And if some had begun to think, after the killing of Osama bin Laden, that we could now sit back and relax a little, the recent arrest in Kentucky of two foreign fighters who have openly admitted to conducting attacks against U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq shows how mistaken a notion this is.
The director of the Central Intelligence Agency stated in an open hearing on Capitol Hill last week that about 1,000 members of Al Qaeda in Iraq continue to fight us in Iraq. And now we know that at least two of them have left the battlefield there to live right here in the United States.
The case of Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi shows us that terrorists continue to pose an imminent threat. And we owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who made sure they couldn’t inflict more harm on Americans here or abroad once they arrived here.
That said, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of Kentuckians, including me, would like to know why two men who either killed or plotted to kill U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq aren’t sitting in a jail cell in Guantanamo right now. When it comes to enemy combatants, our top priority — as I have said repeatedly — should be to capture, detain, and interrogate. That wasn’t done here.
These men are foreign fighters — unlawful enemy combatants who should be treated as such.
Alwan is on tape admitting to have procured explosives and missiles in Iraq and to using them daily to conduct strikes. He said he had personally used Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, hundreds of times over a period of several years. He’s talked about using them against U.S. troops and the damage he’s done to U.S. military vehicles, like Humvees. He told undercover agents he was, `very good with a sniper rifle,’ and, in a reference to attacks on U.S. troops, he said his `lunch and dinner would be an American.’
He admits that he `collected everything — TNT, electronic detonators, tank explosive detonators, IED detonators, mortar shells, and rocket propelled grenades.’ He also said that he `often placed IEDs after curfew, and that it was this activity that led to his being asked to formally join the Mujahidin’ He even tried to demonstrate his expertise as a foreign fighter by `drawing diagrams of four types of IEDs, explaining how to build them, and discussing various occasions in which he used these devices against U.S. troops in Iraq.’ In describing one particular type of IED, Alwan said, `that anything lethal could be stuffed in it, such as ball bearings, nails, gravel, and whatever item that kills.’ Alwan’s fingerprints have also allegedly been found on IED’s in Iraq in an area where he’s known to have lived.
Once Alwan made his way to the U.S., he’s alleged to have recruited Hammadi to continue his fight against Americans in Iraq by burrowing himself in a community where he thought he would go undetected. Like Alwan, Hammadi was an experienced insurgent fighter in Iraq. He too had participated in IED attacks and was part of an insurgent group that had 11 surface-to-air missiles.
Together, these two men organized shipments of money and weapons, including rocket grenade launchers, Stinger missiles, and C4 explosives that they thought they were sending back to the war zone in Iraq.
Anyone who has taken up arms against U.S. forces in the field of battle is an enemy combatant pure and simple, and should be treated like one. They should be hunted and captured, detained and interrogated, and tried away from civilian populations according to the laws of war.
Unfortunately, since the earliest days of this administration when the President signed a series of executive orders which directed the closing of the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and limited the ability of the military and intelligence community to detain and interrogate prisoners, a higher priority has been placed upon prosecution than on executing the War on Terror.
But I can say with certainty that Kentuckians don’t want foreign fighters who’ve bragged about killing and maiming U.S. soldiers in a combat theater treated like common criminals in their own backyards.
They don’t want foreign fighters to be afforded all the legal rights and privileges of U.S. citizens.
They don’t want foreign fighters to have their interrogations curtailed. And they don’t want their fellow citizens subjected to the risk of reprisal that is associated with these kinds of cases — reprisals against civilian judges, jurors, and the broader community in which civilian trials are held. That was one of the many reasons that residents and lawmakers in New York City rebelled against the administration’s equally foolhardy plan to try Khaleid Sheikh Mohammed in a courtroom in New York.
And that’s to say nothing of the security costs and the disruption that civilian trials for terrorists create.
We have first-hand experience of this from the 2006 murder trial of Zacarious Moussaoui in Alexandria, Virginia.
Despite all this, however, the administration seems fixated on the idea that once we’ve caught terrorists, the goal isn’t to get as much intelligence out of them as quickly as possible to prevent further attacks on soldiers and citizens, but to prove that we can treat them the same way we treat everybody else.
Well, my response is that maybe we can.
But why in the world would we want to?
The administration likes to tout its confidence in the U.S. legal system. Well, I don’t believe the American people need to try enemy combatants in our towns and cities to prove that our court system works.
Our goal is to capture or kill those who want to kill us here and abroad and who are plotting even now — as this case clearly proves — to wreak havoc on our troops overseas. This is very simple: those we capture should be interrogated and, if necessary, indefinitely detained and tried in a military setting. Through these interrogations additional intelligence can be derived that leads to additional targets thereby weakening Al Qaeda and other associated terror groups at a moment when they are vulnerable.
The good news is, we already have the perfect solution for a case like this. These men don’t belong in a courtroom in Kentucky. They belong at the secure detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, far away from U.S. civilians.
Sending them to Gitmo is the only way to ensure that they will not enjoy all the rights and privileges of U.S. citizens.
Sending them to Gitmo is the only way we can be certain there won’t be retaliatory attacks in Kentucky.
Sending them to Gitmo is the only way we can prevent Kentuckians from having to cover the cost and having to deal with the disturbances and disruptions that would come with a civilian trial.
So today I’m calling on the administration to change course — and get these men out of Kentucky.
Send them to Guantanamo where they belong.
Get these terrorists out of the civilian system — and out of our backyards.
And give them the justice they deserve.