U.S., setting example for Israel, releases Taliban terrorists

Release the prisoners!

On 28 July, Jonathan Tobin asked, at Commentary, if the U.S. would release terrorist killers as a precondition for talks – the measure Secretary of State John Kerry was demanding of Israel.

A couple of days later, in an almost supernaturally handy turn of events, we had the answer: yes.  The U.S. did exactly that at the end of July, agreeing to release five Taliban terrorists we’ve been holding at Guantanamo, in order to jumpstart the initiative – mainly ours – for talks with the Taliban.

Daniel Greenfield points out at FrontPage that in June, the Taliban offered to exchange U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for the five Taliban at Gitmo.  The Haqqani network of the Pakistan Taliban has been holding Bergdahl since late June or early July of 2009, shortly after he went missing close to Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

But the Gitmo Five were released without an exchange for SGT Bergdahl taking place.  This will have to be a blow to his family in Idaho (not to mention a blow to Bergdahl).

It will also be another blow to U.S. credibility, already on the ropes.  It certainly dents the credibility of detention as a deterrent to terrorism.  Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, had a hilariously timed oped in Friday’s Washington Post online in which he argued that the Obama administration should declare that the “war against al Qaeda” – yes, that al Qaeda; the one that has our embassies shut down across the Muslim world this weekend – is over.  Instead of acting on a war footing and killing terrorists, says Mr. Roth, we should be going with President Obama’s own expressed preference to “detain, interrogate, and prosecute” them.

SGT Bowe Bergdahl with Taliban captor
SGT Bowe Bergdahl with Taliban captor


Now, I have been a critic myself of Obama’s overreliance on drone killings as a method.  And detention and interrogation, while important for intelligence gathering, are not methods of deterrence, nor is prosecution.  I don’t argue for them as a substitute for drone attacks.

I’m getting those points out of the way so we can focus on what matters here, which is that detention is as close to meaningless as makes no difference, if we’re just going to turn terrorists loose anyway, to everyone we might have a yen to have “talks” with.  The Obama administration, just a few days before his oped appeared, provided Kenneth Roth with a conversation-stopping answer to his proposition that we should kill less and detain more.  The answer leaves Roth in the dust:  whether we stop killing terrorists or not, we should release the ones we have detained in order to get terrorists to have talks with us.

I guess, technically, there would be a purpose for detaining a few from time to time, on the assumption that we may want to have talks with their comrades in terror in the future.  This kind of preemptive hostage-taking is gang-and-guerrilla behavior, of course.  The degrees by which the mode of thinking shifts from “responsible statesman” to “mob boss” are not subtle here. 

In any case, we can reassure Mr. Roth that the U.S. ended the war on terror in 2009.  Perhaps that’s not the same thing as the “war against al Qaeda,” but in the latter regard, Roth would do well to try and keep up:  al Qaeda has been “decimated” and has been “on the path to defeat” for a year or more, according to the Obama administration.

The die seems to be cast; we can at least hope that God really does watch out for fools, drunks, and the United States, because our president certainly isn’t doing it.  Given the reigning jumble of confused soundbites and incoherent actions that now masquerades as U.S. policy on the global threat of terrorism, we may justly ask, with our former secretary of state: what difference, at this point, does it make?

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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26 thoughts on “U.S., setting example for Israel, releases Taliban terrorists”

  1. My heresy continues.

    I know the following won’t happen. it makes too much sense, even if it is drastic. Besides, Neocon-Central will fight it tooth and nail.

    Forget Israel, she is of minimal value in the struggle against al-Qaeda. Better to keep her busy with Palestinian “peace talks”. Enlist Iran. We are going to need her and the Russkies to keep order in Afghanistan anyway, whether we admit it or not. Actually not kept ordered, but, “chaos contained within her border”. All parties have failed miserably in Afghanistan.

    Unleash the Shia Iraqis and Assad. Let them “decimate” the lunatic Sunnis al-Qaeda franchises that have conveniently concentrated between the Euphrates and the Syrian Mediterranean coast.

    Strictly restrict, control and inspect the traffic in goods and people from the MENA, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

    Deal with Hizbollah and the so-called Shia Crescent later. Chances are the Iranians will dampen the Hizbollah effect once relations are normalized with the US anyway.

    Regionally, as I’ve said before, it’s boiling down to everybody versus the lunatic Sunnis and their enablers. Makes you wonder why and who is insisting we support the wrong side of this.

    And make no mistake, we are on the wrong side of this.

