Ordered Liberty

Pardon Parade: Anti-American Spies and Terrorists

(AP photo)

There is so much outrage over President Obama’s commutation of the 35-year espionage sentence imposed on treasonous American soldier Bradley Manning (aka “Chelsea”), that his commutation last night of unrepentant terrorist Oscar Lopez-Rivera is just beginning to attract attention.

Lopez-Rivera is a FALN leader who was serving a combined 70 years in prison sentences for the Puerto Rican communist organization’s terrorist war against the United States and his multiple attempts to escape from custody.

The FALN carried out 130 attacks in the United States. Beyond the damage done, they resulted in six murders, including a lunch-hour bombing at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan in January 1975, as recounted by Joe Connor, whose father was one of four men killed in the attack.

As Joe related in a Townhall column last year:

Before his arrest in May 1981, Lopez had been personally involved in numerous bombing and incendiary attacks, was a prime recruiter for members of the FALN, and was a key trainer in bombing, sabotage and other techniques of guerrilla warfare. A cooperating witness testified at his trial that Lopez taught him how to make bomb detonation devices and gun silencers. After Lopez’s capture, in his residence the FBI found a large quantity of dynamite and blasting caps.

Lopez was convicted of numerous violent felonies, including possession of an unregistered firearm, conspiracy to transport explosives with the intent to kill and injure people and to destroy government buildings and property, and aiding and abetting travel in interstate commerce to carry out arson.

And imprisonment was not the end to Lopez’s criminal activity. While in Leavenworth Penitentiary, he masterminded two plots to break out of prison, the second of which involved forcing a helicopter pilot to land in the prison yard, with grenades, rifle fire, and explosives to be used to deter guards from taking action to prevent the escape.

Lopez further instructed his compatriots to murder the seller of the weapons and equipment if he didn’t give them a fair price.

Naturally, Lopez-Rivera, like the FALN in general, became a cause célèbre on the left.

As Ronald Kolb explains at National Review, then-deputy attorney general Eric Holder helped President Bill Clinton engineer pardons/commutations for several of the terrorists in 1999 in hope of bolstering Hillary Clinton’s bid for a Senate seat in New York, which has a large Puerto Rican population. Lopez-Rivera did not get the pardon back then — not that Clinton didn’t try. He alone refused to sign a statement expressing remorse for his atrocities; plus, Lopez-Rivera balked at the suggestion that, even if given a pass on the remainder of his 55-year terrorism sentence, he should serve out more of his 15-year attempted escape sentence (for a plot which, of course, had contemplated murdering federal prison guards).

So, despite the zeal of the Clintons, Holder, and other leftists like Bernie Sanders — who, Joe Connor notes, urged the release of this “political prisoner” during a campaign appearance in Puerto Rico — Lopez-Rivera remained in a federal penitentiary until Obama’s final hours. Now, he is to be sprung.

“Political prisoner.” Why does the anti-American left insist on maintaining that anti-American terrorists are “political prisoners,” or “insurgents,” or engaged in “resistance” — anything but what they are, anti-American terrorists?

A couple of years ago, I tried to grapple with this question. At the time, the Obama administration was busily telling the world that the Taliban — a jihadist terrorist organization that gave al-Qaeda safe haven to attack the United States (including on 9/11) and with which we have been at war since 2001 — is not really a terrorist organization … it’s a mere “insurgent” group engaged in a domestic political dispute (translation: it wants to retake Afghanistan, re-impose sharia, and reestablish a base of operations for the global jihad). Obama, of course, was pleading with the jihadists to come to the negotiation table (that’s why he traded five of its commanders previously held at Guantanamo Bay for the deserter Bowe Bergdahl), so he needed to pretend they were not terrorists … so that he could continue pretending that he was not negotiating with terrorists.

I posited:

This business of distinguishing “insurgents” from “terrorists” is nonsense. An insurgency is just a domestic uprising (in the sense that the insurgent is from the country in which he is rebelling). When insurgents use terrorist tactics they are domestic terrorists. It may make Obama feel better to say that his pal Bill Ayers was an “insurgent,” but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a terrorist.

The most disturbing facet of the “insurgent” canard is that Obama is buying the logic of such Islamic supremacists as the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They claim that Hamas and Hezbollah are not terrorist organizations (as American law designates them to be) but domestic political organizations that engage not in terrorism but in “resistance” — a righteous fight against “injustice” and “occupation” in their homelands.

Obama, of course, is not approving of the Taliban’s tactics and goals. But he wants you to see them as domestic insurgents because progressives believe insurgents should be negotiated with and brought into a political settlement — and to the extent insurgents go overboard in their aggression, progressives believe they should be prosecuted in the civilian justice system, not fought militarily like wartime enemies.

In the United States, Obama is operating in a political environment where the public — based on longstanding prudential American policy — believes we should not negotiate with terrorists because that encourages and legitimizes their savage methods. Similarly, the public strongly believes international terrorists are enemies who must be defeated, not defendants who must be indicted. Obama knows he is negotiating with, intends to settle with, and eventually will leave Afghanistan to the tender mercies of, the Taliban. Therefore, the administration is desperate that you not look at the Taliban as terrorists.

But they are terrorists.

And so is Oscar Lopez-Rivera.

Yet Democrats have lauded him, the last two Democratic administrations have abased themselves by negotiating with him, and now Obama has freed him.