I can't wait to hear the reaction of Republicans that the remote Pacific island nation of Palau is "honored and proud" to resettle about 17 Chinese Muslims now held as "non-combatants" at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
"Palau's accommodation to accept the temporary resettlement of these detainees is a humanitarian gesture intended to help them be freed of any further unnecessary incarceration and to restart their lives in as normal a fashion as possible," President Johnson Toribiong said.
Toribiong's unilateral announcement came a day after U.S. marshals flew another Guantanamo detainee to New York City where he appeared in federal court and pleaded not guilty to 286 murder and conspiracy charges in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
Republicans claim the American people do not want trials and incarcerations of alleged terrorists in the United States for fear they will either escape, the trials will reveal classified information threatening our national security or released on the streets if found innocent of the charges.
Actually, the pending release of the 17 Chinese and trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian held at Guantanamo since 2006, are the easiest decisions by the Obama administration on what to do with the remaining 218 prisoners at Guantanamo. Obama has pledged to close the prison by January 2010 but has failed to determine how to adjudicate the most dangerous. Until such a plan is forthcoming, Congressional Democrats have joined with Republicans to withhold funding for the base closure.
A federal judge last year ordered the Uighur Chinese detainees released into the United States after the Pentagon determined they were not "enemy combatants." But an appeals court halted the order, and they have been in legal limbo ever since.
Anonymous government sources said Palau will be compensated with $200 million and its treaty with the U.S. for self-defense will be renegotiated later this year. Palau, made up of eight main islands plus more than 250 islets with an estimated 20,000 population, is best known for diving and tourism and is located some 500 miles east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean.
The government refused to send the Uighur detainees to China for fear they would be tortured or killed because of the group's uprising in western Chinese provinces.
Meanwhile, Ghailani was a strategic choice for the Obama administration to demonstrate that the federal courts -- as opposed to the Guantanamo military tribunals -- can be relied on to bring to justice those suspected of heinous acts against the United States.
"The Justice Department has a long history of securely detaining and successfully prosecuting terror suspects through the criminal justice system, and we will bring that experience to bear in seeking justice in this case," Atty. Gen. Eric Holder said.
U.S. prisons now hold 216 terrorism suspects or convicts, including Omar Abdel Rahman, serving a life sentence for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted of plotting with the Sept. 11 hijackers.
Human rights groups that have been sharply critical of U.S. detention policy at Guantanamo praised the transfer of Ghailani. "This is an important step in restoring the United States' observance of the rule of law, but there is still a long way to go," said Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project, an alliance of rights advocates.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement: "This is the first step in the Democrats' plan to import terrorists into America."
The Republicans are right on one thing. Obama's campaign pledge to close Guantanamo was based on naivety for underestimating the legal entanglements created by the Bush administration.