Americans are rightly outraged over the news last week that a Libyan ex-Gitmo detainee named Abu Sufian Bin Qumu was behind the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three colleagues.
However, no one should be shocked by this news.
After all, according to US intelligence authorities, as of early 2012, nearly one third of the 600 men released from Guantanamo are confirmed or suspected of having returned to terrorism.
So why did we give so many dangerous terror suspects “get out of jail free” cards? Simple, it's because of the left-wing myth of the “Gitmo Goat Herder.” And it’s literally killing us.
Carefully designed and promoted by a coalition of far-left ideologues, supporters of the "Gitmo Goat Herder" myth including defense attorneys, journalists, politicians and human rights activists who put philosophy and politics over national security, this myth grew to legendary proportions.
Democrats in Congress, like then-Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden joined forces with this coalition and demanded that Guantanamo be closed.
Spearheaded by the United Nations, the international community screamed about human rights, insisting that detainees from over 40 countries be immediately tried or released. As if Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad, Cuba’s Castro brothers or Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez know anything about human rights.
Hollywood piled on, with dozens of stars lending their support including by sporting “solidarity with Gitmo” orange ribbons and bracelets at the Academy Awards in 2008 -- courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Despite the government's history of coddling Gitmo detainees, Amnesty International still dubbed it the “Gulag of our times.”
So how was the “Gitmo Goat Herder” myth created in the first place?
Arguably the key architect was the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). Co-founded in 1966 by attorney William Kuntsler who gained fame by representing radical and often violent leftist organizations in the 1960s, like the Weather Underground Organization, Black Panthers and Attica Prison Rioters, the same hardcore, anti-authority mindset exists today at CCR.
CCR not only represented hundreds of detainees, they also ran the so-called “Gitmo Bar Association,” thus recruiting mainstream US law firms, like Washington's Covington & Burling, where Eric Holder was a senior partner, to take on hundreds of other cases.
Gitmo attorneys even partnered with a Washington-based public relations firm, and foreign governments to remake the image of client detainees as merely innocent victims, “goat herders” swept up in the Bush administration’s so-called overreach.
Since Gitmo was a hastily constructed byproduct of the chaotic post-Sept. 11 days, it wasn’t perfect. At the outset, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called it the “least worst place” for holding terror suspects captured overseas.
Thus it was admittedly primitive in the first three months of operations in early 2002, as seen in infamous photos of orange jumpsuit-clad detainees at Camp X-Ray.
And it’s true that some mistakes were made – about 5% of detainees, including some actual goat herders who were used by their rivals for bounty, should never have been there. It's also true one percent of detainees were actually abused, per internal investigations. Throw in a few teenagers who were also locked up at Gitmo, and you have all the ingredients for a massive anti-U.S. propaganda campaign -- a key element in modern asymmetric warfare.
As any defense attorney or PR professional worth their salt can tell you, all you need is one good example to make your case. And that's just what left-wing advocates did. They promoted the myth. And within a couple years, Gitmo because synonymous with “Abused Goat Herders,” despite overwhelming evidence that the vast majority of the men detained there were dangerous killers, would-be-killers, financiers or logistics men.
Under pressure, the Bush administration eventually caved and allowed hundreds of these same dangerous men to leave, like Bin Qumu. Ironically, Muammar Qaddafi lobbied for his transfer to Libya in 2007 with a promise to keep him in prison. -- Though he later set him free in 2010 as an olive branch to Islamists.
A year later Bin Qumu became a military commander of Libya’s opposition that eventually overthrew and killed Qaddafi. And, in an ironic turn of fate, the United States became his de facto Air Force and Navy.
As announced last week, President Obama has now named 55 more men detained at Gitmo who are free to go -- as soon as their foreign passports can be arranged.
Thus, even today, 11 years after the 9/11 attacks the “Gitmo Goat Herder” myth continues to spur more mass releases of detainees.
Some former prisoners went on to become Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership figures or even a suicide bomber.
The Gitmo Goat Herder myth is responsible for killing and wounding US and allied troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and now even a US ambassador has died because of it.
The campaign waged against Gitmo is similar to what is unfolding against US diplomatic posts across the Middle East. The amateur video that insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, which was made by an Egyptian Coptic Christian in California (and watched by a very small audience) is the new Gitmo.
And thus far Team Obama has only managed to apologize for that, too.
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy Commander who served as a Pentagon spokesman in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-09. He serves as senior adviser to several Washington-based think tanks.