The First Draft: From Gitmo to paradise

June 11, 2009

AUSTRALIABarack Obama and Joe Biden head to the Midwest today.

The Chinese Gitmo detainees are heading to paradise.

No, they’re not winging to heaven to enjoy the company of 72 virgins. The Uighurs, as they’re known, are being resettled in various beachy, tropical locales as the Obama administration seeks to empty the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison.

The United States has struggled for months to find a home for the Chinese Muslims, who were scooped up in 2001 during the invasion of Afghanistan. The Uighurs had no beef with the U.S., their lawyers say, but were instead part of an independence movement in China’s far west.

China wanted them to face the music back home, but it sounds like they’ll be facing the music of Jimmy Buffett instead. The Pacific Island nation of Palau agreed to take on all 17 detainees yesterday; today the Justice Department said four have already been resettled in Bermuda.

Six other Uighurs were sent to Albania in 2006, a former Communist state better known for pyramid schemes and bunkers than beaches. Evidently, good things come to those who wait.

photo credit: REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (footprints on an Australian beach — not where the Uighurs are going, but possibly what they’ll be experiencing).

For more Reuters political coverage, click here.


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This is just about the most irresponsible and ill-informed “journalism” I have ever read about the Uyghur detainees in Guantanamo. First, five not six Uyghurs were sent to Albania. If you thought that the Uyghurs were waiting out their time in Guantanamo so they could go listen to the music of Jimmy Buffet, perhaps you should do the job of a journalist and go interview the 17 men in person. I think you’ll find that their pursuit of freedom was more than just a wish to hang out in “beachy, tropical locales”. Just to let you know about another factual error in this “humorous” piece. The Uyghur are not Jihadis. They were classified by the Bush administration as non-enemy combatants and have spent years unjustly imprisoned. The comment about the 72 virgins is just about as misrepresentative a comment on a people as I have read. Reuters is a respectable news agency – you can do better than this.

Posted by ET | Report as abusive

Guantanamo should not be shut down

Posted by tony | Report as abusive

I agree completely with ET.

The job of a journalist is to take primary source facts and turn them into secondary source material. Remember you’re job is not to read the newspaper to write the news. You engage in making primary source into secondary source. Not secondary source into tertiary source.

Posted by Kevin | Report as abusive

I too have a problem with this piece. It insinuates the prisoners are are just getting a nice vacation. The reality is, the Chinese has their own form of “dealing” with this minority sect and to go back to China would likely result in unfair and untried executions. Palau and Bermuda are going the humanitarian route and opening their doors for the Uyghur. The fact that “jimmy buffet” is a tag for this story makes the whole situation seem to be a joke. ntial_prisoners

Posted by Jessi | Report as abusive

My only beef with this journalism, is the Jimmy Buffet reference. As as a born and bred Bermudian, I can tell you most of us have no clue who Jimmy Buffett is and we surely don’t listen to him. Only reason I heard of the guy was as Americans kept making comments about him when I said I was Bermudian. He is far from a ‘real’ island singer.

For music references for the islands – always use Bob Marley – can’t go wrong with those.

Anyway, I’m proud to be Bermudian today

Posted by Bermudian | Report as abusive

It is only right that we hand them over to the Chinese; they are after all their citizens and they are eagerly waiting to “welcome” them back!!!

Posted by G.Din | Report as abusive

You should be proud today Bermudian. G. Din, you are entitled to your opinion of course, but the Convention against Torture forbids the handing over of people to countries where it is believed they will be tortured. Check out the meaning of “the rule of law” – you might not find it applicable to China.

Posted by ET | Report as abusive

very good of palau to take them, was the 20 000 000 dollars offered before they agreed or after?we have so much money to give away what a blessing we are.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

i too agree with et

Posted by andrew alweis | Report as abusive

This action from the administration is an irresponsible act and does not bode well to the Sino-US relationship.

Would you want the Chinese government hand over Bin Laden if he is captured within the chinese territory? The chinese government is not obliged to do so because Bin Laden has had “no beef with” China.

Think about it.

Posted by alex | Report as abusive

Thanks, ET, for entitling me to my opinion. One man’s “torture” is another man’s justifiable antidote to terror perpetrated on him/her. There is considerable controversy about America’s “waterboarding” technique. Some regard it as torture, including President Obama. You should respond to Alex’s query;”Would you want the Chinese government hand over Bin Laden if he is captured within the chinese territory?” If you do, your contention about torture is hypocritical; if you don’t, why has our government put a price on his head?
I beg to differ with Alex when he says “Bin Laden has had “no beef with” China.” Bin Laden’s plate is full today with America, Israel and India on it, but China’s turn on that plate will come soon enough -if we don’t get him before then. The ultimate goal is to set up an Islamic world government, popularly known as “khilafah”. And, China’s Muslims are very much in on that mission otherwise why would they have been caught in Afghanistan?

Posted by G.Din | Report as abusive

All of this concern for restoring the liberty of the detainees who our government is unable to prove committed any act against humanity or the U.S. is laudable. The fact that these people were locked up for years is reprehensible.While the the fate of several hundred detainees is no small matter, there is a larger problem of unnecessary imprisonment going on at home.

The United States locks up 2.3 million of it’s citizens, many for non violent drug possession crimes. The Supreme Court recently reigned in the warrantless search powers police have during routine traffic stops. Atonin Scalia sided with the majority stating “To let this practice to continue is the greater evil when considering those fugitives who might otherwise get away” Was that greater evil the planting of drugs or other evidence by police when a suspect has been removed far from his vehicle?

