The Gift that keeps on Giving

March 13, 2009

The appointment of Daniel Fried, a career diplomat who has formerly been both Ambassador to Poland and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, as the new Special Envoy on the Guantanamo Bay detention facility suggests that the Obama administration is stepping up its efforts to persuade European states to accept detainees who have been cleared for release.

As things stand, there are approximately 40 detainees still held in Guantanamo who could leave tomorrow if a suitable home for them could be found. These individuals cannot return to their country of origin because they would face persecution, torture or worse at the hands of the local authorities. Several European states, most notably Switzerland and Portugal, have indicated willingness to accept a limited number of former detainees and a number of other European states such as Ireland, France and Hungary may yet be persuaded to the same.

Unfortunately, US efforts to gain European support for resettlement are being undermined by political grandstanding in Congress as representatives try to outdo themselves in synthetic outrage playing the not-in-my-back-yard card regarding the possibility of transferring GITMO detainees to US soil. This alarmist narrative makes it all the more harder to build bridges to potentially sympathetic European states.  Having created the problem, it now seems that some Congressional Republicans are also hell bent on torpedoing the solution.