Coulter falsehood: No evidence Guantánamo "has served as a recruiting tool for terrorists"
Research ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN
Ann Coulter falsely asserted that there is "no evidence" that Guantánamo "has served as a recruiting tool for terrorists." In fact, military and FBI interrogators have stated that terrorists have successfully used the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay as a recruiting device.
During the May 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity, conservative columnist Ann Coulter asserted that "all liberals are saying ... that Guantánamo has served as a recruiting tool for terrorists," but "they certainly have no evidence for it." In fact, military and FBI interrogators have stated that terrorists have successfully used the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as a recruiting device, and at least two reports have reached the same conclusion.
For instance, using the pseudonym Matthew Alexander, an Air Force senior interrogator who was in Iraq in 2006 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."
Moreover, as the blog Think Progress noted, in June 17, 2008, testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Alberto Mora, former Navy general counsel, said: "[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."
Indeed, the Center for Strategic & International Studies concluded in a September 2008 study that "the United States has been damaged by Guantánamo beyond any immediate security benefits. Our enemies have achieved a propaganda windfall that enables recruitment to violence, while our friends have found it more difficult to cooperate with us."
Further, a June 17, 2008, McClatchy Newspapers article reported, "A McClatchy investigation found that instead of confining terrorists, Guantanamo 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." McClatchy further reported:
In interviews, former U.S. Defense Department officials acknowledged the problem, but none of them would speak about it openly because of its implications: U.S. officials mistakenly sent a lot of men who weren't hardened terrorists to Guantanamo, but by the time they were released, some of them had become just that.
Requests for comment from senior Defense Department officials went unanswered. The Pentagon official in charge of detainee affairs, Sandra Hodgkinson, declined interview requests even after she was given a list of questions.
However, dozens of former detainees, many of whom were reluctant to talk for fear of being branded as spies by the militants, described a network -- at times fragmented, and at times startling in its sophistication -- that allowed Islamist radicals to gain power inside Guantanamo:
Militants recruited new detainees by offering to help them memorize the Quran and study Arabic. They conducted the lessons, infused with firebrand theology, between the mesh walls of cells, from the other side of a fence during exercise time or, in lower-security blocks, during group meetings.
Taliban and al Qaida leaders appointed cellblock leaders. When there was a problem with the guards, such as allegations of Quran abuse or rough searches of detainees, these "local" leaders reported up their chains of command whether the men in their block had fought back with hunger strikes or by throwing cups of urine and feces at guards. The senior leaders then decided whether to call for large-scale hunger strikes or other protests.
Al Qaida and Taliban leaders at Guantanamo issued rulings that governed detainees' behavior. Shaking hands with female guards was haram -- forbidden -- men should pray five times a day and talking with American soldiers should be kept to a minimum.
The recruiting and organizing don't end at Guantanamo. After detainees are released, they're visited by militants who try to cement the relationships formed in prison.
From the May 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
COULTER: And the other thing -- I mean, one thing I'd like to address about what -- that Obama said that all liberals are saying -- I mean, it's getting to be like liberals saying oral sex isn't sex under Clinton -- is this claim that Guantánamo has served as a recruiting tool for terrorists.
It's just said over and over and over again. You know, Republicans have to prove that waterboarding led to specific information. Well, why can't they produce the terrorists who would just be home, you know, having coffee and going to their jobs, but they heard about Guantánamo and decided to join the jihad?
I mean, it's counterintuitive. I think it's preposterous. And they certainly have no evidence for it. It just gets said over and over and over again: "It's a recruiting tool for terrorists. It's a recruiting tool for terrorists."
I don't think so. I don't think most terrorists are going to want to end up in Guantánamo, lovely though the accommodations are.
SEAN HANNITY (host): You know, but, here -- if we really look at this, what have Democrats done for national security?