By Rep. Ed Royce (CA)
Price of a one-way ticket to Palau? $4,000. Cost to the U.S. taxpayer for Palau to take 17 Guantanamo detainees? $200 million. Getting a political football off your desk? Priceless.
Chinese ethnic Uyghur detainees are trading one ocean view for another. The Obama Administration – which hit a wall of opposition in Congress when it proposed moving these individuals to the Washington D.C. suburbs (see Foreign Intrigue post – “Revelation: Bad people actually at Guantanamo – is sending them to Palau, a chain of islands east of the Philippines. In exchange, Palau will receive a $200 million aid package [Palau - population 20,000; GDP $164 million]. The transfer deal was eased by the fact that Palau has diplomatic relations with Taiwan, not China, which wants the Uyghurs.
A State Department spokesman protested that there is “no connection" between the aid and the transfer. What's that adage about diplomats lying for their country? This comes after more than 100 countries refused to accept these "peaceful" detainees.
The idea of island banishment isn't new. In recent history, Australia shipped unwelcomed asylum seekers to Nauru - a Pacific island about one-tenth the size of Washington, D.C. Way back when, Emperor Napoleon III dealt with France's worst by sending them to "Devil's Island" - a group of islands just off the coast of French Guiana in South America. Some escapees of that brutal prison fell victim to the surrounding piranha-infested waters. Some readers will recall Papillon (1973), "the greatest adventure of escape ever filmed," starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, which depicted the harsh conditions of Devil's Island. Palau is no Devil's Island.
With this deal, the international transfer tariff has been set: about $11.7 million per "peaceful" detainee. How higher will it go for more hardened detainees? Gitmo still houses about 230. Alarmingly, over 60 released Gitmo detainees have returned to the battlefield to attack Americans. One former Guantanamo detainee has emerged as a top deputy of al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen - and has been implicated in the attack of the U.S. embassy in that country last fall, which killed 16.