But they are operating under a basic failure in understanding when they talk of Gitmo as a recruiting device. As Charles Krauthammer writes today,
Imagine that Guantanamo were to disappear tomorrow, swallowed in a giant tsunami. Do you think there'd be any less recruiting for al-Qaeda in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, London?Thomas Joscelyn exposed this myth about how Al Qaeda uses Gitmo as a recruiting device in a must-read article from the Weekly Standard. The administration keeps repeating this whenever asked about why they need to close Guantanamo.
Jihadism's list of grievances against the West is not only self-replenishing but endlessly creative. Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa commanding universal jihad against America cited as its two top grievances our stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia and Iraqi suffering under anti-Saddam sanctions.
Today, there are virtually no U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. And the sanctions regime against Iraq was abolished years ago. Has al-Qaeda stopped recruiting? Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's No. 2, often invokes Andalusia in his speeches. For those not steeped in the multivolume lexicon of Islamist grievances, Andalusia refers to Iberia, lost by Islam to Christendom -- in 1492.
This is a fanatical religious sect dedicated to establishing the most oppressive medieval theocracy and therefore committed to unending war with America not just because it is infidel but because it represents modernity with its individual liberty, social equality (especially for women) and profound tolerance (religious, sexual, philosophical). You going to change that by evacuating Guantanamo?
The chief rationale they offer is that Guantánamo has so tarnished America's image that it has become a major recruiting tool for al Qaeda. During a press conference last week, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that al Qaeda's senior leaders have referred to Guantánamo some 32 times in their recruitment videos since 2001. Gibbs implied that this is a lot. It isn't. Al Qaeda refers to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the existence of Israel, as reasons to wage jihad far more frequently in its propaganda.Exactly. But the Obama administration's determination to continue on this path is another example of their preference for symbolic gestures to differentiate themselves from George W. Bush rather than a commitment to a realistic and coherent approach to dealing with enemy combatants. Thus they decide to try the planners of 9/11 as criminals but treat the attackers on the Cole as enemy combatants. They Mirandize Abdulmutallab instead of interrogating him. They are so blinded by their desire to be different from Bush that they can't see the real Gitmo or al Qaeda clearly.
Gibbs pointed to the fact that senior al Qaeda leaders referred to Guantánamo four times in 2009 alone. Gibbs did not specify which messages he had in mind, but Zawahiri's August 5 tape, entitled "The Facts of Jihad and the Lies of the Hypocrites," is a typical example of al Qaeda's Gitmo-related propaganda. According to a 26-page translation published online by the NEFA Foundation, Zawahiri mentioned Guantánamo five times. By way of comparison, words related to "Iraq" and "Afghanistan" appear more than 70 times each. The words "Israel" and "Israelis" appear 39 times. The word "Zionist" appears another four times--in the context of an imagined American-Zionist conspiracy against the Muslim world. (According to Ayman al-Zawahiri, by the way, Obama is himself a participant in this conspiracy.) And the words "Jew," "Jewish," and "Jewishness" appear another 12 times.
Guantánamo has simply never been a major part of al Qaeda's recruitment strategy. But even if it were and we closed it, the terror masters would simply find the next pretext for justifying their acts. After all, if we are to close Guantánamo because al Qaeda objects to it, then why not abandon America's entire foreign policy agenda?