The Obama Watch

Catch and Release

The implications of Obama’s terrorism policy.

By 6.18.14

UPI
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President Obama justified his release of the Taliban’s top terrorists on among other curious grounds that U.S. forces could just capture them again should they pose a risk to U.S. interests and security in the future. It doesn’t seem to bother Obama that such a careless policy means burdening soldiers with the demoralizing and exceedingly dangerous task of having to fight the same enemy multiple times.

Obama considers furor over a deliberate practice of giving terrorists a fresh chance to kill Americans a contrived “controversy.” “This is what happens at the end of wars,” he casually says. Never mind that the terrorists have no intention of joining him in his deluded declaration.

For them, the war is still in its opening stages and they can’t believe their luck at facing such an accommodating foe. The Taliban has been rejoicing ever since the release, chortling that “from the hand of the enemy” it got back its most effective leaders and fighters. Whether these terrorists will return to the battlefield is not a question of if but when.

Iraq foreshadows what will happen in Afghanistan. Even as Obama was downplaying the risk of the hardened Taliban terrorists returning to the battlefield, another released terrorist was dominating the battlefield in Iraq. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who leads ISIS, the offshoot of Al Qaeda that has seized major cities in Iraq, is another beneficiary of America’s catch-and-release program. He was freed from an American detention center in 2009. Surely Obama knew that this released terrorist had returned to the battlefield when he was contemplating the release of the Taliban five. Yet that still didn’t stop him. It makes one wonder what constitutes a “mitigated” risk in his mind. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, reassures one and all that the Taliban terrorists only pose a risk to non-Americans, so there is no need for Americans to worry. She apparently thought the same of the Libyan terrorists until they torched her consulate.

“Al Qaeda is on the run,” Obama has said many times. It turns out that is on the run towards Baghdad. Now U.S. soldiers find themselves faced with the surreal possibility of having to re-fight the Iraq war after thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars squandered. One can hardly blame them for adopting an isolationist attitude. They went to great trouble to capture terrorists like al-Baghdadi in the first place. Why, they must be thinking to themselves, should we reenact this charade? Is there any reason to believe that a new undertaking would command Obama’s attention any more than the last one? Even if they did capture the same terrorists a second time, the Obama administration would probably release them again on the grounds of “unity” or national reconciliation.

So hapless is Obama’s policy that Iran now emerges as one of Baghdad’s only plausible defenders. While Obama was playing golf in Palm Springs over the weekend, ISIS picked off a few more cities. Now back in Washington, Obama has announced his plans to take decisive action, not against ISIS, but against climate change and “bigotry”: he has proposed an expansion of a Pacific Ocean marine sanctuary and announced an executive order requiring all federal contractors to bless his view of gay rights.

Islamic terrorism is a subject that leaves Obama cold. But climate change and gay rights inspire grave focus. According to his secretary of state, climate change is possibly the greatest threat America faces. “In a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” John Kerry has said. Releasing terrorists poses a risk the Obama administration is willing to entertain and tolerate, even as it argues that climate change represents far too great a risk for passivity. Obama is more certain of the danger of changing weather than that of freed jihadists.

Not that he won’t work hard in coming days to appear as if he is addressing the Iraqi crisis. The appearance of solving a problem is always more important to him than actually solving it. But whatever assistance he provides Iraq will be at once ineffectual and dangerous to American lives. He has been reduced to taking the humiliating step of having to evacuate some personnel from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, a move that makes Joe Biden’s claim not so long ago of Iraq “as one of the great achievements of this administration” even more grimly farcical.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author of No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.