    1. IMO you greatly overstate the hostility between Shia Iran and Sunni al Qaeda. Iran and Hezbollah are fighting Sunni’s in Syria primarily because the AQ and Muslim Brotherhood’s goal in trying to overthrow the Assad regime is to facilitate the creation of a Sunni jihadist State.

      Whereas Iran greatly desires to retain Syria under its control. It’s much more a case of two gangs fighting for territory than religious animosity. Iran, Hezbollah, AQ and the Muslim Brotherhood are far more in agreement as to the ‘great’ and ‘little’ Satan than they are ideologically opposed to one another.

      1. On the contrary GB. The hostility is historic, emotionally deep seated, bloody, existential, and can be exploited to further our own national interests. They do share some transient, opportunistic common interest from time to time. So did the Soviets and the West, but that didn’t change the underlying reality.

        They both may share the goal of the world wide caliphate but their differences on whose theological version of Islam is to prevail is unbridgeable IMHO.

        Even Christians and Jews are accorded more respect than apostate Shia, Bektashi, Alevi, Druze and Alawi by Hanbali Wahhabis/Salafis.

  2. The moral cowardice and the appeasement mind-set it engenders is constitutionally incapable of acting in any other manner than appeasement, surrender and collaboration.

    All the Obama administration wants is an agreement with the Taliban that allows them the ‘political cover’ to proclaim that we left Afghanistan ‘with honor’. The Taliban may even be astute enough to realize this but wish to extract their pound of flesh in revenge for the US invasion. And why not, what possible incentive do they have to cooperate? They know they’re going to win, Obama is NOT going to change his mind, it’s a done deal.

    And Obama will simply blame Bush for getting us into this mess in the first place. The cooperation and participation of the dems will of course be ignored and when republicans and conservatives point out democrat’s participation… it will not be reported.

    Domestically, fighting ‘fair’ is the right’s thing. Winning by any means necessary is the left’s thing. Internationally, America incrementally capitulating to her enemies is the left’s strategy because the left views America’s ability to resist as a far greater obstacle to the triumph of Marxism than Islam.

  3. “But the Gitmo Five were released without an exchange for SGT Bergdahl taking place.”

    Can anyone think of even one single possible theoretical excuse for this? Have we become so barbaric that we sacrifice our own to appease the barbarians? WTF!

  4. Unfortunately, GB is 100% correct about right and left and their patterns in national security (as well as domestic politics).

    jgets — the point of having power is so you don’t have to align yourself with the bad guys. The most entangling possible alliance is the one you make with a predator.

    We generally sit around being stupid about Iran, at least since 1979 (and occasionally before that, although the “Mossadegh” factor is exaggerated as a meaningful concept in today’s relations, and in fact was always oversold by people with an agenda). We do this — be stupid — because most of the time, our triangulated morals outrun the length of our sword.

    But that doesn’t mean we should correct this problem by behaving like an Asian despotism. Back the Shias so they’ll kill a lot of Sunnis? Seriously?

    I realize it’s easy to think in these terms, with POTUS effectively doing the converse right now: backing the Sunnis, which enables them to kill the Shias’ allies. But we would do well to take NO initiatives of Obama’s as the stepping-off point for future policies. He does behave like an Asian despot. That’s the world’s big problem right now.

    If we back any regional despots in the Middle East, as our principal strategy, we’ll end up having to pay “tribute” in one way or another to do business there. “Doing business” will at some point become a euphemism for “keeping our people alive against the depredations of guerrilla predators.” The fight will come to our doorstep, as it always does. We can let Shias tell us how we get to think and speak, in order to keep their favor, or we can let Sunnis do it, but one way or another, we’ll be in an expensively-purchased dhimmitude.

    Better to be strong enough to dictate terms if they cross us. We don’t need to go looking for a fight, but if they do, they should meet an iron fist and be sorry they ever looked up and thought about us.

    1. You know as well as I that distinguishing between good and bad guys in the ME depends on the prevailing winds and the time of day.

      We (U.S.) are both smart and stupid on Iran. Right now conditions point toward narrowing some of our differences with them. Whether we succeed, we shall see.

      This is harsh, but if I know two guys are trying to kill me and I find a way to keep’em busy by getting the weaker one to break the stronger one’s arm, tiring him out in the process, I do it.

      We’ve been backing regional despots since the end of WWII as part of our strategy. The tribute we pay is in lives to secure the hydrocarbon flow. The fight is already INSIDE our doorstep Optcon. Ft. Hood was a wake up call very different from 9/11.

      At this point in time, the threat is mostly Sunni in origin. Make no mistake about it. Break his arm. Now.

