The Magazine

Hunger Games

Aug 12, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 45 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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The first two conditions have certainly not been satisfied. And third-country resettlements have stalled for a variety of reasons. Even if any of these conditions were satisfied, the Yemenis approved for outright transfer “would receive priority for any transfer options” before the Yemeni detainees placed in “conditional detention,” including the 4 Yemeni hunger strikers being force-fed.

This leaves 6 detainees who have been approved for transfer out of the 24 identified by the Miami Herald as being force-fed. These 6 have not been “cleared for release,” as has been reported. For each of these 6 detainees, Obama’s task force recommended: “Transfer outside the United States to a country that will implement appropriate security measures.” 

In other words, the president’s task force concluded that these 6 detainees pose some level of risk and did not recommend that they be freed outright. The Obama administration wants to transfer them but has not been able to arrange their transfer either because of congressional restrictions or because a host country capable of implementing the “appropriate security measures” has not yet been found.

The Guantánamo Review Task Force was established by President Obama in early 2009. Each of the 24 detainees in question had been previously evaluated by Joint Task Force Guantánamo (JTF-GTMO), which oversees the detention facility, and its threat assessments have been leaked online.

JTF-GTMO deemed 20 of the 24 detainees to be “high risk,” as they are “likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies.” The other 4 were deemed “medium risk,” as they “may pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.” JTF-GTMO did not conclude that any of these 24 detainees posed a “low” risk. 

Much of the public discourse concerning the hunger strikers has been framed by the detainees’ advocates, who are eager to present the detainees as men who have been wronged by an American war machine run amok. President Obama’s rhetoric is consistent with this biased narrative. The truth about these detainees, as discovered by President Obama’s task force, is quite different.

In his latest message to the public, Zawahiri says al Qaeda “will not spare any effort until we free [the Guantánamo detainees] and all our captives, and on top of them, Omar Abdel Rahman, Aafia Siddiqui, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.” Zawahiri thus counts the Guantánamo detainees among jihadist ranks that include: a terrorist convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a follow-on plot against New York City landmarks (Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman), another convicted jihadist, known as “Lady Al Qaeda” for her efforts on behalf of the terrorist organization (Aafia Siddiqui), and the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, among other operations (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed). 

Since 2002, al Qaeda has dreamed of executing an operation that would force the United States to free its comrades from the American-controlled detention facility in Cuba. Those efforts have gotten the terrorist organization nowhere. And, contrary to President Obama’s claims, al Qaeda has not made Guantánamo a major theme in its propaganda. 

The controversy over the hunger strikers, however, is tailor-made for al Qaeda’s propaganda operation. After all, even the president of the United States thinks America is at fault for holding and “force-feeding” these detainees.

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