You Don't Have To Stay Here But You Can't Go Home
When the final history is written on this era, we will be as ashamed with ourselves about the Uighurs as we are with Korematsu:
The Obama administration, picking up the argument of its predecessor, is opposing the release of Chinese Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay into the United States.
In papers filed with the Supreme Court late Friday, the administration says a group of Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurz) are being lawfully held at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba even though they are not considered enemy combatants.
The administration says a federal appeals court ruling that blocked the Uighurs' release in the United States should be upheld. The government is trying to find another country to take them.
The Uighurs' "continued presence at Guantanamo Bay is not unlawful detention, but rather the consequence of their lawful exclusion from the United States," Solicitor General Elena Kagan told the court.
The men are held apart from the other detainees, in the least restrictive conditions, Kagan said. "They are free to leave Guantanamo Bay to go to any country that is willing to accept them," she said.
Apparently Australia is being tapped, again - they turned down Bush twice when they tried to resettle the Uighurs. Until that time, our government is literally saying that a group of people who have committed no crime, who were falsely imprisoned and detained for over seven years, cannot be allowed to leave prison even after a federal judge has exonerated them and ordered them released. And they frame it in the most disingenuous way possible - saying they are "free to leave" when that is patently false. They even have the audacity to allege that the living conditions in the prison are just peachy:
Somewhat shockingly, as ABC’s Jake Tapper notes, the Obama administration’s petition suggests that the Uighurs’ imprisonment “isn’t so bad,” and trumpets their comfy quarters at Guantanamo:
“In contrast to individuals currently detained as enemies under the laws of war, petitioners are being housed under relatively unrestrictive conditions, given the status of Guantanamo Bay as a United States military base,” Kagan writes, saying they are “in special communal housing with access to all areas of their camp, including an outdoor recreation space and picnic area.” They “sleep in an air-conditioned bunk house and have the use of an activity room equipped with various recreational items, including a television with VCR and DVD players, a stereo system, and sports equipment.”
I'm so annoyed, I could spit. The Administration has tried to have it both ways on civil liberties and terrorism policy so many times now. This latest argument, consigning the Uighurs to a legal black hole, is particularly distasteful.
I have no idea whether or not the administration's argument is correct as a matter of law. Moreover, I don't care. Whatever the law says about whether it can be forced to admit the Uighurs, the administration has the right to admit them voluntarily. If it cannot find another country that is willing to take them, then it should.
We set up a system that gave people incentives to turn over people they claimed were foreign fighters, whether they were or not. We then dismantled all our normal procedures for separating combatants from non-combatants. It should not surprise anyone that we ended up detaining people who were innocent.
I have no problem with the government taking some reasonable period of time to try to identify another country that is willing to take detainees who cannot be returned to their own countries. But these detainees have been held for seven and a half years. That's not a reasonable amount of time to tie up loose ends; it's a tenth of a normal lifespan.
We screwed up. We should step up to the plate and do what's right. Seven and a half years is too long.
I'm seeing less and less change from this Administration by the day.