White House Struggles To Distinguish Between The Islamic State and Taliban Prisoner Swaps

bergdahl150124201815-nr-dnt-harlow-sajida-al-rishawi-explainer-00001707-large-169The White House again seems to be struggling with barriers of both language and logic as many raise comparisons between the controversial Bergdahl swap and the effort this week of Jordan to swap a terrorist for one of its downed pilots with Islamic State. During a week where one of the five Taliban leaders released by the Administration has been found trying to communicate with the Taliban, the Jordanian swap has reignited the criticism of the swap for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, which violated federal law and released Taliban leaders with long and bloody records. The White House seems to be trying to argue that the Taliban are not terrorists in direct contradiction to its prior position that they are indeed terrorists. It shows the fluidity of these terms and how the government uses or withdraws designations as terrorists to suit its purposes. The familiarities between Islamic State (IS) and the Taliban appear to be something in the eye of beholder or, to quote a certain former president, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

As a refresher, the Taliban has long been viewed as terrorists, even when they were in power. They have destroyed religious sites, art, and in one of the most infamous acts in modern history, blew up the giant ancient Buddhas at Bamiyan. The United Nations and human rights groups have documented a long list of civilian massacres and bombings carried out by the Taliban. One report described “15 massacres” between 1996 and 2001. The UN estimates that the Taliban were responsible for 76% of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2009, 75% in 2010 and 80% in 2011. The Human Rights Watch estimates that “at least 669 Afghan civilians were killed in at least 350 armed attacks, most of which appear to have been intentionally launched at non-combatants.” This includes the widespread use of suicide belts. The Taliban has always had a close alliance with al Qaeda.

That record was put into sharp relief with the swap for Bergdahl with ties to terrorism including one who was the head of the Taliban army, one who had direct ties to al-Qaeda training operations, and another who was implicated by the United Nations for killing thousands of Shiite Muslims. While we have always said that we do not negotiate with terrorists, we not only negotiated for Bergdahl but gave them what they wanted.

20051114181303The Jordanian swap raised the same obvious concerns. Many have objected, for good reason, to the idea of releasing Sajida al-Rishawi, who participated with her husband in a terrorist attack on a wedding party at the luxury Radisson hotel in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Nov. 9, 2005. al-Rishawi hoped to be welcomed to paradise by walking into a wedding of 300 people enjoying a family gathering with children and murdering them in cold blood. Her husband’s bomb went off but not her bomb. It goes without saying that she is a hero to the murderous Islamic State for her effort to kill men, women, and children at a wedding.

The swap appears in part the result of pressure from Japan to secure the release of one of its citizens. In my view, such a propose swap was disgraceful. al-Rishawi is as bad as it gets as a terrorist. To yield to terrorists who engage in weekly demonstrations of beheading unarmed captives is morally wrong and practically suicidal. Just as the West is funding this terrorist organization through millions of ransom payments, the exchange of a terrorist only fuels their effort to capture and torture more Western captives.

This brings us back to the White House. When asked about the proposed swap with Islamic State, the White House was aghast. White House spokesman Eric Schultz stated “Our policy is that we don’t pay ransom, that we don’t give concessions to terrorist organizations. This is a longstanding policy that predates this administration and it’s also one that we communicated to our friends and allies across the world.”

The media understandably sought guidance on why the swap with Bergdahl was the right thing to do (despite the flagrant violation of federal law) while the swap for the pilot was not. The White House acknowledged that the Taliban are still on a terrorist list but then tried to rehabilitate the organization into something else. The White House is now referring to the Taliban as an “armed insurgency.” It notes that the Taliban are not listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization. However, they are listed as one of the “specially designated global terrorist[]” groups by the Department of the Treasury. Indeed, they have been on that list since 2002. Worse yet, the statement from the White House came in the same week that the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing three U.S. contractors.

John Earnest tried to threat the needle by explaining “They do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism, they do pursue terror attacks in an effort to try to advance their agenda.” He seems to struggle to explain what is terrorist attacks and what are attacks “akin to terrorism.” Most people view suicide belts and civilian massacres to be a bit more than “akin to terrorism.”

