President Obama has signed a series of executive orders that will close Guantanamo Bay, outlaw torture and shutter the CIA’s secret detention centers. Naturally, conservatives are now up in arms, alleging that these orders are somehow going to be a boon to terrorists.
First off, do conservatives know anything about terrorism? Do they really think that a bunch of people willing to die for their cause are really going to be deterred by the prospect of being sent to Gitmo? Do conservatives really think that the risk of going to prison causes terrorists around the globe to unstrap their suicide vests, lay down their AK-47s and pack in their RPGs?
These guys don’t care about the consequences of their actions. And isn’t that what makes them so dangerous–they don’t care what happens to them as long as they accomplish their goal?
Second, it’s not like these orders will simply throw open Guantanamo’s gates and let everyone free. If Gitmo detainees really are guilty of the heinous crimes they’re alleged to have committed then prosecutors will build a case against them and ensure they are tried, convicted and imprisoned. So, effectively, all this executive order really means is that the inmates at Guantanamo will be trading one prison for another.
Third, you’re incredibly naive if you don’t think that torture and the existence of places like Guantanamo and the CIA’s detention centers haven’t been used by terrorist groups as recruiting tools. The images from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay and tales of waterboarding and harsh interrogation tactics have been broadcast across the Muslim world in order to drum up support for groups like Al-Qaeda.
And what do we get in return for spurring all this terrorist recruitment? Very little–if any–usable intelligence. And hey, don’t take my word for it that torture doesn’t work–listen to the guy who got significant amounts of effective, actionable intelligence by using conventional, non-violent interrogation techniques.
Look, I understand why conservatives are opposed to what Obama is doing–for years, they have dutifully defended Bush’s system of interrogation, secret prisons and indefinite detention. They have been working off the assumption that those are the only things standing between America and more terrorist attacks.
But if the Obama administration ends those policies and effectively processes terrorists through the criminal justice system, it will prove that Bush and his supporters were wrong and that the constitutional violations perpetuated by the Bush administration were unnecessary.
UPDATE: And beware suspect reporting like this:
Pentagon: Gitmo detainees returning to fight
At least 61 are believed to have signed up for terror missions upon release
The Seton Hall Center for Policy and Research has issued a report which rebuts and debunks the most recent claim by the Department of Defense (DOD) that “61, in all, former Guantánamo detainees are confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight.”
Professor Denbeaux of the Center for Policy & Research has said that the Center has determined that “DOD has issued ‘recidivism’ numbers 43 times, and each time they have been wrong—this last time the most egregiously so.”
Denbeaux stated: “Once again, they’ve failed to identify names, numbers, dates, times, places, or acts upon which their report relies. Every time they have been required to identify the parties, the DOD has been forced to retract their false IDs and their numbers. They have included people who have never even set foot in Guantánamo—much less were they released from there. They have counted people as ‘returning to the fight’ for their having written an Op-ed piece in the New York Times and for their having appeared in a documentary exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival. The DOD has revised and retracted their internally conflicting definitions, criteria, and their numbers so often that they have ceased to have any meaning—except as an effort to sway public opinion by painting a false portrait of the supposed dangers of these men.
And beware stories like this poorly-sourced gem:
A Saudi man released from Guantanamo after spending nearly six years inside the U.S. prison camp is now the No. 2 of Yemen’s branch, according to a purported Internet statement from the terror network.
The Internet statement, which could not immediately be verified, said al-Shihri was the group’s second-in-command in Yemen, and his prisoner number at Guantanamo was 372.
“He managed to leave the land of the two shrines (Saudi Arabia) and join his brothers in al-Qaida,” the statement said.
I think it goes without saying that questionable, poorly-sourced stories on the internet shouldn’t dictate America’s counterterrorism policies.