The prosecutor for Seattle said on NPR that some innocent people go to prison and that was acceptable under his view of cost benefit analysis. Bill Curtis did a wonderful lecture series he traveled the country to give. He discussed his findings and interviews with criminal lawyers. He states “There is a dirty little secret out there about the U.S. criminal justice system. A lot of innocent people got to prison. And no one wants to talk about it”. Some prosecutors and PDs put the wrongfully convicted as high as 40 %. Even if they are way off the mark, is 10 or 20 percent ever acceptable? We could be talking about a quarter to half a million or more U.S. citizens having unjustly lost their liberty.

As with health, economic, education and all the other institutions of this nation, the media always directs us to the smaller issues inflating them to gigantic proportion while ignoring the much larger similar problem. I wonder if this is intentional distraction or just herd mentality/behavior practiced by journalists? It would be a truly refreshing breath of fresh air to have issues discussed and reported by the media Clearly, Correctly, Completely and Concisely. All matters of concern should not be constrained to the political and economic contemporary wisdom of the day. Some issues are bigger than that.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

G. Din. You are welcome – thanks for your opinion. Always welcome in a society with free speech. I think you’ll find that free speech is protected in the U.S. constitution. Could you please direct me to the document which permits U.S. officials to torture detainees? My response to Alex is this: to compare these men to Bin Laden is ludicrous. Are you serious? U.S. courts cleared these men for release into the U.S. Bin Laden has gone public admitting his responsibility for a number of gross acts of terrorism, which have caused a great deal of suffering to too many people. The debate on the Uyghurs, lamentably, has been hijacked by hyperbole. I am concerned that you believe these men should be “welcomed” back to China, as you so ominously suggest, when U.S. courts found that there was no case against these men to label them as terrorists or having conducted terrorist acts. Stop reading Newt Gingrich and start reading the court documents related to this case.

Posted by ET | Report as abusive

ET:You say “U.S. courts cleared these men for release into the U.S. ” Then, pray, why are we going around the world begging other states to take them off of our hands, of course, with a fistful of American tax dollars? If they are not terrorists, then why not offer them asylum in US to show our contrition at catching them in Afghanistan/Pakistan on the wrong foot? What were they doing in those places so far away from home any way? China would like to know what they were up to and it is their right to insist on their citizens being handed over to them.
Then again:”Stop reading Newt Gingrich and start reading the court documents related to this case.” I may or may not like his views but I would not discount his views as worthless and not worth my time. I do know that he is as patriotic as you or me and what is more is that all three of us are on the same boat called America and so have equal stake in the safety and security of this country. That is sort of an equalizer, no matter how wise we may think we are.
Frankly, I am not sure you really have an appreciation of what we are up against, even after having undergone 9/11.

Posted by G.Din | Report as abusive

Don’t thank us – we were not even asked by our Premier whether we wanted them or not! We woke up last Thursday being told they had landed!!! This Premier has broken every rule in the book and the Bermuda Constitution! Why should we be dumped with your problem??? We are a small, very small Island who values our relationship with the US – however this goes way to far! This Premier has to go! He needs to remember that he works for Bermuda and not the United States! He is headed the same way as his good buddy Michael Misack of the Turks & Caicos Islands.
Watch out – we wil not be taken advantage of this way! There are a lot of very angry Bermudians – who hold no grudge against these 4 detainess, they are pawns in a bigger picture of a man whose only self, before country, interest, is himself and his henchmen!!

Posted by Elizabeth Titterton | Report as abusive

G.Din. Thanks for you post and let me address the points you raise.

First of all, the Uyghur men were cleared to be released into the United States until a few politicians decided to make this a party political issue. Mr. Gingrich and others were, rather cynically, looking to score some points off of the Obama administration by making slanderous accusations against an entire people and by extension the detainees in Guantanamo.

Why were they in Afghanistan? Again, I refer you to the court documents. They were there because they had fled from repression in their own country. The U.S. has routinely documented this systematic economic, social, cultural and political repression in numerous reports. Contrary to international agreements on non-refoulement, countries bordering the Uyghur region often send refugees back to China to face torture and worse for peacefully, and I repeat, peacefully, advocating for their basic freedoms. During the political process which led to the founding of the United States, Britain considered the people of America as British citizens. Wouldn’t it have been Britain’s right to have the founding fathers handed over to their custody? In fact, the Chinese did have a chance to find out what the Uyghurs in Guantanamo were up to. Chinese secret service agents were allowed into Guantanamo to interrogate these men. I’d like to add that the trip was partially funded by the U.S. taxpayer. This interrogation happened as two UNITED STATES congressmen were denied access to the Uyghurs.

I agree with you G.Din that we are all stakeholders in the security and safety of the United States despite our differing opinions. My views are balanced by yours and vice-versa and we hope that a reasoned policy will emerge from the debate. In the effort to secure our country, we also need to face our mistakes. No one enterprise is perfect, and when mistakes are made, we hope that citizens such as ourselves can examine it and correct it. The detention of the Uyghurs was one of these mistakes. That is why they have been given their freedom, something which is not guaranteed in China.

Lastly, you say you are not sure that I know what we are facing in regard to the terror threat. Although I don’t think this is an appropriate forum to discuss my credentials, I have the knowledge and experience on the region and the issues to understand that the denial of having made a mistake in the Uyghur case will not make our country any safer.

Posted by ET | Report as abusive