Yes, the Republican leadership went there. Back in 2012, when a deal to release Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American POW held by the Taliban for five years, was first on the table, Republicans reportedly described the idea as President Obama’s “Willie Horton moment.”
As you may or may not know, Willie Horton was the subject of a racially charged attack ad aired by the 1988 Bush/Quayle campaign in which a narrator described how Horton was furloughed from prison by Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis only to attack and rape a woman in Maryland. In other words, by releasing five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo and into the custody of house arrest in Qatar in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bergdahl, Obama is inviting attacks against our soldiers by the five former detainees.
Classy. If this is Obama’s “Willie Horton moment” (it’s not), we have no choice but to ask how the Republican leadership would react to President Bush’s record on Gitmo detainee recidivism and whether they’re actually aware of how comparatively bad it is.
So here we go again. The following is an overview of detainees released from Gitmo who subsequently returned to the battlefield and engaged in terrorist activities… prior to January 20, 2009.
–According to a study by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in 2012, 532 Guantanamo detainees were released prior to Inauguration Day, 2009.
–A total of 92 of those former detainees became “returnees,” that is: they returned to the battlefield to fight Americans. Using the GOP leadership’s metaphor, that’s 92 “Willie Hortons” under President Bush.
–An additional 70 former detainees are suspected of returning to the battlefield, but weren’t, as of the time of the report, confirmed as returnees.
–The total Guantanamo recidivism rate under the Bush administration was 30.5 percent. In other words, one third of all terrorist detainees released from Guantanamo re-engaged in terrorism, chiefly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
–Comparatively, as of 2011, only 67 Guantanamo detainees had been released under President Obama. Only three have been confirmed as having returned to the battlefield, along with two suspected returnees for a recidivism rate of 7.5 percent.
Who are some of these former detainees and what became of them after they were released? Based upon an unclassified May, 2009 report by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the following is a “partial list” of former detainees who “re-engaged in terrorism.” The only detainees included in this list are ones whom the DIA confirmed as returnees.
—Shah Mohammed. Repatriated: May 2003. Killed in action against American forces in Afghanistan.
—Yousef Muhammed Yaaqoub. Repatriated: May 2003. “Taliban commander in Afghanistan; Organized jailbreak in Kandahar; killed on 7 May 2004 fighting US forces.”
—Ibrahim Shafir Sen. Repatriated: November 2003. Al-Qaida leader, trainer, recruiter, weapons supplier.
—Mohammed Ismail. Repatriated: January 2004. Taliban member who participated in an assault against U.S. soldiers.
—Timur Ravilich Ishmurat. Repatriated: March 2004. Participated in the bombing of a gas line in Russia.
—Said Mohammad Alim Shah. Repatriated: March 2004. Participated in the kidnapping of Chinese engineers; responsible for the bombing of an Islamabad hotel; ordered a suicide bombing in 2007, killing 31.
—Ravil Gumarov. Repatriated: March 2004. Also involved in a gas line bombing.
—Mohammed Bin Ahmad Mizouz. Repatriated: July 2004. Recruiter, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI).
—Ibrahim Bin Shakaran. Repatriated: July 2004. Also an AQI recruiter.
—Abdallah Saleh Ali al-Ajmi. Repatriated: November 2005. Responsible for suicide bombing in Iraq.
—Abdullah Majid Al-Naimi. Repatriated: November 2005. Arrested again in 2008 for involvement in al-Qaida terror planning.
—Mazin Salih Musaid al-Alawi al-Awfi. Repatriated: July 2007. Leadership role for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
—Zahir Shah. Repatriated: November 2007. Terrorist trainer.
—Abu Sufyan al Azdi al-Shihri. Repatriated: November 2007. Leadership role in AQAP.
Again, this is a partial list of only those who were confirmed to have re-engaged in terrorist activities — 14 terrorists out of a confirmed total of 92. That’s a lot of Willie Hortons. Knowing this, how can there possibly be a reasonable case against transferring five Taliban leaders to Qatar to be held under house arrest? Like so many flimsy arguments from certain Republicans, their Willie Horton argument simply doesn’t hold up, especially because we didn’t hear the same piss and vinegar about the previous administration’s record on detainees returning to terrorism.
Now, we can debate whether the administration should’ve notified Congress 30 days in advance of the prisoner exchange. But this seems like a minor nitpick considering how, yes, an American POW is home now thanks to the deal.
By the way, it’s an American POW for whom the conservative PJ Mediacirculated a petition earlier this year demanding his immediate rescue by “all means available.” The circumstances of Sgt. Bergdahl’s release, I believe, easily qualifies under “all means available,” no? The vocal opposition to his homecoming by the likes of Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Fox News Channel, Sarah Palin and others can only be defined as completely tone-deaf.
Conservative pollster Frank Luntz nailed it when he tweeted yesterday: “Pro Tip: Attacking the actions that led to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a surefire way to lose in 2014.”
UPDATE: One of the former Gitmo detainees released under Bush is suspected in the, wait for it, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
U.S. officials suspect that a former Guantanamo Bay detainee played a role in the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and are planning to designate the group he leads as a foreign terrorist organization, according to officials familiar with the plans.
Militiamen under the command of Abu Sufian bin Qumu, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia in the Libyan city of Darnah, participated in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, U.S. officials said…
In 2007, Qumu was released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and sent to Libya, where he was detained. The Libyan government released him in 2008.