Trying to Remember Why We’re Closing Gitmo?

by Deborah Pearlstein

Cross-Posted at Balkinization

Following my testimony last month to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security on military commissions and the like, Senator Kyl (R-AZ) was kind enough to send along some follow-up questions to answer. His first follow-up question was one of the same as one he’d posed in the hearing itself: What if any empirical evidence is there to support President Obama’s statement that “the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.”

It’s a fair and important question – one it’s likely the President is in a better position to answer than I. Nonetheless, it gave me occasion recently to start compiling some of the reports I’ve found most persuasive over the years that led me to conclude the President’s view had merit. For your summer reading entertainment (and before Congress comes back and starts back-pedaling the otherwise sweeping bipartisan consensus in favor of closure again), I thought I’d start a list here. If folks have other sources they’d like to recommend, or of course comments either way, feel free.

• Matthew Alexander’s statements are pretty powerful. A veteran Air Force counterintelligence agent who served as a senior interrogator for the United States in Iraq, Alexander wrote: “I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse.”

• Alexander wasn’t the first to say as much. On June 17, 2008, former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora testified to the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services as follows: “[T]here are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq – as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat – are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”

• In 2008, McClatchy news service published a detailed series of reports on the Guantanamo Bay detention program that it based on interviews with U.S. officials, foreign intelligence services, and former detainees. The reports concluded, among other things, that “instead of confining terrorists, Guantánamo often produced more of them by rounding up common criminals, conscripts, low-level foot soldiers and men with no allegiance to radical Islam — thus inspiring a deep hatred of the United States in them — and then housing them in cells next to radical Islamists.”

3 Responses

  1. Here is the one thing that may keep Gitmo open —  Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi.

  2. Respond to the Senator thus:  Res Ipsa Locquitor

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  1. […] Posted on 21 August, 2009 by Mathias Vermeulen Trying to Remember Why We’re Closing Gitmo?  by Deborah Pearlstein backing up Obama’s statement that “the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists […]