Unless it involves legalizing medical marijuana, banning U.S. weapons sales to dictators or erecting a memorial statue for Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) usually does not find much common ground with Democrats. But the Surfin' Congressman has proven during his--what's it been now, 90-year?--House tenure that he can also be a lone ranger when it comes to his own party. He's again out there on the limb alone when it comes to the issue of 17 Uyghur prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
As has been widely reported, President Barack Obama wants to close Guantanamo, something that would bring about the immediate release of the Uyghur detainees. Members of an ethnic group from central Asia and the Xinjiang province in western China, the 17 Uyghurs were picked up in Afghanistan. It was determined long ago that they pose no security threat to the U.S., but by managing to block Guantanamo's closure so far, Republicans in Congress have ensured the Uyghurs will remain held there.
Enter Rohrabacher. Like the Uyghurs, he's a vehement anti-Communist. In June 2008, Rohrabacher wrote Secretary of Defense Robert Gates asking that the Uyghurs be released from the U.S. military prison in Cuba and paroled into the U.S. . That's not all. The congressman who has consistently fought reparations for Japanese-Americans interned in camps during World War II called on the U.S. government to apologize to the Uyghurs and consider compensating them for any abuse they endured while captive.
Rohrabacher's plea met stiff opposition, not from the Obama administration but the GOP.
Peter Lee lays out the whole sordid affair in a long, exhaustively researched piece for Asia Times.
Carrying the Republican leadership's water when it comes to dousing public support for the Uyghurs is none other than former House speaker Newt Gingrich. He labeled the 17 detainees too dangerous to be released into Virginia's Uyghur community, saying they had been trained in mass murder by the same forces that killed 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. Gingrich went on to claim that Uyghurs picked up televisions at the Cuban base and tossed them across rooms. Why? Because they dared show bare-armed women.
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Actually, countered the Uyghurs, one of them, years ago, smashed a TV set because he had asked to see a doctor but was instead plopped in front of cartoons and a Harry Potter movie.
Lee reports that the regrouping Obama White House is now considering a plan hatched near the end of the Bush administration to disperse some Uyghurs in the U.S. and others in Europe, particularly Germany. This is dicey diplomatically not only with the Germans--who have taken a we-won't-take-'em-unless-you-take-some-too attitude--but with China.
It turns out the Uyghurs, who moved to Afghanistan in protest of China's tax policies--have been involved in anti-Chinese activities for years.
Then again, so has Dana Rohrabacher.