Friday, June 13, 2014

Is Gitmo Really a Recruiting Tool for Terrorists?

With the highly suspect swap of five high-ranking Taliban leaders in exchange for one deserting U.S. sergeant, many are now speculating that this "Let's Make A Deal" tactic is the pathway that President Obama will take to fulfill his 2009 State of the Union commitment to close Guantanamo Bay (aka Gitmo).  With him, as usual, arguing that Gitmo is the main tool for recruiting terrorists.

But, to my knowledge, no one has ever challenged the President's "main tool" argument.  Basically, it was another Obama statement that seems to have no bearing in fact.  As far as I can tell, Obama's stance on Gitmo comes from a 2008 paper released by a Washington-based think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  Their conclusion was that Gitmo should be closed because of human rights violations; not necessarily because its seen as a recruiting tool.  However, in arguing its closing  they also said this in their report:
Symbols of alienation such as Guantanamo have served as a recruitment tool for individuals and groups who seek to harm the United States, increasing -- not decreasing danger. Researchers at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center found scores of references by top Al Qaeda leaders referencing Guantanamo (some in the same breath that they mention Chechnya) going back to 2002 and as recently as January 2008.
But, when you go to the referenced West Point research paper, there are no "statistics" being presented that would justify the word "scores" being used in the CSIS report. There is only an opinion by the author, Sherifa Zuhur, that Gitmo contributes to recruiting because it is contrary to our rules of law and imprisonment as noted by this quote from that very opinion piece:
"...the United States has projected a strong message to the world about living under a “rule of law,” where the principle of being innocent until proven guilty and the human rights afforded by the Western systems of democracy should be defended. Some damage to American claims of justice and rule of law is irreparable, even if Guantanamo is closed, which would be desirable."
Again, the closure is desirable from a human rights perspective and not because it is a recruiting tool

What hurts Mr. Obama's claim and the above mentioned opinion piece is the fact that, in two separate studies, which looked at published Al Qaeda propaganda communiques, Guantanamo Bay is seldom referred to when compared to other words of recruitment like "Israel."  Thus, clearly indicating that Gitmo is not a primary focus.

What the President doesn't seem to understand is that his use of drones in the last five years is probably more of a recruiting tool than Gitmo.  All to often, in attempting to kill one or "just of few" terrorists, there are many innocent civilians lost by collateral damage.  It is also viewed as cowardly because there is no way for Al Qaeda or the Taliban to fight back against an unmanned drone.    And, our use of drones doesn't just anger the terrorists but, it also angers the rest of the world as shown by this recent global Pew poll:

Obama's claims of terrorist recruiting are simply fallacious; and are only being used because he thinks that is what Americans want to hear as the primary reason for closing the prison.  His real intention is to once again satisfy his left-wing base who sees Gitmo as another one of Bush's "doings" and a violation of human rights.  I would contend that killing terrorists from afar, with unmanned drones, without combat, and any potential trial is a bigger human rights issue; especially when you look at the results of that Pew poll.


Closing Guantanamo: From Bumper Sticker to Blueprint: A report of the CSIS Human Rights and Security Initiative and the Working Group on Guantanamo and Detention Policy:


Gitmo Is Not a Recruiting Tool for Terrorists:
Note: The link above is being presented as a Google search because direct access to this article will be denied unless you already have a Wall Street Journal subscription.

How Drones Create More Terrorists: Militants take advantage of fearful communities to draw new recruits:

Obama’s Use of Drones Gives Al Qaeda the Edge in Iraq: More broadly, though, the growth of al-Qaeda is due to the Obama administration’s single-minded focus on drone warfare and counterterrorism:
More broadly, though, the growth of al-Qaeda is due to the Obama administration’s single-minded focus on drone warfare and counterterrorism. - See more at:
More broadly, though, the growth of al-Qaeda is due to the Obama administration’s single-minded focus on drone warfare and counterterrorism. - See more at:

PewResearch: Global Opinion of Obama Slips, International Policies Faulted: Drone Strikes Widely Opposed:

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