    2. So J.E, you don’t think that our principal strategy in the M.E. consists of but two choices; backing regional despots in the Middle East or effectively allowing the rise of jihadist, terrorist States? Which will inevitably bring “the fight to our doorstep, as it always does”?

      1. Not on the terms outlined by jgets.

        Not all despots are equal. There was never any chance Mubarak was going to foment or abet insurgency outside of Egypt’s borders, for example, and he certainly didn’t sponsor terrorism. Iran does both.

        Obviously, the Saudis are problematic in this regard; the government doesn’t directly sponsor terrorism in the way Iran does, but the fig leaf over Fatah is pretty thin, the Saudis have doubled down on cultural jihad in the last 20 years, etc.

        Other despots like the Gulf emirs and the king of Jordan are more like Mubarak.

        It’s one thing to make common cause with the non-radicalized despots in an effort to stabilize the region and ensure our options there are broad-based.

        It’s another thing to throw in with the schemes of radical despots like Iran’s mullahs. America doesn’t have a history of doing that, either before or after WWII.

        For jgets: we can tell the difference between good and bad guys in the Middle East. Most of them are moderately bad but endurable from an overall standpoint, as they are invested in stability.

        The Iranian mullahs are objectively bad, in a way no other Middle Eastern government is. They’re bad the way the Islamist terrorists are bad. Mohammed Morsi is a political aspirant of the same stripe. There will be other Muslim Brotherhood aspirants like him. Hezbollah is bad. Erdogan in Turkey is trending bad.

        Israel is a positive good in the Middle East, with Western values all that goes with them.

        In any case, a policy of encouraging locals to kill each other would be negative and destructive and could have no good effect. It always sounds clever, but it doesn’t bring about positive outcomes in practice. There’s no telling what Obama will do in the next three years, and little anyone can do to affect his behavior. But the starting point for an improved US policy has to be strengthening ourselves again.

        1. I’m in full agreement as to the spectrum of despots the ME provides and agree that radicalized despots are to be avoided. I think that when providing covert support for despots, clear boundaries are necessary with unavoidable consequences for exceeding those boundaries. The cultural and economic jihad we accept from the Saudi’s is one area that I find unacceptable. We should end it and by whatever means the Saudi’s make necessary. it is a clear and present danger to the republic.

          I fully agree that any cooperation with Iran is unwarranted and unwise, they are fanatics.

        2. We exploited the Sino-Soviet split to defeat communism. We had no qualms about that. Why we shouldn’t exploit and encourage “moderate” forces, albeit ones serving a radical Islamic Shia regime, is beyond me. We could conceivably even influence the choice of the next Supreme Leader. Mao killed tens of millions, was actively involved in the death of tens of thousands of our troops, and we struck a deal with him. Nixon shook his hand. We dealt with Gorbachev to further our aims, even if we and the Russians covertly shed each others blood for decades.

          Personally I don’t like the Iranian fanatics, the embassy seizing and hostage taking are events (among others) they will have to atone for.

          I bring these issues up intentionally. Agreeing with each other that Iran is bad, and not examining policy alternatives that further our interest, only eliminates our available options. The winners are ultimately our adversaries.

          We will not be strengthening ourselves militarily any time soon. On the contrary, our force strength is declining.

          And thanks for not throwing the heretic in the dungeon Optcon..

  5. Just to state the obvious contradiction in our policy.

    We can arm the very same GCC despot, “of every stripe”, backed Sunni terrorists, that also close our embassies. But we can’t talk to a Iranian that could, plausibly, be enlisted to counter these lunatics without us publicly threatening to starve his people, or blow him to kingdom come first.

    Very unsound state of affairs. if not absurd, or worse. So much worse that I don’t dare mention it.

    Hopefully the private discussions with the Iranians will go better. Both sides probably realize that their respective hardliners must be sidelined, somehow.

    See T. Kevin Whiteman’s last over at


  6. TOC is a dungeon-free zone, jgets. We may get zippy and zingy here, in our debates, but it’s all in good humor.

    I AM curious about one thing. Do you really think there is a possibility of private discussions between Iran and the Obama administration “going better” than things have gone recently?

    Foreign policy doesn’t operate mechanically, on autopilot. Its effectiveness is determined entirely by the nature of the national administrations involved. You take the Bush 41 administration, and it can make a particular basic policy — say, in the war on terror — achieve a detectable level of good effect, in spite of the setbacks and “friction” (in the Clausewitzian sense) that are inevitable with international relations.

