Obamateurism of the Day

Barack Obama explained on Tuesday that the mere fact that Yemen can’t control its own state and that a good percentage of Gitmo detainees released wind up back in al-Qaeda won’t deflect him from releasing more terrorists and closing Gitmo. In fact, Obama says that al-Qaeda expanded to Yemen because we opened Gitmo in the first place:

Make no mistake, we will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al-Qaeda.  In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Except that it actually wasn’t, as Thomas Joscelyn explains at the Weekly Standard:

Did AQAP explicitly give Guantanamo as the reason for its rebirth? Judge for yourself: Part 1 of the video can be viewed here and part 2 here. You can also read a good translation of most the video’s contents (excluding the narrator’s beginning) at the indispensable NEFA Foundation’s web site.

Guantanamo is certainly mentioned in the tape. How could it not be? Two of the four founding members of the reconstituted AQAP are former Gitmo detainees. Said al Shihri, who was held at Gitmo until 2007, remains the #2 deputy. Mohammed al Awfi (also known as Mohammed al Harbi) is a former Gitmo detainee who was featured in the video too. But al Awfi has since been taken back into Saudi custody under strange circumstances. Both of these recidivists are graduates of Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program.

The problem with the president’s argument is that Guantanamo was not given as a rationale for AQAP’s rebirth or “formation.” Instead, AQAP’s “rationale” was al Qaeda’s stock-in-trade Zionist-Crusader conspiracy theory, in which Muslim lands need to be defended against the infidels. As the title of the video indicates, the group’s ultimate goal is to conquer Jerusalem and take control of the al Aqsa mosque.

In this vein, the video begins with a somewhat typical al Qaeda formulation: “In this fierce Christian Crusade being waged against the Islamic Ummah, with the clear and shameful participation of the agent rulers of the region, Allah made a way out for your brothers from the Mujahideen from the prisons of the Crusaders, Guantanamo, and the prisons of the tyrants.”

Yes, Guantanamo is mentioned right at the beginning, along with what appears to be a deceptive reenactment of a detainee in an orange jumpsuit at Camp X-Ray. As I’ve written previously, this image is a favorite of Gitmo’s many critics, even though it has not been an accurate portrayal since the first four months of Gitmo’s existence in 2002. The far left and the jihadists both love this image though. It makes it seem as if the detainees are blameless innocents who are routinely traumatized by the big, bad American military. AQAP’s video is powerful reminder that this isn’t true, as former detainees such as Said al Shihri and Mohammed al Awfi were always dangerous.

However, Gitmo is only mentioned in the context of announcing al Shihri’s and al Awfi’s miraculous return to jihad. Their recidivism was placed in the context of the “Christian Crusade” — the real rationale given for AQAP’s terror.

Does anyone at the White House even bother to do research before filling Obama’s teleprompter?  AQ expanded to Yemen for several reasons, not the least of which was the pressure the US put on AQ in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the earlier part of the decade.  Not only that, but its founder Osama bin Laden is an ethnic Yemeni from disputed land now controlled by Saudi Arabia, which helped create the radical impulse that forms the basis of AQ.  Yemen is also a nearly-failed state, just only somewhat more stable than its neighbor across the Gulf of Aden, Somalia — which not coincidentally is also an AQ growth area.

But let’s say for the sake of argument that AQAP claimed Gitmo as a recruiting tool.  So what? AQ also uses the US-Israel alliance, the American military presence in the Gulf region, the war in Af-Pak and Iraq, and our status as infidels for recruiting tools.  Using this logic, we should abandon Israel, sail out of southwest Asia and Africa, and convert to Islam in order to take away their other recruiting tools.

In fact, why don’t we just surrender altogether?  I bet that would really cut into AQ’s recruiting, right?

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

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