Qutb's hatred for America was nurtured during a visit to the United States, specifically over a long stay as an exchange student in Greeley, Colo., in 1949-50. At that time, Greeley was a Rocky Mountain Mayberry. Clean, polite, orderly and without a single bar in the whole town, Greeley was nonetheless for Qutb a grotesque den of iniquity. What really stewed his bowels was a sock hop where teenage girls danced with boys to the libidinous strains of "Baby, It's Cold Outside." The mixing of sexes in churches was "animal-like."
The Islamism practiced by followers such as Osama bin Laden has changed little since Qutb's execution by Egyptian authorities in 1966. Bin Laden and his gang are the world's most powerful puritans. Iraqi Sunnis turned against al-Qaida in no small part because the foreign fighters wanted to ban smoking and throw drop cloths over every Iraqi woman. Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 hijackers who was not squeamish about dying, or about carving up innocents with box cutters, had one desperate request before he died: Make sure no women touch my underwear after I'm dead.
Or consider the Uighurs -- Jihadists from the Muslim hinterlands of China -- the Obama administration is planning to release into D.C.'s Virginia suburbs and put on the public dole. At Gitmo, these detainees were allowed to watch television because they were deemed nonviolent. While watching a televised soccer game, the camera showed women with exposed arms, and the Uighurs went ballistic, picking up the TV and smashing it.
In short, these people can't be won over, at least not without apologizing for a lot more than George W. Bush. Admitting a few mistakes or releasing a few photos won't convince them we've turned over a new leaf, because their hatred of America stems from a hatred of modernity itself.
Meanwhile, giving the Jihadists propaganda tools to help them say "see, we were right" won't curtail recruitment, it will fuel it. At least that's what Obama's most senior military advisors reportedly told him.
It's good news that President Obama is open to such arguments. It remains to be seen whether he's actually persuaded by them.