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Friday, January 08, 2010

The terrorists don't attack us because of Gitmo

The Obama administration continues its stubborn intent to close down Guantanamo. They are convinced that it is such a black mark on our international reputation and such a strong recruiting device of Al Qaeda that it is preferable to treat enemy combatants as ordinary criminals and give Miranda rights to the Undie Bomber and better to move them to a supermax prison in Illinois after spending hundreds of millions to update that prison when we already have a functioning and safe prison that does its job at Guantanamo.

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?

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?
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.
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.

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?
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.


tfhr said...

And when al Qaeda references Illinois, will Obama tell Holder to close the Land of Lincoln? There's an ironic suspension of habeas corpus joke there somewhere too.

mark said...

Could someone please provide the quote in which Obama claimed closing Gitmo would stop the hatred or end the war on terror?
Once again, Krauthammer can't make a case without resorting to lying (the US has the best health-care system in the world) or an absurd, cowardly claim (Obama doesn't want the memory of 9/11 to fade away).
There seems to be a concerted effort by some to re-write history: Dana Perino, Mary Matalin and Rudy Guliani have said that no attacks occured on Bush's watch (obviously ignoring 9/11 but also a host of smaller incidents.
Gen. Petreaus and other military leaders have also said we should close Gitmo. Perhaps they too are naive and ignorant.
Especially given the Christmas bombing, we should always be analyzing our stategies. Supposedly, we've been fighting in Iraq and Afganistan to keep us safe here.
To whatever degree (and we'll never be able to measure it) Gitmo is a recruiting tool (and more importantly, a black mark on the US). Closing it is one tool for fighting the war on terror. It is certainly not THE solution for the war on terror.

tfhr said...


There is a war going on and in the course of fighting this war prisoners will be taken. Are we to bring all of them to Illinois? What will become of the many prisoners held at Bagram AB?

Put the cudgel of partisan campaign politics down for a minute and recognize that Guantanamo serves a very important purpose in fighting AND WINNING this war. Compare the treatment and conditions of terrorists held in Bagram with those detained at Guantanamo. Now explain to me why the Obama administration finds that those prisoners do not deserve the same rights it seeks to extend to those being moved from Guantanamo to Illinois.

You're guy endeavored to win the White House by making ridiculous claims about the nature, purpose, conditions, and design of Guantanamo's detention facility. He was not alone. Many on the left exaggerated or deliberately distorted many aspects of work, life, and the meaning of Guantanamo. Do you remember Newsweek magazine's Koran desecration scam? People died over that distortion, mark. Here's a ditty for your next bumper sticker: "Newsweek Lied - People Died".

Guantanamo was a rally cry for the LEFT more than al Qaeda. Like other campaign promises, it will fade (there's a "transparency" joke there but I'll let it go the way of promises not to raise taxes) into oblivion but the war will rage on until we decide we really want to face up to the fact that this is total war and not a "contingency operation" in which we can take half measures and waste our time cloaking our actions in dubious legalese while wasting our money on legal fees for Eric Holder's law firm.

Closing Guantanamo's detention facility will be a huge propaganda victory for al Qaeda. Moving those inmates to Illinois will only change the geographical references. Giving terrorists a platform to rail against the United States in court is just insane.

mark said...

Thanks, but you forgot the evidence upon which Krauthammer based his column: That closing Gitmo is for Obama THE solution to ending the war on terrorism. You've also conveniently neglected to defend/criticize Gen. Petreaus' position on the matter.
As far as being partisan, early on I condemned this administation's handling of the Christmas bombing. Compared to your pathetic defense of Bush ignoring 9/11 warnings, freezing when we were attacked, his failure to capture OBL (and even worse,saying he wasn't "concerned" about OBL), you might refrain from playing the politics card. Repubs are trying to re-write history, but 9/11 happened under Bush's watch, and he had the audacity to say he was "unconcerned" if the man most responsible was brought to justice. And you and a bunch of people gave him a free ride. Talk all you want about Obama's failures, but your words ring hollow.

equitus said...

mark, your straw man is showing. I can't see anywhere where Krauthammer claims that Obama believes that closing Gitmo is "THE solution." It's no wonder you are perpetually frustrated and angry, when you hold out for proofs that are unbidden.

Can you argue against Krauthammer, that closing Gitmo will clearly benefit the War on Terror? Do you believe the goodwill generated will offset the increased risks to national security if we have no place to detain combatants (or must detain them in the US with full Constitutional rights)? Do you actually believe al Qaeda will NOT treat such an action as a huge victory, increasing moral and - yes - help their recruiting?

mark, put aside your hatred and cherished myths, and THINK.

tfhr said...


We've gone over this so many times before. I think equitus has summed it up for you quite well. Go back and read those remarks again.

You're fighting the wrong fight. The "war" for the White House ended last year and the war with Jihadism is still on though some on the left try desperately to deny that fact.

mark said...

There is an upside and a downside to closing Gitmo. I doubt anyone can measure each one. Can you?
Both Robert Gates and Gen. Petreaus have said they favor closing Gitmo. They both deserve much credit and respect for turning the Iraq fiasco around. Are you putting your judgement and tfhr's above those two men. (And tfhr still somehow defends Cheney, so what does that tell you about his military acumen). Now perhaps they have changed their mind given the last few weeks, but there is no indication of that so far.
Again, you conveniently ignore this, as well as the fact that at least two members of the terrorist cell in Yemen were released by Bush.
And really, what could be more of a victory for Al Queda than having their leader get away with killing 3,000 people, and then hear the man who vowed bringing him in "dead or alive" give up the search.
And yes, just as people kept bringing up Pres. Clinton's failures during the last eight years, I'll keep bringing up Bush's. They are pertinent to the mess in which we find ourselves now.

tfhr said...


I'd like to hear your definition of "military acumen".

Have you heard Petraeus or Gates endorse the circus show trials scheduled for NYC? Maybe they lack "legal acumen".

equitus said...

There is an upside and a downside to closing Gitmo. I doubt anyone can measure each one. Can you?

I suppose one could consult some climatologist somewhere who could give you some data (/snark), but if one relies on common sense the choice isn't so difficult.

Both Robert Gates and Gen. Petreaus have said they favor closing Gitmo. They both deserve much credit and respect for turning the Iraq fiasco around. Are you putting your judgement and tfhr's above those two men.

I've heard somesuch, but I suspect it's merely political support not to undermine their boss. Interesting how you, mark, cling fiercely to their word when before 01/09 you were so quick to dismiss them.

(And tfhr still somehow defends Cheney, so what does that tell you about his military acumen)

What are myths if not to be cherished?

Again, you conveniently ignore this, as well as the fact that at least two members of the terrorist cell in Yemen were released by Bush.

I could use more convenience in my life, you know, mark? And why should I bother with Bush's earlier screw-ups? I know right from wrong, usually. And I also know how to address an issue. Useful skills, mark. Really.

mark said...

You're saying that Gates and Petreaus are playing politics with an issue as important as the war on terror? Do you really think they're so craven that they would lend insincere support to closing Gitmo just to please the president?

You should write copy for

I guess you don't know how to address and issue after all.