As al-Qaeda’s “Twentieth Hijacker” Leaves Guantanamo, It’s Time to Ask Tough Questions about the War on Terror

Last week Mohammed al-Qahtani was released from the Guantanamo Bay naval base and sent back to his native Saudi Arabia, after prosecutors decided not to pursue charges against him. Qahtani is thought to have planned to join the team of terrorists that hijacked flight 93 on September 11, 2001; he was prevented from entering the U.S. by an astute immigration official. Examining the complexities of the legal case against Qahtani, Andrew C. McCarthy concludes that “the decision that he should not, and probably could not, be charged was not lightly made and was amply supported.” McCarthy then turns to broader questions about America’s war on al-Qaeda:

There are still over three dozen jihadists detained at Gitmo. They are still being held at this point only because there are well-founded concerns that they could return to anti-American terrorist activities if released. Half of them are nationals of countries, such as Yemen and Somalia, that are so unstable that it would be irrational to believe repatriated jihadists would be effectively monitored. At least seven remaining detainees will never be charged, and the way the highly erratic military commissions have gone, who knows how many of those who have been charged will ever actually be prosecuted to conclusion? And what happens to any jihadists who end up being acquitted—do we just let them go?

Qahtani’s repatriation returns tough questions to the fore: is the war over? If it is, what are we going to do about detainees who cannot be tried? And if it isn’t, when are we going to address outdated congressional authorizations of the use of military force so that the government’s power to wage war is tailored to the war as it currently exists? We need answers. It’s been over twenty years, and these questions are not going away.

Read more at National Review

More about: Al Qaeda, American law, POWs, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship