So we’re going to shut down the detention center at the U.S. naval base on Guantanamo Bay and move the 200-plus terrorists detained there to a seldom-used civilian correctional center in Thomson, Ill. And we’re doing it, the Obama administration and Sen. Dick Durbin assure us, not because they want to use federal money to indemnify their home state for a white-elephant prison Illinois taxpayers should never have built, but because Guantanamo Bay simply must be closed. Gitmo, they say, causes terrorism.
It’s worth remembering that the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, perhaps the world’s most influential jihadist, was never held in Gitmo. Instead, he and eleven of his followers got the gold-plated due-process plan: a nine-month 1995 trial in the criminal justice system for waging war against the American people. (That’s not rhetoric; that was the charge: conspiracy to levy war against the United States — Section 2384 of the federal penal code.)
The red-carpet treatment didn’t begin or end with the trial. There were Miranda warnings upon arrest (no one cooperated). Counsel was appointed, with the defendants choosing their lawyers — and, for some, Uncle Sam paid for two or more attorneys. Mountains of evidence were culled from intelligence files and duly shared with overseas terrorist organizations. The defense enjoyed a couple of years to make motions to get more discovery, to suppress evidence, and to dismiss the indictment. When things finally went to trial, there was a two-month defense case (that’s much longer than most criminal trials), which allowed them to put the government on trial for its investigative tactics. There was a post-trial hearing on their motion to vacate their convictions and dismiss the case on the ground of “outrageous government misconduct.” There was elaborate litigation before severe sentences were imposed: The Blind Sheikh got life imprisonment, and the other sentences ranged from 25 years to life. That was followed by a three-year appeals process, during which the court appointed new lawyers to argue that their clients had been railroaded through the incompetence of the old lawyers, while the old lawyers continued arguing that their clients had been railroaded by the malevolence of the government. Finally, when the appeals were done and the convictions upheld, the defendants began filing habeas corpus petitions — a practice that continues to this day — claiming that this or that constitutional right was infringed, or that this or that prison condition was inhumane.
So the Islamic world and its sundry terrorist bands were all very impressed with this ostentatious display of our humanity, our benign intentions, and “our values” — right? Wrong. The usual Islamist organizations claimed that America had put Islam on trial — the original slander that was refitted after 9/11 into the equally spurious charge that America is at war with Islam. In early 1997, about a year after sentencing, Sheikh Abdel Rahman’s Egyptian terrorist organization, al-Gama’at al-Islamia (the Islamic Group), issued a statement declaring “all American interests legitimate targets” for “legitimate jihad” until the release of all those convicted terrorists, beginning with their beloved leader.
A few months later, Abdel Rahman’s always-helpful American lawyers (one of whom has since been convicted of helping him run Gama’at from his U.S. prison cell) issued a statement pressuring U.S. officials to release him. “It sounds,” they wrote, “like the Sheikh’s condition is deteriorating and obviously could be life-threatening.” On cue, Gama’at publicly warned that if any harm were to come to the sheikh, the group would “target . . . all of those Americans who participated in subjecting his life to danger.” The terrorists elaborated that they considered every American official, from Pres. Bill Clinton down to “the despicable jailer,” to be “partners endangering the Sheikh’s life.” The organization promised to do everything in its power to free Abdel Rahman.
On Nov. 17, 1997, they made good on the promise. As 58 foreign tourists visited an archeological site in Luxor, Egypt, they were set upon by six Gama’at murderers. The jihadists brutally shot and stabbed them to death – also killing several Egyptian police. The torso of one victim was slit so the terrorists could insert in it a leaflet demanding the release of the Blind Sheikh. Similar leaflets were scattered about the carnage.
Luxor was not the last of these atrocities, but it is the most savage so far, and it is the scene that should leap to mind every time some useful idiot like Senator Durbin makes the absurd claim that Guantanamo Bay must be shut down because it causes terrorism and spurs terrorist recruitment. That this claim is mindlessly repeated by high-ranking military officers and intelligence officials doesn’t make it any less absurd.
