Terrorist Recruitment: Is Gitmo Guilty As Charged?

Byron York interviews the one individual who lends an aura of credibility to the theory that the existence of Guantanamo Bay has been a boon to terrorist recruitment: “Major Matthew Alexander”–a pseudonym–who interrogated terrorist suspects in Iraq. “Alexander” vouches for the theory that the two great drivers of terrorist recruitment were Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, based on his interviews with captured terrorists.

Byron points out that the theory advanced by Alexander, that Gitmo was notorious among terrorist recruits for “Koran abuse,” isn’t really true. In fact, he could have gone farther–regulations at Gitmo go to ridiculous lengths to ensure respectful handling of the Koran, including prohibiting guards from touching the book with their hands.

But I would go farther still. I view terrorists’ post-capture explanations of why they signed up to become terrorists as inherently suspect. What would one expect them to say? “I joined the jihad because I’m a sociopath in love with death.” Or, “I came to Iraq because I was a street criminal and was kicked out of my home village.” Or, “I joined the jihad because I was trained to do so from age six at a madrassah.” All of those answers, I suspect, carry more explanatory power than Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay (themselves, of course, entirely different phenomena).

Further, the Abu Ghraib/Gitmo theory fails to account for the fact that before 9/11, al Qaeda had no trouble whatsoever in attracting recruits. It moved from one successful attack to another over a decade, with ever-increasing numbers of jihadis flocking to its banner. Why? Because al Qaeda was perceived as a successful, victorious movement. That perception peaked on September 11, 2001, and has declined precipitously ever since. If recruits are so plentiful, then why are successful attacks non-existent?

Finally, the idea that jihadis are sensitive souls who are drawn to mass murder only because they are shocked–shocked!–by our practice of dressing terrorists in orange suits is offensive on its face. People who take pride in September 11 and pleasure in videos of the beheading of Daniel Pearl are not distinguished by their concern for the kind treatment of captives.

Coincidentally, the current hysteria over detainee treatment coincides with the trial, in France, of 27 young Muslims in Paris for the torture and murder, over a period of several weeks, of a randomly-selected Jew named Ilan Halimi. If you haven’t heard about this trial, which one might expect to be sensational, there is a reason–the French judicial system is keeping it secret. Atlas Shrugs has the story. Read it if you have a strong stomach.

I really don’t think we should take seriously the idea that jihadi recruits are otherwise-normal young men whose sense of justice is reasonably outraged by the sight of well-fed detainees in orange jump-suits.

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