Andrew McCarthy at the National Review points out another change in the Administration’s war on man made disasters, formerly known as the War on Terror. He is swapping live enemy prisoners — facilitators of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps operation guilty of murdering American captives — for dead hostages. These Iranian special forces raided an American base disguised as friendlies, carted away prisoners and executed them when the rescue forces were hot on their tail. They were captured by the coalition and for a moment the scales were balanced by the avengers. But retribution and victory are so yesterday. Let McCarthy take up the story.
On Jan. 20, 2007, five American soldiers were killed and three seriously wounded in Iraq. As Bill Roggio relates at the Long War Journal, it was a daring operation: a twelve-man terrorist team disguised as U.S. servicemen attacked our troops as they held a previously arranged meeting with local officials in Karbala. Four of the soldiers were alive when they were abducted from the scene. They were handcuffed and murdered in a remote location when the coalition forces attempting to rescue them closed in.
Given the sophistication of the raid and the intelligence required to pull it off, it was a virtual certainty that the mullahs’ special forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, were behind it. More than a decade earlier, in concert with Hezbollah (Iran’s forward terrorist militia), the IRGC had bombed the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 members of the United States Air Force. In Karbala, the IRGC had relied on what Michael Ledeen of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies aptly calls its “most lethal element,” the Quds (Jerusalem) Force, in combination with a burgeoning, Hezbollah-like network of local Shiite terrorists.
This was confirmed two months later when U.S. forces captured Ali Mussa Daqduq, a high-ranking veteran of Hezbollah, in Basrah. As Roggio explains, Daqduq had been tasked by Iran to organize a network of terror cells to strike coalition forces in Iraq. The network would operate under the direction of Qais Qazali. Qazali and his brother, Laith Qazali, were captured along with Daqduq.
You can guess what is coming next.
The Obama administration has not only released Laith Qazali, it has been in negotiations to release his brother, Qais Qazali, as well. The negotiations and release were carried out in flagrant disregard of the longstanding policy against exchanging prisoners for the release of hostages. Undermining that policy endangers all American troops and civilian personnel — as well as the troops and civilian personnel of our allies — by encouraging terrorists to kidnap them to use as bargaining chips.
The story of this deal with the devil traces back to May 31, 2007. At the Iraqi finance ministry in Baghdad that day, the Asaib al-Haq network kidnapped five British civilians: an information-technology expert named Peter Moore and his four contract bodyguards. The civilians pleaded for the British government to engineer their safe return. British, American, and Iraqi forces were unsuccessful in numerous rescue attempts.
Asaib al-Haq operatives told Iraqi-government officials that they would release the Brits in exchange for the Qazali brothers and Daqduq. The Bush administration refused. The Times of London has reported that the Americans gave the British request respectful consideration but declined to approve it absent an Iraqi commitment to prosecute the terrorists. The Iraqis refused. Mohammad al-Sa’ady, an adviser to Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, rationalized the decision to take no action against the murderers of Americans who died fighting for Iraqis this way: “We pointed out that Qais Qazali has a problem with the Americans. He doesn’t have a problem with us. He is not wanted for crimes against Iraqis.”
By contrast, President Obama was persuaded to free Laith Qazali outright, just as Obama previously had authorized the outright release to Britain of the al-Qaeda terrorist Binyam Mohammed, who had plotted with “dirty bomber” José Padilla to commit post-9/11 mass-murder attacks in American cities. And although the administration has attempted to pass off Laith Qazali’s release as a necessary compromise of American national interests for the purportedly greater good of Iraqi reconciliation, the camouflage is thin indeed. Transparently, the terrorist has been freed as a quid pro quo for the release of British hostages. According to the New York Times, Sami al-Askari, another Maliki mouthpiece, told an interviewer:
This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. . . . So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join in the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned.
That President Obama has exchanged a terrorist for hostages is now obvious, as should be the disastrous consequences.
But despite the goodwill gesture, the British prisoners were not released. Instead, their partners for peace released a pair of corpses. “The Asaib al-Haq network was unsatisfied; it continued to demand the release of its leader, Qais Qazali, and that of Daqduq. The terrorists did, however, release two of their British hostages, or, to be precise, their corpses: Jason Creswell of Glasgow and Jason Swindlehurst of Lancashire had been dead for weeks, perhaps longer, when their remains were turned over to the British embassy in Iraq.”
McCarthy ends with the call “where is Congress?” Under the dome of the Capitol, physically at least. It is on its face, the trade is a lopsided deal. Some will argue the release of the Qazalis is mere earnest money for some kind of Grand Bargain with Iran the administration is still working out; a prize so glittering that it will be worth all the sacrifices and goodwill gestures offered so far, could we but patiently wait for that hope and change that cooler and wiser heads than ours are pursuing. But current events have tended to cast doubt on the power of the Obama Administration to foresee events. Not to put too fine a point on it, it makes them look like a bunch of dupes for a cheap used car salesman. If the current masters of the Revolutionary Guard Corps remain in the saddle, the good news is that the deal is on; the bad news is that the deal is on with the most untrustworthy people possible.
I think it’s probable that the Administration has been had, or worse, they don’t even know they’ve been had.