Closing Guantanamo Bay was a primary campaign promise made by then-Senator Obama in 2008, and it remains a key goal of the most leftward side of the Democrat party. The President’s recent actions, taken after his re-election and when concerns about the center of the electorate need no longer constrain him, suggest that it is one of his key goals as well.

In the face of a wave of Islamist terror attacks – none of which President Obama identified as such – the President is releasing more of the terrorists who have been incarcerated at Gitmo. The latest release was of five prisoners who have been in Gitmo for either twelve or thirteen years. They are Al Khadr Abdalla Muhammed Al Yafi, Fadel Hussein Saleh Hentif, Abe Al-Rahman Abdullah Au Shabati, and Mohammed Ahmed Salam. Four will be transferred to Oman, and one will be transferred to Estonia.

Releasing prisoners following an extended lull in Islamist violence could perhaps be defended as an olive branch offered to extend a de facto cease fire. But these releases were made in the face of a spate of terror attacks, chief among them perhaps being the attack on Charlie Hebdo, involving the murder of eleven journalists for a satirical magazine that occasionally parodied known excesses and inhumane practices prevalent within Islam. Releasing prisoners in the teeth of attacks smacks of appeasement at best, and from the standpoint of simple logic, can be expected to encourage further aggression.

The rationale behind the indefinite detainment of these prisoners has been that this was simply the traditional treatment of prisoners in time of war. They are to remain incarcerated until hostilities end and peace is declared. This war of course is a bit different. It started either on 9/11 or in the 600s A.D., depending on your historical perspective, but in no event has it come to an end.

Moreover, as President Obama continues to justify additional prisoner releases on the ground that the prisoners involved are lesser malefactors, and no longer pose a threat, the rationale for maintaining the incarceration of the remaining prisoners, by all accounts the worst of the worst, actually grows stronger.

But no one expects that particular line of reasoning to emerge from the White House. What has emerged instead is a reaction to the White House by four senators, Richard Burr, Kelly Ayotte, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain, who are cosponsoring a bill that would prohibit the release of high- and medium risk detainees for two years. The bill would also place a moratorium on the release of detainees to Yemen, where al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula maintains its headquarters.

In ordinary times, legislation on this point should not be necessary. But these are not ordinary times.


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