The American archipelago

Sunday’s New York Times featured Scott Shane’s long, long page-one story on the Islamic terrorists convicted of federal crimes and held in federal prisons. The point and purpose of the story are unclear to me, though some kind of advocacy on behalf of these terrorists is clearly in play. Somehow, I think it was written solely for Times reporter Scott Shane to render this unsubtle if evocative lead sentence suggesting the existence of some massive injustice: “It is the other Guantánamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads. Today, it houses far more men convicted in terrorism cases than the shrunken population of the prison in Cuba that has generated so much debate.” You really have to wonder, as we have occasionally over the years, if the Times’s ambivalence regarding our efforts to defend ourselves hasn’t reaches absurd depths.

Charlie Savage’s gauzy story on detainee Ali Musa Daqduq raises a similar question. Daqduq is a Hezbollah operative held by American forces in Iraq who may be released as American forces make their final exit from Iraq. According to Savage, Daqduq is “accused of helping to orchestrate a January 2007 raid by Shiite militants that resulted in the death of five American soldiers.” Savage observes that “[t]he administration is wrestling with either turning him over to the Iraqi government — as the United States did with its other wartime prisoners — or seeking a way to take him with the military as it withdraws, according to interviews with officials familiar with the deliberations.” Savage frames the story as one of American presidential politics.

If you want to understand what Daqduq did and what his release will entail, you have to turn elsewhere. Here is how David Rivkin and Charles Stimson reported on his case in the Wall Street Journal last week:

Call it the triumph of ideology over national interest and honor. Having dithered for nearly three years, the Obama administration has only a few weeks to bring to justice a Hezbollah terrorist who slaughtered five U.S. soldiers in Iraq in 2007. Unfortunately, it appears more likely that Ali Musa Daqduq will instead be transferred to Iran, to a hero’s welcome.

In the early evening of Jan. 20, 2007, in the city of Karbala, south of Baghdad, five black SUVs approached the location of a regular meeting between U.S. and Iraqi military officers. Inside the vehicles, which mimicked U.S. transports (to avoid heightened scrutiny), were a dozen individuals dressed in U.S. military uniforms and bearing U.S. weapons. Their drivers spoke English.

Upon reaching their target, the occupants opened fire on the Americans. One U.S. soldier was killed on the spot. Four others were kidnapped, tortured and executed.

The mastermind of this brutal attack? Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese national and Hezbollah commander. U.S. forces captured him in March 2007, and, in interrogation, he allegedly provided a wealth of information on Iran’s role in fomenting, training and arming Iraqi insurgents of all stripes.

With U.S. troops set to exit Iraq at the end of December, all detainees in American custody there have been transferred to the Iraqis except for Daqduq. He is set to be turned over in a matter of weeks. Based on past experience with released detainees who were in Iranian employ, U.S. officials know that Daqduq will promptly re-emerge in Iran, shaking hands with dignitaries and leading parades, before rejoining his Hezbollah colleagues.

Rivkin and Stimson’s WSJ column is of course worth reading in its entirety. Savage’s and Shane’s Times stories both kill brain cells and subtract from the sum total of human knowledge.

RELATED: Andrew McCarthy’s NRO column “Jihadist who helped kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq charged as civilian defendant.”


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