Bill Delahunt ripped into former House Speaker Newt Gingrich Tuesday, arguing that his recent comments about Chinese Uyghurs held at Guantanamo Bay show that he is either ignorant of international law or bizarrely allying himself with communist China -- or both.
Gingrich, who condemned torture in China in 1997, told Fox News' Chris Wallace that a group of Uyghurs [pronounced wee-gers] deemed innocent by the Bush administration but still looking for a third country to take them should simply be sent to China.
"Why is that our problem?" Gingrich wondered. "Why are we protecting these guys? Why does it become an American problem?"
The answer is simple, said Delahunt, a top Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee. We own the problem because we bought it.
"Well, in this particular case, we bought it," he said. "We bought it literally because these detainees were a victim of some half-cocked initiative, put out by Cheney et. al, where they were purchased for $5,000."
In one of the least-well-thought-out projects the Bush administration engaged in following Sept. 11th, the U.S. paid bounty hunters to collect Al Qaeda associates. Unsurprisingly, those characters picked up whatever innocent people they could find and sold them to the U.S., which shipped them to Guantanamo, where they could be tortured into confessing some false connection to global terrorism.
Now that the U.S. has realized its error, Gingrich says that it "verges on insanity" to think the nation has any moral or legal obligation to the Uyghurs it imprisoned. It is universally understood that they would be persecuted if returned to China. Ironically, Chinese Muslim Uighurs represent a pro-Western dissident movement within the country.
In fact, there is a vibrant Uyghur community in Northern Virginia that has volunteered to take the detainees in. The leader of that community, Rebiya Kadeer, has met with President Bush, who praised her as a human rights leader.
Kadeer is the author of the new book Dragon Fighter: One Woman's Epic Struggle for Peace with China.
"Send them to China," said Gingrich. "If a third country wants to receive them, send them to a third country. But setting this precedent that if you get picked up by Americans -- I mean, the Somalian who was recently brought here who's a pirate -- I mean, if you get picked up by the Americans, you show up in the United States, a lawyer files an amicus brief on your behalf for free, a year later you have citizenship because, after all, how can we not give you citizenship since you're now here, and in between our taxpayers pay for you -- this is, I think -- verges on insanity."
Delahunt said he found it surprising Gingrich would ally himself with China. "I guess he is unaware of the [United Nations] Convention Against Torture which obligates us not to return them to China because it's clear they would be persecuted and undoubtedly subjected to torture, incarceration and all sorts of degradation, given the history of the red, godless Chinese communist government," he said, using the terminology for China more often relied on by conservatives such as Gingrich.
"What I find particularly ironic is, here's the former Speaker allying himself with the Chinese communists. Quite an interesting development. I guess his fervent anti-communism has abated somewhat."
Ryan Grim is the author of the forthcoming book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America