If any of the Obama Administration’s stated reasons for closing Gitmo has emerged as its favorite, it has to be that Guantanamo is a recruiting tool for al Qaeda. This rationalization is particularly useful for the Democrats, because it simultaneously hints at the underlying cause celebre behind closing Guantanamo – that we do unspeakably evil things to those poor people at that bad place – while appearing to be a plus in the Overseas Contingency Operation against Man-Caused Disaster.
But remember that not long ago, this same Administration was moments away from creating a whole new set of al Qaeda “recruiting tools.” Back in April/May 2009, the Justice Department was ready to forego an appeal of a court order to release dozens of photos of enemy combatants, which presumably depicted them after undergoing harsh interrogation or torture. Those photos, whose release would have been unlawful under the Geneva Conventions preventing public depictions of prisoners of war, would have invariably reignited similar passions as were unleashed throughout the Middle East and Central Asia in the weeks and months after the Abu Ghraib revelations. One might recall that things got worse, not better, in Iraq at that point.
But here we had the Attorney General recommending that it not appeal to the Supreme Court a judgment by the Second Circuit that would have required the Department of Defense to release these photos. Even if it would have eventually lost, the government would have delayed disclosure for at least another year. And it was no slam dunk that it would have lost — the Court has been much more deferential (although not deferential enough) to the executive branch in its prosecution of the war than have the lower courts, particularly the forums chosen by the ACLU for its activist lawsuits.
Only after the intelligence agencies, the military, the public, and ultimately key members of Congress expressed their outrage at such a decision did the Obama Administration first delay, then indefinitely postpone release of the photos. The matter was ultimately resolved when Congress allowed the Secretary of Defense to order the photos sealed, which he did. That order was upheld by the Supreme Court.
So, the same Justice Department that is insisting on closure of Guantanamo to avoid inciting terrorist violence was ready to release photos that would surely have incited violence, and would have absent a public uprising against it. The only common element here? The ACLU and its liberal allies wanted both to happen, and for reasons utterly unrelated to the violence that may have resulted: they hate George Bush, and they are driven to remind us all of the evil that embraced our land during the dark days of his reign. Irrational? Yes. Explanatory? Without question.
True, Obama himself signed the law allowing the photos to be protected – in a rather rare reversal of policy. But Holder and his ilk at DOJ remained unabashedly opposed to the move. They have zero credibility when they attack Guantanamo as a “recruiting tool.”