Barack Obama took great offense to the notion that he would negotiate with terrorists, and blasted George Bush for implying that he would when Bush spoke to the Israeli Knesset in May 2008. According to Andy McCarthy at National Review, that policy too has an expiration date. McCarthy exposes a tawdry hostages-for-terrorists trade that a degree of separation can’t hide (h/t Geoff A):
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.
In the wake of Laith Qazali’s release, 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. As the U.K.’s Independent recounted, the bodies had been “taken from an Iraqi government building in the centre of the Iraqi capital by men in police uniform, past army checkpoints and a second security screen into Sadr City, the base of Shia militias, all signs, say the men’s families, of official collusion.”
The cardinal rule, and until now the official policy of the US, is clear: We do not negotiate with terrorists. To do so only encourages more terrorism and makes civilians more vulnerable, as their value increases as hostages. It also gives more credibility to the terrorists and places them at the level of nation-states in diplomacy, which allows them to attract recruits.
And, as we see here, it also doesn’t work. It doesn’t moderate terrorists, and it doesn’t satisfy their demands. As the Israelis keep discovering, it usually results in the exchange of live terrorists for the corpses of the innocent. It ensures more corpses down the road as well.
Will Obama explain this change in US policy that allowed hostage exchanges, so that Americans can evaluate it openly and honestly? Don’t hold your breath.