ALMOST everyone sympathises with Barack Obama's determination to close down Guantanamo Bay. But that does not mean he should achieve his intention by snubbing one of his closest allies. The removal last week of four Uighur (Chinese Muslim) prisoners from Guantanamo to the British overseas territory of Bermuda without seeking British agreement or even informing the British Embassy in Washington was either an act of calculated deception or of gross incompetence. It is said that the prime minister of Bermuda, Ewart Brown, has good relations with Barack Obama and offered to take the Uighurs as a good Samaritan. Perhaps so, but although his local government holds responsibility for immigration matters, it does not have delegated responsibility for foreign affairs or security issues. Yesterday's protest to London from China about the transfer shows that Bejing understands very well where the responsibility lies even if Bermuda's Mr Brown and the Wsahington White House do not.
It was reported yesterday that there had been an uneasy conversation between Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on this matter. Perhaps she was kept in the dark too? The Uighurs, who have been acquitted (without trial) of being enemy combatants, were accompanied on their journey to Bermuda by two White House aides. Other Uighurs from Guantanamo have been accepted by the Pacific island of Palua in return for grant of $200 million of US aid. What is Bermuda's L/quid pro quo?