    You take the Obama administration, and officially, it will modify the same basic policy on the edges. But in reality, the Obama administration becomes known for things like zero follow-through, strategic sclerosis, narcissism, unreliability, and desperation for photo ops and a favorable narrative. The same policy, modified, can’t work under those conditions.

    The Obama administration will achieve nothing useful or hopeful in national or international security. Indeed, we have great reason to be concerned about how much it would give up, for zero gain, in private discussions with Iran.

    1. The don’t make’em like the Bush 41’s anymore. We could have used that team today.

      How come I get the feeling you derive a perverse pleasure in bringing me back down to earth? 🙂

      You know I lament the fact we don’t have a stronger (and more experienced) team in place, but to try to answer your question.

      Let’s see who we are going to send up to bat on the nuclear talks first. That should tell us something. And I’m hoping for two additional things right now. The Europeans and Russians playing a constructive role, and luck. Enough luck that none of the other issues and events associated with Iran talks torpedoes the negotiations before they even get started. Then I’ll be able to give you a better indication of how I think they will turn out. At this particular moment, there is some cause for optimism on Iran.

    2. “Do you really think there is a possibility of private discussions between Iran and the Obama administration “going better” than things have gone recently?”

      Do you really think there haven’t already been talks in which the Obama administration made known their empathy for Iran’s defensive need for nukes to prevent American aggression?

      Does anyone really think that Obama cares the least bit whether Iran gets nukes? Undoubtedly, the Iranians have already assured Obama that they’ll respect his ‘strategy’ of ‘containment’, once they have nuclear capability.

      Does anyone think that the average low-information voter remembers Obama implying that al Qaeda was essentially beaten? Does anyone think that there the slightest chance that the MSM will remind voters of what Obama implied?

      Does anyone doubt that no matter what happens, Obama, the dems, the MSM and liberals will blame Bush, Republicans and those who “cling to their bibles and guns” for everything and anything that goes wrong…

      Once people have decided that ‘reality’ is whatever they wish it to be, they’ve already disconnected from reality. And people disconnected from reality don’t change their minds.

  7. The US must RE-Discover Real Politic after the empty suit, woefully in-competent, community organizer leaves office.
    The notion of weak kneed, liberal western morality meeting and ameliorating the mid east 7th century barbarians actions doesn’t seem to be working.
    I would like to say Islamic fundamentalism is not the empty suits fault.
    The turn of events in the Middle East was happening, and will continue to happen. Nothing new here.
    We should return to no morals, no touchy feely, no self reflection, foreign policy of self preservation. Our interests are our interests. Period.
    We buy what we need. We trade for what we can get. We take the rest if
    the other side won’t play ball.
    The bickering, suicidal players should be contained as effectively as possible, where possible. Not a refined approach of course. Just the right amount of return barbarity that 12th century idiots might understand.
    Our overall policy should be fracking, pipelines, and energy independence.
    The factions of the throw back totalitarian Islamic religion should receive only one message from the United States: Making a mess in your own little psychotic, ignorant, violent little Pig Pen ( I know, right ? ) is no bother. Please kill each other at will for your divergent views. If you let your stupid, backwoods, religious warfare spill over onto our interests, we will turn your corner into cinders where ever, whenever.
    I think this may be the only Ecumenical Mission Statement the barbarians may understand. They will understand the firepower. It will not correct the situation. It may contain it in a fashion.
    At least the Talking points will be easy to remember.
    The new United States. Home of the Free, Land of the Brave. Friends if you wish. No extra charge for Dead Foe Status.
    I bet the Obama library will be closed often for security precautions.

      1. Let the Russians immerse themselves in the region, please!
        The British, the Russians, we Americans, again the Russians wish to play Russian Roulette. More ammunition needed for the gullible.

        I think a warm water port may be hotter than expected.

        Waiting for Putin’s Lawrence of Arabia pics.

        1. The Russkies are gonna wade into the warm water just enough to strengthen their overall positions. Their team is not dumb enough to overextend….again.

          Although, they would LOVE to see us stuck in another ground engagement. It’ll give’em another decade’s time to narrow the gap.

          McCain already has the hook in is mouth. All he needs is the Israelis, and Saudis,(yup those same Saudis) to get their lobbying machines in high gear.

          I love DC

  8. I obviously forgot the French in Algeria and the Ottomans kicking the Malmuks, Syrians,Iraqis, etc around.
    The French have the Middle East in their own country. We have now joined the Frogs as Co-Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys.
    An open question to the class please. Is it possible the Muslim Brotherhood forgot about Obama’s birthday?

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