Countering Obama's Argument for Closing Guantanamo

First and foremost, the simple argument that Guantanamo (Gitmo) is the number-one recruitment tool for radical Islam is false.  The intelligence community does not support the idea of Gitmo used as a recruitment tool.  If it were true, why would this White House want to transfer the detainees to super-max prisons in the U.S.?  If so, wouldn't those super-max prisons then become the target and topic of radical recruitment?  And if not, why not?  Is there a difference?  The detainees would still be held under U.S. control in U.S. facilities – the only difference is that they are being transferred and held at different location, now on the U.S. mainland.

The primary recruitment for radical Islam and its ideology is fundamental Islam.

The president's announcement was simply not factual, and it was and continues to be irresponsible.  It stems from a campaign promise that he had no business making in the first place, as a candidate does not have access to the intricacies of such an issue.

In response to Mr. Obama's Four Points on Closing Guantanamo:

1. Safeguarding U.S. national security by coordinating with foreign countries to take on prisoners, and that Guantanamo is just as much a recruitment tool for terrorists, and moreover makes those nations accomplices and targets for radical Islamic terrorism.

A. Transferring prisoners to their home, or third party, countries without assurances is an equally a mistake and danger.

B. My experience as deputy director for intelligence at U.S. CENTCOM is that home or third-party countries will not guarantee anything if terrorist detainees are returned.  Most terrorists will likely be released – there are no assurances that those countries will be compliant with U.S. wishes and will anticipate pressure from groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups and entities.

C) No interrogation of jihadist prisoners on the battlefield by police agencies in Europe and by other intelligence sources has revealed that Gitmo is a recruitment tool.  This is a fabricated argument put in play by the Obama administration and other nations and organizations sympathetic to Islamists.  It is foremost a propaganda message, initiated by al-Qaeda and other radical Islamists to influence various political groups to pressure the U.S. government, primarily the Democratic party and the Obama administration, to release all detainees from Gitmo.  Furthermore, it spurs Cuba, Russia, and other politically driven and international supporters to influence the White House and those members of Congress who support the president to close Gitmo and return the facility to the Castro government.

2. Identify prisoners that pose a threat.  This is essentially an issue dealing with the "recidivism rate" of radical Islamists.  This topic should really be discussed in a separate forum.  However, it is worth mentioning that a jihadist who is captured and released has, per his culture, a responsibility to return to jihad.  To do otherwise is to renounce Islam and incur total damnation, shame, and most likely death.

A. All detainees do pose a threat and were identified on the battlefield as such.  Gitmo has been known as the Who's Who of Terrorists.

B. This is the only place where we can hold unlawful combatants, non-uniformed battlefield combatants, and enemies of the United States, as they do not represent a country.  The Geneva Conventions apply only to uniformed combatants from sovereign nations.

3. Use legal tools to process those in the middle of legal proceedings.

A. Legal tools are and always have been in use.

B. Within the facility is a fully staffed United Nations office and a center for legal defenders to work.

4. Military commissions are costly, because the situation has been politicized by the White House.

A. These prisoners are not protected by the Geneva Conventions, as the conventions apply to uniformed members.

B. Bringing detainees into U.S. courts cannot apply, as the evidence used for those caught on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq and other countries involved in the Global War on Terror cannot be used in civilian courts.

Other considerations:

Guantanamo Naval Base is more than a terrorist detention facility.  It is an operational U.S. naval deepwater naval port facility.

The standard process to close an overseas base and transfer it back to the country to which it exists and is located is a five- to ten-year process.  And that's the process for returning military facilities to allied nations.  It requires a base closure commission and authority from Congress.  It involves and affects multiple agency budgets and appropriations, coordination, international legal proceedings, etc.  The U.S. has been there since the late 1800s, and as an official U.S. naval facility since 1903.

Jim Waurishuk is a retired USAF colonel and a 30-year career senior intelligence and political-military affairs officer.  He served as a special mission intelligence officer for various special operations units and organizations; with the CIA's Asymmetric Warfare Task Force; as deputy director for intelligence for U.S. Central Command (U.S. CENTCOM); as a former White House National Security Council staffer; and as a former distinguished senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.  He lives in Tampa Bay, Fla.

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