There's trouble in paradise over efforts by the United States government to help solve its Guantanamo Bay problem by offloading 17 of the detainees, members of China's repressed Uighur minority, onto island statelets. There is a better solution, which is for the U.S. itself to own up to its responsibilities and take the men in.
In Palau, a Pacific island nation with a population of 20,000, opposition threatens to destabilize the government, which accepted 13 of these men (as well as extra development and budget aid from Washington totalling $11.8-million per Uighur). People are worried, despite assurances from the country's president, Johnson Toribiong, that "they are not terrorists, they are international vagabonds."
In Bermuda, the situation is more serious. Bermuda's government has accepted four Uighurs, who have already arrived and are staying at a guesthouse. This has embarrassed the British government, which is responsible for the foreign and security policy of what is a British overseas territory. Britain's Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has spoken with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to find out why London was not informed.
Meanwhile, China is furious that men it considers terrorists are being placed on idyllic islands rather than sent home. The U.S. is concerned the Uighurs, who are Turkic Muslims, will be executed by China if repatriated. They may well be right, as the men were originally detained by U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2002. They were manifestly not there to learn Gandhian principles of non-violent struggle.
Clearly the Uighurs were not, ever, a threat to the United States and its citizens. They have spent years in a grim lockup, only to have the U.S. decide they were not, after all, enemy combatants.
Having failed to tempt allies like Canada to take them, U.S. authorities are now leaning on, or buying off, micro-states. Detainee dumping illustrates a failure of what President Barack Obama termed "America's moral example" when he announced the plan to close Guantanamo Bay. Domestic political posturing has made it difficult for the Obama administration to settle the Uighurs in the U.S., but that is now their rightful home. The U.S. created these and other Guantanamo casualties of the War on Terror. It should let them share in the American dream.