Earnest also note that, while the Taliban has links to al Qaeda, they “have principally been focused on Afghanistan.” However, “Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization that has aspirations that extend beyond just the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” That is diametrically opposed to the position of the Administration in claiming sweeping powers to strike targets around the world against any forces linked to al Qaeda and many who have few such links. Indeed, while referencing to the authorization to attack al Qaeda, the Administration attacked Islamic State, which was actively fighting with al Qaeda.

The spin of the White Hosue also ignores the role of the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in holding Bergdahl, a well-known terrorist group.

There are obviously arguments to make for the Bergdahl swap (though I find little compelling in the arguments that justify the violation of federal law by the White House). However, the argument must acknowledge that we negotiated with a group of hostage taking terrorists and we need to address the implications of that fact. Alternatively, if the White House now believes that the Taliban is no longer a terrorist organization, it needs to take it off its listing of such groups (a listing that subjects people to criminal charges for material support or assistance with the group). It cannot have it both ways and call it a terrorist group unless such a label is inconvenient.

Source: Wall Street Journal

37 thoughts on “White House Struggles To Distinguish Between The Islamic State and Taliban Prisoner Swaps”

  1. Of Obama will negotiate with terrorists. He just won’t negotiate with Republicans.

  2. Why are we so upset with government double-speak. This is not the first time we have seen it.

  3. Isaac, The damage Obama has done is to the Constitution. That seems to bother you little, and as I have said previously, maybe due to your Canadian roots. The next biggest damage is in foreign policy, he is clueless, feckless, and disturbingly naïve. You obsess on domestic issues. I see your cult leader just proposed spending more. Doubling down on 16 is the height of stupidity. As I have said, I would LOVE to play poker w/ Obama. The legend during the 2008 election was he was a good player. I know that’s a lie.

  4. I wish you a “very, merry unbirthday”, Isaac. You get 364 of them and Lewis Carroll would certainly find you most deserving. 😀

  5. Isaac, The first step in overcoming BDS is admitting you have it. I have the self awareness to understand the reasons for my vitriol. You are still in denial you have BDS, and that it is exacerbated every time Obama pisses on his leg.

  6. Isaac:

    One of the maniacs swapped for the deserter Bergdhal posed with a pile of human heads. It’s like swapping Jeffrey Dahmer. What good could possibly come from letting a Jeffrey Dahmer go free?

    If you have to try that hard to find a positive in something Obama did, maybe he was just plain wrong.

  7. “It notes that the Taliban are not listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization.”

    That factual statement alone encapsulates the struggles this pandering Administration has had with dealing with global crisis where it is clearly out of its depth.

    The latest issue that Obama faces is that he cannot even bring himself to name our enemy – “Islamic terrorists” or in this case “Taliban terrorists”. He recently had a summit on terrorism and the only adjective he could come up with was “extremist”. If the #1 source of terrorism around the globe was fanatical Christians, somehow I doubt the WH would have such difficulty naming the threat.

    And he’s laughably overfaced with the Bear of Russia. We just have to hang on for a couple more years and pray for a strong, trustworthy leader.

  8. Nick

    When I have a choice to play or leave and I feel I am being conned or about to be conned, I leave, or sometimes con the other person. The easiest person to con is someone trying to con you.

    However, the only choice we have is not whether or not to be conned, we are all conned 24/7; the only choice we have is whether or not we play, or vote, or discuss this stuff.

    I accepted that Obama was going to con the nation. That goes with the job. They all con us. What I look for is results and the illusion of or perhaps intelligence itself. Here Obama stands head and shoulders above his predecessor and the last two candidates he beat. The mess he inherited is well on its way to being cleaned up. He is wielding diplomacy as well as force against the thugs. He is attempting to fine tune conditions in the US to the advantage of the average American, not only the ideal of the John Wayne prototype. And he is doing all that while having been attacked, pilloried, and thwarted for almost the entire six years.

    For all the negative results, and these are at the moment allegations and projections only as things are better now than they were when he took office, imagine how much better things would be now if the Republican side had not self destructed and gone into a bunker mentality, if some of them had off contributed along the way instead of just digging in their heels and devoting themselves to ousting him. They could have taken credit for making things work better instead of going down in history as having held the country hostage in order to garner power.

    Unfortunately there are only two sides to this sideshow but the Republicans have, hands down, done more to con Americans and screw up this country than Obama, by a long, long, way.

