According to a U.S. defense official, the primary reason the Islamic State forces its victims to wear orange jumpsuits is to antagonize the U.S. for continuing to operate detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay.
At the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, principal undersecretary of defense for policy Brian McKeon emphasized that the orange jumpsuits are powerful symbols that the Obama administration believes terrorists use to garner support from local populations, Yahoo News reports.
This isn’t the first time that officials have brought up the connection between Guantanamo and the bright orange garb victims of Islamic militants are forced to wear. Instead, militants have continued this practice now for likely over a decade. After prison facilities opened at Guantanamo in 2002, militants captured an American businessman in Iraq in 2004, dressed him up in orange, and subsequently removed his head.
However, al-Qaida eventually dropped the practice, as contrary to the expectations of the Obama administration, militants were worried that gruesome beheadings might be over the top–even for their own base of supporters.
As reported by CNN, senior al-Qaida official Ayman al-Zawahiri stated that constant beheadings were actually having the opposite effect intended. Instead of encouraging the Muslim population, beheadings increased the risk of losing support from disaffected Muslims. Still, the practice never really went away, and ISIS has notably revived the use of jumpsuits, starting with the execution of American journalist James Foley last year. The recent execution of a Japanese hostage, according to McKeon, was yet another example of Guantanamo symbolism.
“It is no coincidence that the recent ISIS videos showing the barbaric burning of a Jordanian pilot…showed the victim clothed in an orange jumpsuit, believed by many to be the symbol of the Guantanamo detention facility,” McKeon said.
The purpose of the hearing was to address New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s proposed legislation to place an immediate ban on all transfers to Guantanamo Bay for at least two years.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that the legislation would soon be up for debate. McCain argued that closing the detention facilities is in the clear national security interest of the United States, but he was critical of the administration for haphazardly going about the plan to close prison facilities.
McKeon also went on record saying that the Obama administration strongly opposes Ayotte’s legislation, but American voters stand with lawmakers who are intent on keeping the facility open. A recent survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports found that 53 percent of respondents are opposed to Obama’s attempts to shut down the prison, compared to 23 percent who support Obama’s plans for closure. (RELATED: Poll: Voters Stand Opposed To Closing Guantanamo Bay)
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