The Forever Ward, by Harper’s Staff

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From cables sent by U.S. diplomats regarding the transfer of Guantánamo prisoners, among the 250,000 documents WikiLeaks began releasing last November. Despite a 2009 executive order signed by President Barack Obama requiring that the detention center be shut down by January 22, 2010, 174 prisoners remain at Guantánamo.

Riina Kionka, High Representative Javier Solana’s Personal Representative for Human Rights, highlighted the gap between public perceptions of the kinds of detainees at Guantánamo and the reality that many are very low-risk. She also commented that whenever a European newspaper ran a story on Guantánamo, they ran the typical picture of a hunched-over detainee in an orange jumpsuit. She said that “we need better pictures” and urged us to turn the story around by showing low-risk detainees in a better light.

—U.S. Mission to the European Union

We have begun to suggest the possibility of Belgium stepping forward from the chorus line and up to the footlights on Guantánamo. Helping solve the U.S. government’s—and Europe’s—problem with Guantánamo is a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.

—U.S. Embassy Brussels

“I’ve just thought of something,” the king [Abdullah of Saudi Arabia] added, and proposed implanting detainees with an electronic chip containing information about them and allowing their movements to be tracked with Bluetooth. This was done with horses and falcons, the king said. [White House adviser John] Brennan replied, “Horses don’t have good lawyers.”

—U.S. Embassy Riyadh

While Germany prefers non-Uighur cases because of expected tension with China, it will consider the cases of two Uighurs based on humanitarian grounds. [German Interior Ministry State Secretary Hans Bernhard] Beus underlined Germany’s preference for detainees who have some ties to Germany, noting that this connection would provide the government with a “plausible” explanation for accepting certain detainees when faced with the argument that the United States should be resettling them.

—U.S. Embassy Berlin

Chinese Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Zhang Yannian went on at length about what a “slap in the face” it was to China that the Uighur detainees were not going to be returned to their homeland but instead shipped to Germany.

—U.S. Embassy Bishkek

There were concerns in France that detainees determined to be low-risk before entering Guantánamo could, depending on their experiences in the detention center, pose serious risks to security once released.

—U.S. Embassy Paris

Counselor to the President for Counterterrorism Issues Kamel Rezag Bara stressed that the security services were uncomfortable guaranteeing that no returned detainee would later leave Algerian territory or return to terrorist activity.

—U.S. Embassy Algiers

President Ali Abdullah Saleh urged the U.S. government to build a rehabilitation center in Yemen, but reiterated that the United States would have to fund these projects, repeatedly asking, “How many dollars is the U.S. going to bring?” When Brennan offered $500,000 as an initial investment, Saleh dismissed it as insufficient.

—U.S. Embassy Sanaa

Refugee status in Brazil for an applicant abroad is not usually granted until after the refugee has received refugee status from the country where the refugee is located. Brazil believes that the migrants at Guantánamo Bay do not fit into this category because the U.S. government has not “formally recognized” them as refugees. If they were formally recognized, the U.S. government would allow resettlement in the United States.

—U.S. Embassy Brasília

French NSA-equivalent Jean-David Levitte noted that congressional opposition to the president’s plan to close Guantánamo had given French authorities less room for maneuver on this subject, as the French public wondered why France should accept detainees who were too dangerous to be transferred to the United States.

—U.S. Embassy Paris

Kuwaiti Minister of Interior Shaykh Jaber told the ambassador: “You know better than I that we cannot deal with these people. I can’t detain them. If I take their passports, they will sue to get them back. We are not Saudi Arabia; we cannot isolate these people in desert camps or somewhere on an island. We cannot compel them to stay. If they are rotten, they are rotten, and the best thing to do is get rid of them. You picked them up in Afghanistan; you should drop them off in Afghanistan, in the middle of the war zone.”

—U.S. Embassy Kuwait City


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