  9. Indeed he is, Isaac. Please always remember when we discuss Obama, I voted for him in 2008. Additionally, for the 1st and last time in my life, I donated money to a politician. I have the self awareness to understand some of my vitriol is because I was conned. I don’t get conned often and when I do I hate it.

  10. Nick

    He may be an incompetent, misleading, unconstitutional, and Orwellian cult leader, but he’s our incompetent, misleading, unconstitutional, and Orwellian cult leader.

    Issac Basonkavich

  11. I’ve been up all night with a sick 6 year old watching Alice in Wonderland over and over. And I have to say, this administration does great honor to the legacy of Lewis Carroll.

    “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

    “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

    “Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”

    “‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ said Alice. ‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the cat. ‘We’re all mad here.”

    “I can’t go back to yesterday – because I was a different person then.”

    “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.”

    “Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”

    “She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it).”

    This is one they apparently overlooked:

    “Always speak the truth, think before you speak, and write it down afterwards.”

  12. “They do carry out tactics that are akin to terrorism”

    The only war they totally embrace is the War on the English Language.

  13. We have seen that Isaac is a world renowned contortionist. No President in my lifetime, has been as incompetent, misleading, and unconstitutional. Their Orwellian tactics are the symbol of their derision for the truth and the American people. It is all about the cult leader and protecting his legacy. Well folks, his legacy is toast! Stop bending over and grabbing your ankles every time this Administration lies and shreds the Constitution. “Basta” as my Italian grandmother would say.

  14. Legal and political double talk is the grease and the insulation. Unfortunately it typically represents inept handling of situations.

    Obama was wrong to exchange Bergdahl when the swap is viewed through the established doctrine of not dealing, in any way whatsoever, with terrorists. However, governments do do what they feel might advance in the long run some progress regardless of how convoluted and contradictory. Selling missiles to Iran, selling cocaine, supporting medieval dictatorships, supporting allies that are cleansing their lands of the indigenous peoples, etc. If anything positive involving the participants surfaces then the means typically give way to the end. If not then the means is usually trundled out again and again to make a political point or two. Bolshevism was the blood enemy of America only a few years before the USSR became our ally to defeat an even greater enemy. If Obama had a larger picture regarding Berghahl then it has yet to be displayed.

    It is somewhat akin to shooting ducks on a pond to catch any administration in the act of double talk, contradictions, hypocrisy, etc. There is bushwhacking and we all do it, especially to the side we don’t agree with. However, there are more important and pressing issues that could and should be the target of those who have the floor. With the upcoming elections, and there seems to always be upcoming elections, private money buying politicians-Democrat and Republican, the antithesis of our intended democracy is the most visible travesty and perhaps the most pressing. Given the political moves that have harmed the people of the United States by both parties from holding the country hostage to perceived abuses of power, perhaps some ideas on how to curtail these activities should be the focus of our representatives via necessary watchdogs. Allocation of tax dollars to facilitate reelection of certain representatives, dollars that could be better spent elsewhere, could and should be made transparent and apparent to all voters. In general, although it might just get to be too depressing, revealing just how the sausage is made might be the best tonic for what ails this decrepit and perverse system of government.

  15. http://news.yahoo.com/us-says-details-aid-afghan-army-now-secret-180956976.html

    Details of aid to Afghan army now secret: US

    Washington (AFP) – The US military will no longer divulge facts and figures about its costly effort to assist Afghan security forces, declaring the information top secret, officials said Thursday.

    The move marks an about-face for the Pentagon, which for the past six years has reported a range of data about the $65 billion program to build up the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

    The information included how US taxpayers’ money has been spent and the state of the troubled country’s police and army.

    John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), voiced disappointment with the change and said the classification of such a volume of information was “unprecedented.”

    “The decision leaves SIGAR unable to publicly report on most of the $65 billion US-taxpayer-funded efforts to build, train, equip and sustain the ANSF,” Sopko’s office said in its latest report.

  16. The White House, from the top down, is filled with adherents to a political philosophy that has long held there is only one source of evil in the world. Other injustices are tied back to colonialism/racism/sexism (all of it ties back to the WASP males) that has for years been used to excuse all sorts of behavior.

    So when true evil is found, it’s difficult to call it what it is.

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