There are hints emerging that Guam is about to become a dumping ground for the Guantanamo military detainees, possibly a location for trials. In a way I’m not surprised, but in another way I think I’m totally outraged by even the thought of it.
Guam has already lost one-third of its island to the military. It is getting a build-up of troops that will increase the island’s population by 15%. It has no vote in Congress. Guam does not get the respect it deserves from the U.S. political leadership. It has second class status but deserves being treated as a full equal.
The U.S. has to decide where it is going to hold the detainee trials. There are now about 229 detainees in Cuba. Some will be sent back to their country of origin, but others, and it is uncertain how many, will be held over for trial.
I am certain that there are some people on Guam who will welcome the detainee trials. It will likely bring hundreds, if not thousands, of people to the island, including international press. Restaurants and hotels will benefit. The press coverage may or may not help the island; it will all depend whether reporters try to understand the island or default to stereotypes.
But if the U.S. holds these trials on Guam it will be out of political expediency and to avoid stateside opposition. Guam, will, once again, be treated like a mere possession and its people of no importance.
What is the evidence that Guam may be picked? It’s really thin at this point.
-- A political writer in the Atlantic has Guam on his short list of guesses.
-- The decision by the Palau to take 13 detainees from Cuba. A Pacific Daily News opinion piece by William Clearly was spot-on with this observation: "Palau's eagerness to please Washington is best explained by the island government's lack of any real bargaining leverage, unlike 15 years ago when the U.S. needed to extricate itself from a U.N. trusteeship obligation to support Palau's social, economic and political development. That was why Washington agreed to subsidize Palau for a decade and a half." The U.S. decision to move some detainees to Palau says two things of importance for Guam: 1. The government is clearly considering the Pacific islands as a possible location. 2. Guam may have a little more bargaining leverage than Palau, but not too much more.
-- Guam was the original list of possible locations for holding the detainees before Cuba was selected.
-- In a recent interview on CBS, Sen. John McCain acknowledges the difficulty of finding a place in the U.S. that will accept the detainees. Here's a telling excerpt from that story: McCain "said an overall and comprehensive plan on finding a safe and secure place to house detainees is necessary to convince the public. "But to just say 'we're going to send them some place in the United States,' it arouses the obvious reaction: NIMBY, not in my back yard. And I fully understand that. I don't want them in Arizona, either!"