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W on Gitmo

9:40 AM, Jun 18, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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From the Washington Times, W on Gitmo:

"I told you I'm not going to criticize my successor," he said. "I'll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don't believe that persuasion isn't going to work. Therapy isn't going to cause terrorists to change their mind."

He's right. And it is good to see him make the point. But, there is a bit of irony here. The Bush administration placed too much faith in the Saudis' rehabilitation program, which relies on familial shame, bribes, and art classes to convince detainees to give up jihad. That is, the program is based on "therapy," family ties, and money.

More than 100 Saudis were repatriated from Gitmo to Saudi Arabia under the Bush administration. We don't know for certain how many of them returned to jihad. The Saudis themselves have said that 11 of the Kingdom's 85 Most Wanted were once Gitmo detainees. (One of the 11 has since turned himself in.) This is an embarrassing admission, given that the Saudis have repeatedly said they should be trusted to keep tabs on Saudi nationals detained by the U.S. There could easily be more who have either already returned to jihad or that will.

Consider one striking example of the types of detainees repatriated to Saudi Arabia during the Bush years. Jumah al Dossari clearly helped recruit the "Lackawanna Six" al Qaeda cell outside of Buffalo. Members of the six have been convicted and sentenced to time in jail, an accomplishment rightly trumpeted by the Bush administration. The FBI, according to press reports, wanted to prosecute al Dossari for his role in recruiting the six. That is how strong the evidence against al Dossari is. Al Dossari is clearly a longtime recruiter for Osama bin Laden and has compiled an extensive dossier of violent jihadist activities.

Al Dossari was repatriated to Saudi Arabia in 2007.

Amazingly, the Obama administration recently sent a likely murderer and convicted terrorist back to Saudi Arabia to attend the same program.

The Washington Times's account linked to above notes that President Bush wanted to close Gitmo, just as President Obama does. Of course, President Bush tried to close Gitmo by transferring large numbers of detainees to foreign nations. This was the Bush administration's attempt to answer calls for closing the facility, many of which came from foreign nations.

But the Bush administration ran into problems, including how to handle roughly 100 Yemeni detainees detained at Gitmo. Yemen is one of the least trustworthy nations in terms of detaining terrorist suspects. While the Bush administration was willing to give the Saudis a chance to hold more than 100 detainees, it was not willing to trust Yemen with the same opportunity.

What is the Obama administration's answer to this conundrum?

Well, the Obama administration wants to send the Yemenis to Saudi Arabia, where they can attend the Saudi rehabilitation program. This is the same program that, as just explained, is not nearly as effective as the Saudis have claimed. What's worse: Most of the Yemenis held at Gitmo have no familial roots in Saudi Arabia. But a large part of the Saudi program is based on familial shame. So, there are good reasons to think the Saudi program will be even less effective in rehabilitating the Yemenis.