Sharing the burden, redux

SHARING THE BURDEN, REDUX…. It appears that our European allies have noticed the rhetoric — and recent bipartisan votes — from Congress on Gitmo.

The Obama administration’s push to resettle at least 50 Guantanamo Bay prisoners in Europe is meeting fresh resistance as European officials demand that the United States first give asylum to some inmates before they will do the same.

Rising opposition in the U.S. Congress to allowing Guantanamo prisoners on American soil has not gone over well in Europe. Officials from countries that previously indicated they were willing to accept inmates now say it may be politically impossible for them to do so if the United States does not reciprocate.

“If the U.S. refuses to take these people, why should we?” said Thomas Silberhorn, a member of the German Parliament from Bavaria, where the White House wants to relocate nine Chinese Uighur prisoners. “If all 50 states in America say, ‘Sorry, we can’t take them,’ this is not very convincing.”

Imagine that. These European governments were largely inclined to help out when they assumed a wide variety of nations would share the detention burden. But now that these foreign officials have heard U.S. lawmakers — from both parties — suddenly come to believe that Guantanamo detainees are far too dangerous for U.S. soil, their willingness to cooperate is waning.

American politicians are assuming that their constituents will never tolerate a process that allows dangerous detainees in their states/districts. European politicians are, not surprisingly, wondering how they’ll respond to their own constituents about the same dynamic, especially if U.S. lawmakers are unwilling to accept any detainees at all.

This is especially true of Uighurs who were bound for Germany, which has the continent’s largest expatriate community of Uighurs, and where the group would likely find temporary homes and job opportunities. German diplomats expressed a willingness to accept nine Uighurs, a position that grew stronger after a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder. The director of social services for the city of Munich said, “If the Uighurs should come to Munich, we would take care of them.”

Then German officials heard rhetoric from members of Congress, which has put the arrangement in jeopardy.

Congressional cowardice has not gone unnoticed on the international stage. It’s a real problem.