We are talking about people who live in sharia states where they still stone women for adultery, apostates for daring to abandon Islam, and homosexuals for breathing. We are talking about people who riot and murder over cartoons — people who use mosques to hide weapons and Korans to transmit terrorist messages and then murder non-Muslims for purportedly defaming their religion. It makes no difference to these people that we detain Muslim terrorists in military brigs under the laws of war rather than detaining them in civilian prisons after trial in our criminal justice system.
After 17 years of attacks, we should have learned the difference between causes of terrorism and pretexts for terrorism. Terrorism is caused, and terrorist recruitment is driven, by Islamist ideology and by American weakness in the face of terror attacks. In that sense, Senator Durbin causes more terrorism than Gitmo ever will. Terrorist organizations are encouraged when they come to believe they can win — when they come to believe they can outlast America because we lack resolve.
The Blind Sheikh, echoed by Osama bin Laden, has promised for years that if “battalions of Islam” keep reprising Hezbollah’s 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, and al-Qaeda’s orchestration of the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia, then the Americans will pack up and go home. The terrorists tell their recruits we’re soft and won’t defend ourselves if it gets ugly. When a U.S. senator takes to the floor of the chamber and compares heroic American troops to Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot, he confirms Abdel Rahman and bin Laden’s views. When he suggests that terrorism is somehow caused by locking up terrorists in a secure, offshore military facility, where they can no longer threaten Americans or anyone else, the Islamic world’s fence-sitters start thinking, “The jihadists are right: America doesn’t have the stomach to tough it out. If we just make it bloody enough, we can win.”
The only part of Gitmo that causes terrorism is its front gates, when we allow terrorists to walk out of them so they can go back to the battle. Gitmo is a pretext for terrorism. Terrorists use it because, unlike us, they know it’s irresponsible not to study and understand the enemy. They know the Left exercises outsize influence on the media and that the Left’s key characteristic is projection.
Leftists don’t like Gitmo (or the PATRIOT Act, or warrantless surveillance, or military commissions, or Bush, or Cheney, or . . . ) so, presto, Gitmo becomes a “cause” of terrorism. Perversely, jihadist murderers become the vessels of our values: They’re noble savages and they don’t murder because they believe their religion commands them to. They do it, we’re told, because of national-security policies that just happen to be the ones despised by the Left. The terrorists are onto this game even if we’re not. So they snicker and say, “Oh, yes, of course, it’s been Gitmo all along — that’s why we do it!” They know some pointy-headed intelligence analyst, some ambitious general, some craven U.S. senator, or even some pandering American president is bound to repeat the canard until it becomes received wisdom. And the press will play along, never pausing to ask: “Well, then, how come 9/11 and the Cole and the embassy bombings and Khobar and Bojinka and the Trade Center bombing all happened before there ever was a Gitmo?” (To which the answer, of course, would be “Israel!”)
Long before there was a Gitmo, Muslim terrorists also plotted to accomplish the release of their captured confederates, either through escape plots or extortionate terrorist attacks — like the massacre at Luxor. For them and their millions of sympathizers, the issue isn’t where the jihadists are detained, or under what theory (law of war or civilian prosecution) this detention is justified. The issue is that we detain them, period. In the Muslim world, where illiteracy is rampant, there are not many scholars of American law. And, as we’ve already seen, even the ACLU is saying there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Gitmo and the new Gitmo North at Thomson. If that’s what the lefty lawyers are saying, what do you suppose the jihadists think?
From the prison where he serves his life sentence, Abdel Rahman was able to announce to the world: “The Sheikh is calling on you, morning and evening: Oh Muslims! Oh Muslims! And he finds no respondents. It is a duty upon all the Muslims around the world to come to free the Sheikh, and to rescue him from his jail.” That he was in a nice civilian jail after a nice civilian trial didn’t make any difference. Of Americans, the sheikh decreed: “Muslims everywhere [must] dismember their nation, tear them apart, ruin their economy, provoke their corporations, destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships, and shoot down their planes, kill them on land, at sea, and in the air. Kill them wherever you find them.” Osama bin Laden later called this the green light — the necessary Islamic fatwa — for the 9/11 attacks. It was four years before there was a Gitmo for Dick Durbin to blame. So should we shut down all the civilian prisons, too?