The Corner

Uighurs in Limbo

It isn’t just the big things (like governmentalizing one-sixth of the economy) that Obama screws up, but the small things, too. In 2009, he sprung four Uighurs (Chinese Muslims) from Gitmo, originally captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2001. The Chinese didn’t want them back, so the U.S. did a backroom deal with Bermuda’s then premier, a devious cove named Ewart Brown. As I wrote here four years ago re the Uighurs’ new home:

It’s a colony, or “overseas dependent territory,” as the imperially squeamish Brits now prefer to say. It has an elected government and one of the oldest parliaments in the world, but it does not enjoy state-to-state relations. There is no U.S. ambassador in Bermuda or vice-versa. As you say, London remains responsible for foreign affairs and defense. It is a sub-national jurisdiction. What Obama has done is roughly analagous to, say, Hugo Chávez negotiating directly with St. Thomas or Vermont to take a bunch of unwanted troublemakers.

The British government (under Gordon Brown, an ideological soulmate of Obama, albeit still irked by the president’s thoughtful gift of a crappy Walmart box set of DVDs that don’t work on a U.K. DVD player) was furious about Washington’s underhandedness. A couple of years ago in Bermuda, I chanced to see all four Uighurs crossing the street in front of me in St. George’s, like the Abbey Road album cover recreated by a Uighur tribute band. And they didn’t look happy. They were the lonesomest Uighurs in town.

Today’s edition of Bermuda’s Royal Gazette helps explain why. Not being a nation state, the colony does not issue passports. Bermudians travel on British passports issued by the Passport Office in the U.K. — and, because Obama infringed British sovereignty by dumping Gitmo detainees within Her Majesty’s dominions, London won’t allow them to apply for naturalization. And the U.S. refuses to have them back. So they’re in limbo:

The deal, brokered with the US by then Premier Dr Ewart Brown, left the men stranded, while other Uighurs held at Guantánamo who went to countries like Sweden and Switzerland were eventually issued with passports. . . .

Their lawyer Richard Horseman said it was imperative to move the issue beyond recriminations over the “poorly thought-out” move to bring them to Bermuda. “The only solution is going to come from Britain,” he said. “Unfortunately, we all know the manner in which they were brought here — Britain was not happy at all.”

From my experience, very few officials among foreign governments like this administration at all, because it pulls stuff like this all the time. Obama insults America’s allies, moves on, and leaves others to sort out the mess. So much of what he does, great and small, at home and abroad, is “poorly thought-out.”

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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