Gitmo detainees need a couch to crash on

Mark Boyer

President-elect Obama's promise to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay isn't getting any easier. During the presidential campaign, Obama made it clear that he wants Gitmo shuttered, and he's got a willing partner in Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. However, about 250 prisoners are still in custody, and about 60 of them have been cleared for release but are unable to repatriate for fear of torture or execution. The Bush State Department has been working the phones, pleading with "dozens" of countries to take some of the detainees off our hands. So far, only Portugal, which has called for a common EU position on the matter, has agreed to take any of the prisoners, while Germany has said it wants to hold talks with the Obama Administration. The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Denmark have rejected the proposal, and even Poland (our greatest ally!) has been reluctant to help out. Britain and Australia are currently mulling the offer, but after developments this week, the chance that either nation will cooperate is looking increasingly unlikely. Australia, which has already rejected the offer once, has been approached by the Bush administration again. Meanwhile, a controversial article appearing in the Times of London yesterday reported that Britain was preparing to take Gitmo prisoners. The story caused a stir among the conservative Tory party, and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was forced to repudiate the report. As the Times article notes, trying the detainees on US soil presents a dilemma to Obama, beucase many of them have been tortured already. If the issue isn't resolved in the next three weeks, finding refuge for those detainees and shutting Guantánamo Bay down will be an early test of Obama's diplomatic charm.

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