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Rep. Rohrabacher Is Wrong About the Uighurs at Gitmo

12:05 PM, Jun 18, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) has some bizarre notions about "Uighur Nationalism" and the Uighur detainees held at Guantanamo. In a statement released Tuesday, Rohrabacher accused "some pundits in the Republican Party," including Newt Gingrich, of being duped by Chinese intelligence. Since Mr. Gingrich has relied, in part, on my analyses of the Uighurs held at Gitmo (see here and here, for example), let me respond to Rohrabacher's claims.

Rohrabacher implies that the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement ("ETIM") and its successor organization, the Turkistan Islamic Party ("TIP"), are "phony political organizations" created by Chinese intelligence to "tarnish good causes." I say that Rohrabacher implies this because he can't bring himself to come right out and claim it. It is a remarkable allegation. Rohrabacher is claiming that Chinese intelligence set up a fake al Qaeda affiliate in order to tarnish all Uighur opposition groups.

Of course, Rohrabacher provides no evidence in support of this proposition. It is just a wild allegation.

Keep in mind that the ETIM/TIP has been designated a terrorist organization allied with al Qaeda by both the UN and the U.S. The Obama administration also designated the ETIM/TIP's leader, Abdul Haq, an al Qaeda terrorist earlier this year. So, it is not just some Republicans who have been duped, according to Rohrabacher's "logic."

Rohrabacher further claims the Bush administration held Uighurs at Gitmo "and labeled them as terrorists to appease the Chinese government in a pathetic attempt to gain its support at the beginning of the war against Iraq and to assure China's continued purchases of U.S. treasuries."

Rohrabacher does not offer a shred of evidence to back up his claim. This is a serious charge. Rohrabacher is claiming that the Bush administration knowingly locked up innocents in an attempt to garner support from the Chinese government. Why, then, did the Bush administration repeatedly refuse to turn over the Uighurs detained at Gitmo to the Chinese government? The Chinese have complained over and over again that the Bush administration did not repatriate the Uighurs to China. Beijing even accused the Bush administration of violating international law.

If anything, the Bush administration's handling of the Uighurs' detention at Gitmo further enraged Beijing, not appeased it.Rohrabacher adds: "Many if not all of the negative allegations against the Uighurs [held at Gitmo] can be traced back to Chinese intelligence, whose purpose is to snuff out an independence movement that challenges the communist bosses in Beijing."

This is the same argument the Uighur detainees' lawyers made. The courts found that at least some of the Bush administration's allegations against the Uighurs held at Gitmo likely came from China. However, it is not true that "many if not all of the negative allegations" come from Chinese intelligence. In fact, almost the entirety of my analysis is sourced to the Uighur detainees' own statements, as well as their organization's propaganda videos and other publicly available information.

Here are some of the key facts I have repeatedly cited, none of which come from Chinese intelligence:

* 16 of the 17 Uighurs held at Gitmo at the beginning of the Obama administration were accused of training at camps and/or other facilities in the Taliban's Afghanistan. Thirteen of the 17 even admitted to receiving at least some form of training during their combatant status review tribunals (CSRTs). Both of these statistics were generated from a careful reading of the DOD's transcripts of the Uighurs' CSRT sessions at Gitmo. These transcripts are readily found online, including at the New York Times's web site.

* Much of this training took place at Tora Bora, Afghanistan - a stronghold for al Qaeda and the Taliban. We know this, again, because a good number of the Uighur detainees have admitted it. Some of the Uighur detainees have also admitted that they were at Tora Bora when the U.S.-led bombing campaign ensued in late 2001. In addition, some of the Uighur detainees have admitted that they transited to Tora Bora via safe houses in the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.