“The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at Guantanamo are bad people.”
“I mean, these are terrorists for the most part. These are people that were captured in the battlefield of Afghanistan or rounded up as part of the al Qaeda network."
”We’ve already screened the detainees there and released a number, sent them back to their home countries. But what’s left is hard core.”
– Vice President Dick Cheney, June 2005
As Chinese President Hu Jintao meets with President George Bush they are likely to discuss a whole host of issues of bilateral importance. However, one issue that is unlikely to be on the agenda is the plight of two Uighur men being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Since June 2002 the United States Government has held two Chinese Uighur men at Guantanamo Bay. These men were picked up from Pakistan in 2001 as "enemy combatants". On March 26, 2005 the two Uighur men, Abu Bakker Qassim and A’del Abdu al-Hakim, were found not to be "enemy combatants" by the Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) at Guantanamo Bay. However, as of this writing, they remain in custody at Guantanamo Bay.
The two men are ethnic Uighur. The Uighur are a persecuted Muslim minority in China. After September 11, 2001 China has stepped up its crackdown of the Uighur by claiming they are "terrorists". The United States Government fears if the two Uighur men are repatriated to China they will be imprisoned or killed. The Bush Administration does not want to admit the men to the United States but cannot find a foreign Government willing to accept the men either. Lawyers for the two men argued in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that the two men should be released from Guantanamo. But in December 2005 a District Judge ruled that even though their detention is unlawful they cannot be released:
These petitioners are Chinese nationals who received military training in Afghanistan under the Taliban. China is keenly interested in their return. An order requiring their release into the United States–-even into some kind of parole “bubble,” some legal-fictional status in which they would be here but would not have been “admitted”–-would have national security and diplomatic implications beyond the competence or the authority of this Court.
The United States Supreme Court declined to hear their case this week because another hearing is pending on the case in a lower court. So, the men remain in legal and diplomatic limbo for the foreseeable future.
The plight of these two men illustrates the dangers of holding men indefinitely without any due process in the name of the "war on terror". It also demonstrates the foolishness of this Administration’s view of the world as being divided into "us" and "them". The two Uighur men are falling through the large chasm that exists between "us" and "them".
The obvious question is how many of those still being held at Guantanamo are innocent of the charge of being hostile to the United States. We cannot hope to know the answer as this Administration has appointed itself the sole right to determine their status and their guilt through the flawed CSRT process. I would have more faith in the infallibility of this Administration in being the soul arbiter of men if Mr. Cheney would cease making absolutist statements like "But what’s left is hard core." How can we even trust that he can make a sound judgment when he can’t even bring himself to refer to them as "who" but insists on referring to them as "what" – as if they are things not people? This Administration famously removes all qualifiers from its statements and takes absolutist positions. These positions do not serve us well.
Congress has abdicated its oversight responsibility and punted on this issue. In fact Congress has made it more difficult for the Courts to intervene by passing legislation that strips further the human rights of those being held at Guantanamo. The Unitary Executive of George W Bush is steamrolling and trampling freedom on its quest to spread freedom and liberty everywhere. What a strange and confused world we live in today.