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As the Obama Effect Fades

On December 23, the Associated Press reported that European nations were newly open to the U.S.’s request that EU countries resettle some Guantanamo Bay detainees. The AP’s taunting coverage went, predictably, like this:

The willingness to consider accepting prisoners who cannot be returned to their home countries, because of fears they may be tortured there, represents a major change in attitude on the part of European governments. Repeated requests from the Bush administration that European allies accept some Guantanamo Bay detainees received only refusals.

The Bush administration “produced the problem,” Karsten Voigt, coordinator of German-American cooperation at the German Foreign Ministry, said in a telephone interview. “With Obama, the difference is that he tries to solve it.”

The very next day, EU Business reported soberly:

Europe reacted cautiously Wednesday to the idea of resettling terror suspects released from Guantanamo Bay, with some countries seeking a concerted European approach and others already opposed to the idea.

The Netherlands went furthest, ruling out accepting any newly freed inmates, despite broad European support for US president elect Barack Obama’s promise to shut down the notorious military detention centre.

A story in today’s New York Times nearly completes our round-trip journey from reality to fantasy and back:

Australia said Friday that it would not agree to American requests to accept more detainees from the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and Britain signaled reluctance to take in significant numbers of former inmates, underscoring the difficulties both the departing and incoming administrations in Washington face in trying to close the camp, which has stirred bitter controversy around the world.

So, what ‘s the truth? Some spokesman at the German Foreign Ministry saw an opportunity to give the outgoing American president a dig and he took it. Sure, Germany and Portugal say they’d think about taking in detainees if Obama closes down Gitmo. And that’s good. But it’s predicated on a pretty big “if.”


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