Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Gary Bauer’s Christian Values

Politico has an absolutely staggering opinion piece by Gary Bauer, one of the most prominent leaders of the Christian right, in which he actually argues that allowing the detainees at Guantanamo Bay to practice their faith is turning them into terrorists.

After a January Pentagon report found that 61 former detainees had engaged in terrorist activities, several commentators concluded the answer was yes and suggested that conditions at the prison are to blame.

This may surprise you, but as a staunch proponent of the prison, I agree. But while many liberal commentators believe inhumane treatment and religious persecution transforms detainees into suicide bombers and high-level terrorists, I believe the opposite is true: that the unprecedented and extreme religious accommodation granted to Gitmo prisoners has created a culture of Islamic radicalization.

First of all, it wasn’t 61. It wasn’t even close to 61. That Pentagon report was an utter fraud, counting among those who had “returned to the battlefield” men who were still in prison in other countries because they had dared to write an op-ed piece about their mistreatment. It takes a special kind of mendacity and viciousness to make such a claim.

Second of all, Bauer simply dismisses the mistreatment of prisoners with a wave of his hand and a highly selective recitation of irrelevant facts:

Given the media attention devoted to cases of alleged detainee abuse — who can forget Newsweek’s Koran-in-the-toilet story? — this theory may seem plausible. But such cases are more notorious than they are numerous. Most of the nearly 800 detainees who have passed through Gitmo since 9-11 have been treated humanely, their religious liberty respected.

In fact, that was the upshot of a recently released Pentagon review, which found that conditions at Guantanamo were in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Holder visited in late February and came away “impressed.”

And Bauer knows this how, exactly? He doesn’t of course; he’s pulling it out of his ass. And in order to do so he has to ignore the overwhelming evidence of rampant abuse at Guantanamo Bay that comes not from the men being held there but from internal government documents and from the statements of numerous military personnel that have blown the whistle on what went on down there.

We have the testimony of multiple highly decorated JAG officers that much of the “evidence” against the men they were supposed to try was obtained through torture. We have the testimony of guards at the camp who tell harrowing stories of abuse and degradation. We have the internal memos from the CIA and the Defense Department conspiring to hide detainees who had been abused from the Red Cross, not only at Gitmo but at other facilities as well.

None of this matters to Bauer because Eric Holder, years after anyone held at Gitmo could possibly have yielded any valuable intelligence – and thus years after any “enhanced interrogation techniques” would have been used on them – saying he was “impressed” by the facility. Talk about hanging an argument on a thin thread.

Ignoring all of that evidence, Bauer focuses on the “extreme” accommodations at Gitmo:

Media reports of life at Gitmo highlight the extreme accommodation of religious practice. Prison guards go through special sensitivity training. Each Muslim detainee is provided with a Koran, which, in accordance with Muslim teaching, is never touched by non-Muslims (i.e. the prison guards). Each prisoner receives prayer beads, culturally appropriate halal meals, prayer rugs, daily calls to prayer, and each cell contains a stenciled arrow pointing the way to Mecca.

Never mind that such treatment is mandated by the Geneva conventions, or that Bauer would be screaming bloody murder if any other nation denied such accommodations for Christian soldiers. None of this matters to him. This is moral myopia of the worst kind and it’s coming from a man who holds himself up as an exemplar of Christian morality.