With Congress’s August recess less than one week away, it should hardly come as a surprise that Rep. John Murtha, the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, is readying more legislative mischief. Mr. Murtha, a close political ally of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has made it clear that plans to use the $459.6 billion defense appropriations bill, which comes to the floor this week, to short-circuit the current military campaign against jihadists in Iraq and shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo).
Mr. Murtha plans to offer three amendments to the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill: One would set a 60-day timeline to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq (which will certainly help al Qaeda and the like in planning the Rwanda-ization of the country). A second Murtha amendment would implement the Pennsylvania Democrat’s “slow-bleed” strategy for ensuring a U.S. military defeat by conditioning funds for the war upon the military meeting some unattainable standards for training and equipping the troops. Should the administrate violate the strictures in an effort to reinforce besieged American soldiers or prevent genocide, we have no doubt that if the Democrats are still in the majority that they will be holding oversight hearings and issuing subpoenas to U.S. military commanders and senior Pentagon officials, summoning them to testify about “why they broke the law” by sending these soldiers to the battlefield.
Mr. Murtha’s third amendment would close the Guantanamo Bay facility. He hasn’t said precisely what he wants to do with these terrorists, but his Democratic colleagues have weighed in, including Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia (who has been perhaps the most fervent congressional advocate of shutting down Gitmo) as well as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri and Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan.
Messrs. Skelton and Conyers want to grant the detainees habeas corpus rights, permitting them to challenge their detentions in federal court. while Mr. Moran has suggested: 1) sending them back to their countries of origin (he doesn’t specify whether these people would be turned over to security services in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, or set free to rejoin their jihadist comrades on the battlefield — something that has already happened in at least 12 cases involving prisoners released from Gitmo); or 2) imprisoning them here. By arming unlawful combatants captured on the battlefield with a panoply of rights a la American criminal defendants, the Democrats are creating a perverse incentive for foreign enemies of the United States join terrorist groups and violate the laws of war — knowing that even if they behave as barbarians, they can fight everything out in U.S. courts, represented by lawyers working with groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights.
While we’re discussing new “rights” for Gitmo detainees, there’s new evidence suggesting it is false to assert that most of the men locked up there are hapless innocents or low-level functionaries who pose no real threat to American forces. A new study published by the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point concludes that between 73 and 95 percent of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners represent a threat to U.S. forces; they include veterans of terrorist training camps, al Qaeda fighters and men who have experience with explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles.
It would be unconscionable for Republicans and sane Democrats not to challenge Mr. Murtha and Company to explain why they want to grant such dangerous people expansive new legal rights.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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