I am sure my readers will recall the drumbeat of voices from our “friends” in Europe urging the US to close our prison complex at Guantanamo Bay. A truly enlightened society, they explained to us, would treat terrorists more humanely. Besides, they reminded us, we probably scooped up some innocent people by mistake who now can’t exonerate themselves because they don’t have access to the US judicial system.
President Bush’s standard answer to our European betters was to point to the giant smoking hole that now sits where the World Trade Center used to be and imply wordlessly that if terrorists had reduced the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben to ashes, there would almost certainly be grim interrogations quietly going on at Diego Garcia and Reunion. (OK, that’s poetic license. I’m sure Dubya doesn’t actually know where Reunion is.)
But now, since last week, we live in a kinder, gentler, Obamiffier America. The new President’s first act was to order that Guantanamo be closed within 1 year’s time, delighting our European allies. And, to be fair, Gitmo has become such a lightning rod for criticism, that he’s probably right to do so.
Of course, closing Gitmo creates a new problem: What do we do with the detainees? Our civilian jails are not secure enough, and our other military prisons not spacious enough to hold them. One solution is to repatriate them to the countries they came from. But some of those countries have pretty sorry human rights records themselves, and the detainees from those countries can legitimately claim that they could face real abuse if we send ’em back.
So the US said to our European “friends”: OK, if you think we are abusing our detainees, why don’t *you* take them in as refugees? At least the ones from 7 countries that can’t be repatriated.
Do you want to guess how Europe reacted? That’s right. They paid lip service to the idea, waited until Obama actually signed the order to close Gitmo, then started saying things like:
“Yes, of course this is risky. So we have to think about each case, and not to accept anything or anyone easily. It will be a long process. [France will take detainees] under extreme, precise conditions only. Legally this is difficult. Each of the 27 nations, they have different positions and different legal frameworks to accept or to refuse such people.” – Bernard Kouchner, French Foreign Minister
“Nobody is hot about it, that’s perfectly true.” – Czech Foreign Minister
Basically, what the European countries are now saying is that they will only take detainees that aren’t terrorists:
Oh good, yeah, ’cause we got so many of those. Thanks a heap. If they weren’t terrorists, we wouldn’t still be keeping them at Guantanamo! See how that works now?
It remains the sad truth that Europe’s habitual nature is to prefer sniping at US solutions to problems over contributing to better solutions. We’re not perfect over here in America, God knows, but at least we don’t stick our heads in the sand and hope that problems will resolve themselves if we just ignore them hard enough.Well, OK, when we listen to what our European friends say, we do. You want to know what happens when the US doesn’t “act unilaterally” and relies on European diplomacy to solve problems? Rwanda. Darfur. Somalia. Congo. Not a track record to be proud of.
I hope that Secretary of State Clinton is having the phrase “Put up or shut up” translated into French.