Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Prisoners for Pelau

This weeks Asian Reporter (June 23, 2009 Vol. 19 #24) has an interesting article by Tomoko A. Hosaka, about Palauans maybe agreeing to accept some prisoners from Gitmo, Chinese Uighurs in particular, although it's not explained where this terrifying subspecies fits in to the confusing 911 debacle, with fogs of war still swirling.

For those not familiar with Palau, it was considered a US Protectorate, something like a tribal sovereignty, where an imperial patriarchy is assumed "in control", an historical fait accompli accomplished through generous payments for civic works.

The AP article uses the transparent "nod nod wink wink" style of international diplomacy via journalism. Monty Python should feel proud.

Hammering out the Compact of Free Association took like seven plebiscites to get right (the women kept voting for more independence, tired of colonial patterns). As senior analyst for AFSC, succeeding Paulette Wittwer at Asian-Pacific Issues News, I spent quite a lot of time researching the place and its history. I actually got to Truk, Kwajalein, Ponape and the Marshall Islands (and Guam), but never to Palau itself, I'm sorry to say.

The pattern goes back to the Indian Wars in that the subjugated party is assumed to be slow and unworldly ("stupid Indians"), while Uncle Sam goes "tsk tsk" about all the mismanged funds:
Koshiba acknowledged Palau's financial missteps, saying, "with so much economic aid (the U.S.) gave us, I guess we were not that good at implementing them right."

"We did spend the money, but we spent [it] on things that were not essential to the growth of the economy, " he said, citing the construction of traditional meeting houses -- or abais -- that boosted cultural pride but are not used.
Of course you have to say they're "not used", as the thought of Palauans actually meeting behind their masters' backs would make the bwanas uncomfortable (sounds almost undemocratic somehow, to be excluded from any meetings), and we all know Banana Republicans like their comfort. So why rock the boat and risk sounding defiant?

The Gitmo prisoners won't go off radar though. Many a university is chomping at the bit to send field workers, to get their story in academically rigorous detail, properly translated. Better access for oral history takers is an integral part of the new agreement I understand.

Palau will likely insist on humane treatment for any Gitmo survivors, with Amnesty International, Red Cross etc. given full visiting rights, lest world tourists, important financially, incorrectly suppose the assholiness of the DC mainlanders has spoiled yet another Pacific oasis.