It’s now clear that despite escalating jihadi attacks and threats worldwide, nothing will dissuade President Obama from releasing or bringing in some of the world’s most vicious Islamic killers.
Within 24 hours of the Islamic State attacks in Paris last November, Mr. Obama released five Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United Arab Emirates. The timing, optics and dangerous reality of a terrorist release coming immediately after mass slaughter committed by their fellow jihadis-in-arms did not concern him.
After all, he’s done it before. Just a week after the jihadi massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January, he released five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo to Qatar, where they stayed in “luxurious” confinement until their release one year later.
And who could forget his infamous exchange of five top Taliban commanders for the alleged deserter, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, in May 2014? Or the more recent example of Ibrahim al-Qosi, released from Guantanamo in 2012 and currently running al Qaeda’s franchise in Yemen? Just last week, he released 10 more Yemenis to Oman.
Mr. Obama’s own director of national intelligence has estimated the recidivism rate for Guantanamo detainees at roughly 30 percent. Once freed, they re-establish communications with their fellow combatants and then plan, plot, inspire and arm them. In fact, former detainees are treated as jihadi “rock stars” who outlasted the American infidels.
None of this matters to Mr. Obama, who has accelerated his plan to close Guantanamo. Given that his rabid leftist ideology guides his every move, even those that directly imperil American national security, this isn’t a surprise.
On his first full day as president, Mr. Obama issued an executive order demanding the immediate closure of Guantanamo, which he and his fellow leftists had argued was a blight on the rule of law and a terrorist recruitment bonanza. Never mind that al Qaeda jihadis hit America on Sept. 11, 2001, before Guantanamo existed as a prison. Never mind that the terrorist suspects held there are foreign enemy combatants who are not entitled to the full panoply of U.S. legal rights and privileges and that the Supreme Court had held that they could be held “indefinitely” until the end of the war. Never mind that they already have legal representation and due process through the right to federal court review. Never mind that they have three full meals a day, religious services and state-of-the-art medical services, all under the watchful eye of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Never mind that the United States itself is a jihadi recruitment tool — which will become even more magnified once detainees are transferred to U.S. soil.
Under Mr. Obama, military tribunals, which had been in use since Revolutionary War times and held constitutional by the Supreme Court, were to be ended, with some military trials — such as that of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — stopped after they had already begun. Mr. Obama originally wanted terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo to be matriculated into civilian criminal courts.
Mr. Obama and the left expected that the enemy (as well as the rest of world) would view this as humility when, in fact, it displayed a haughty arrogance that only inflamed anti-Americanism. The “we’re better than they are and we’ll show them through our judicial system” attitude did nothing but reinforce our enemies’ belief that America was as arrogant and deserving of violent attack as ever. It also telegraphed to the enemy a sign of weakness that we weren’t interested in pursuing ultimate victory. Hence, the rise of the Islamic State and expansion of Islamism.
Bringing top al Qaeda terrorists to New York to stand trial near ground zero may have satisfied Mr. Obama’s leftist fantasy of showing the world that we’re “better” than the terrorists, but the policy was advanced without a plan, a comprehensive new legal structure to deal with the detainees, or political support, including from many Democrats.
In the end, Mr. Obama kept Guantanamo open and operational, although he hasn’t ordered a single terrorist suspect sent there since he became president. It’s easier to kill them on the battlefield without due process than have to deal with the messiness of interrogation and detention.
Mr. Obama now intends to return to his original plan: release all but about 59 of the most incorrigible jihadis, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who will be transferred to supermax federal prisons in the United States. Further, as national security expert K.T. McFarland has suggested, once it’s emptied, he’s also likely to turn the base over to his new friends, the Castros of Cuba. This could have been one of the main drivers for his rapprochement with Cuba in the first place. If President Carter can give away the Panama Canal, Mr. Obama can give away another vital strategic asset, this one just 90 miles offshore.
He will close Guantanamo, even if it means replenishing the terrorist ranks, endangering the American people, and aiding and abetting the enemy. After all, his quarrel with Islamism is secondary to his quarrel with American power.
• Monica Crowley is editor of online opinion at The Washington Times.