Newly-minted US Senator Tom Cotton -- a combat veteran and Harvard Law alum -- dismantled the Obama administration's talking points on closing the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention facility during an Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday. He posed a series of question to the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, the answers to which were strategically obvious:
In furtherance of the president's unpopular, unauthorized obsession with shuttering the prison, the White House argues that transferring and releasing GITMO occupants not only doesn't threaten American national security, it actually enhances it. Because they, argue, the center is a key recruiting tool for Islamist extremists. Cotton's rebuttal: None of the jihadists housed at GITMO are recidivists (unlike up to one-third of their released or repatriated colleagues), and zero terrorists were held at Guantanamo Bay prior to a long string of violent Islamist attacks dating back decades. Neither of the administration's arguments hold water. I discussed the Cotton exchange with Juan Williams on Fox News earlier; Juan labeled Cotton's line of questioning "theatrics," I found it to be rather effective:
As I mentioned in the segment, successful terrorist attacks against the West are far more potent as terrorist "recruiting tools" than American counter-terrorism policies that disrupt plots and keep us safe. More importantly, groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS don't need any excuses to slaughter innocent people. They used to seize upon other US policies to justify attacks prior to 9/11, then altered their justifications to include GITMO and the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Today, they blame our drone program and the targeting of Al Qaeda leaders as the supposed "cause" for jihad. Hell, they used the publication of cartoons as a reason to spill infidel blood in Paris last month. It is foolish, dangerous and naive to allow ourselves to be manipulated by terrorists' endlessly evolving pretexts for violence -- especially if it means abandoning an important weapon in our arsenal against them. After the segment, I bumped into the Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes, who pointed be to this 2010 analysis from terrorism expert Thomas Joscelyn, which found that if anything, GITMO was a tertiary factor in Al Qaeda's recruitment propaganda efforts:
Guantanamo is mentioned a mere 7 times in the 34 messages we reviewed. (Again, all 7 of those references appear in just 3 of the 34 messages.) By way of comparison, all of the following keywords are mentioned far more frequently: Israel/Israeli/Israelis (98 mentions), Jew/Jews (129), Zionist(s) (94), Palestine/Palestinian (200), Gaza (131), and Crusader(s) (322). (Note: Zionist is often paired with Crusader in al Qaeda’s rhetoric.) Naturally, al Qaeda’s leaders also focus on the wars in Afghanistan (333 mentions) and Iraq (157). Pakistan (331), which is home to the jihadist hydra, is featured prominently, too. Al Qaeda has designs on each of these three nations and implores willing recruits to fight America and her allies there. Keywords related to other jihadist hotspots also feature more prominently than Gitmo, including Somalia (67 mentions), Yemen (18) and Chechnya (15). Simply put, there is no evidence in the 34 messages we reviewed that al Qaeda’s leaders are using Guantanamo as a recruiting tool.
RIP, incoherent narratives. By the way, for those interested, the cases I referenced in my rebuttal to Juan's point about the federal courts being sufficient as an anti-terrorism legal paradigm are outlined in detail HERE and HERE (my only mistake was vastly understating the number of charges on which Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was acquitted. He skated on all but one of nearly 300 counts). I'll leave you with the latest developments from Yemen -- a failed state and jihadi breeding ground that the President Obama has ludicrously cited as a example of his 'successful' counterterrorism policies:
BREAKING: Yemen's Shiite rebels announce they are taking over the country and dissolve parliament.— The Associated Press (@AP) February 6, 2015
Why yes, the Obama administration did just release five Yemeni Guantanamo terrorists back into the neighborhood. These terrorists' allegiances are likely distinct from the Shiite "rebels" who've overthrown the government, but they're returning to a cauldron of instability and radicalism. What could go wrong?