European countries such as Germany led the criticism of the detention of terrorists captured abroad at Guantanamo Bay and have demanded their release for years. When it comes to volunteering to have them running free in their own countries, however, these allies suddenly get a case of laryngitis when the US asks for volunteers. Barack Obama wants Berlin to take nine of the 250 inmates at Gitmo, but the Germans have thus far answered nein!
Berlin is being asked to take in nine Guantanamo inmates. So far the development is perceived as a first test of trans-Atlantic relations under President Barack Obama. In Germany, there are legitimate questions about the Uighur Chinese it is being asked to take in –but the Interior Ministry also appears to be buying time in an election year. …
Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann — of the Christian Social Union, Bavaria’s sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats — called the request an “imposition” by the US. “We don’t need people like this in Germany,” he told the mass circulation tabloid Bild. “It would be extremely naive (of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier) to let these people into the country.” Steinmeier himself, though, has kept relatively quiet on the subject — though he has been consistent in his support of the Obama administration.
In addition to issues of security, however, Steinmeier is equally concerned with the issue’s foreign policy implications. Firstly, this is one of the initial tests of the new trans-Atlantic relationship between the central Europeans and the Americans since the change of administration in the White House. At the same time Steinmeier, who is also the Social Democratic candidate for chancellor, has to consider the damage it could do to at-times volatile German-Chinese relations. As soon as the Obama administration’s wishes with regard to the Uighur prisoners were made public, a variety of Chinese diplomats paid a visit to Steinmeier’s offices. What, they wondered, was the German position on this Uighur question? The Chinese were told that a final decision had not yet been made.
People find it much easier to carp from the sidelines than to actually do the work and take the risks. Germany is a pretty good example of this on Afghanistan as well, although hardly the only one. They refuse to take combat roles, preferring to fill slots more commonly referenced as REMFs by American military veterans.
Until now, they’ve been REMFs on Gitmo, too. They want the detainees released, but presumably not in China, where the Uighers will get locked up or worse by Beijing, who for some reason consider radical Muslims who have trained at al-Qaeda camps (by their own admission) dangerous. Germany and its European allies would prefer that Obama simply set them all free in the US, but Obama would like to win re-election in 2012, and the freed-the-terrorists-to-live-among-us vote is a shockingly limited demographic.
Berlin has a problem. They want to show that their opposition to American policy related to the very unpopular George Bush, and show an affinity for the very popular Barack Obama. Will they want that enough to welcome trained AQ terrorists into Germany? Somehow, I think that Angela Merkel will find more ways to punt on the Uighers.