There was precious outrage in some mainstream media quarters Friday over the Obama administration's pusillanimous reaction to Scotland's release of PanAm 103 bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. But what were they expecting?
Megrahi has been transferred home to Libya. The release of the Lockerbie terrorist was said to be on humanitarian grounds, because Megrahi is said to be terminally ill. The action, though, was totally discretionary on Scotland's part and could have been stopped by Britain. The Obama administration did nothing meaningful to stop it from happening. Perhaps the White House and the State Department were too embarrassed to try. In June, when they made arrangements with Bermuda's prime-minister to transfer four of the Uighur detainees (trained jihadists) from Guantanamo Bay to the tiny island, they cut the British government out of the secret negotiations — even though Britain, aside from being our closest ally, is responsible for the foreign policy and national security of Bermuda, its protectorate.
Laughably, the president is reported to have called for the terrorist to be placed under house arrest and to have "warned" Colonel Gadhafi "not to give him a hero's welcome." Here's AP's report of what happened next:
Despite the warning, thousands of young men were on hand at a Tripoli airport where al-Megrahi's plane touched down. Some threw flower petals as he stepped from the plane. . . . He was accompanied by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who was dressed in a traditional white robe and golden embroidered vest. The son pledged last year to bring al-Megrahi home and raised his hand victoriously to the crowd as he exited the plane. . . .
At home, al-Megrahi, 57, is seen as an innocent scapegoat the West used to turn this African nation into a pariah. At the airport, some wore T-shirts with his picture and waved Libyan and miniature blue-and-white Scottish flags. Libyan songs blared in the background. "It's a great day for us," 24-year-old Abdel-Aal Mansour said. "He belongs here, at home." Moammar Gadhafi lobbied hard for the return of al-Megrahi.
Megrahi, who was convicted and sentenced to 27 years' imprisonment, served eight years in prison.
By contrast, Binyam Mohammed, the accomplice of "Dirty Bomber" Jose Padilla who plotted a post-9/11 second wave of mass-murder attacks targeting American cities, is now living free (and on public assistance) in England after President Obama released him outright, without prosecution. Mohammed had previously been detained as an enemy combatant by Pres. George W. Bush.
Obama's Justice Department, meanwhile, gave a lesser-charges plea deal to Ali Saleh Kallah al-Marri, another member of al-Qaeda's second-wave plot. The deal caps Marri's potential sentence at 15 years and permits the judge to impose as little as the time Marri has already served, meaning about six years.
Consider the human context in which those decisions were made: Several high officials in the Obama Justice Department, including Attorney General Eric Holder, must be recused from participation in various terrorism matters on conflict-of-interest grounds. This is because they or their firms represented numerous terrorists in litigation against the United States over the past eight years. And the Justice Department recently hired Jennifer Daskal, a left-wing activist from Human Rights Watch, to help shape its detainee policies. She has worked in behalf of terrorist prisoners for years. To give just a thumbnail sketch, Daskal has expressed doubt about the guilt of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (arguing that we may have tortured him into admitting to the atrocities he has repeatedly bragged about committing); has lamented that one detainee, "a self-styled poet," suffered abuse in U.S. custody when he "found it was nearly impossible to write poetry anymore because the prison guards would only allow him to keep a pen or pencil in his cell for short periods of time"; and has argued on behalf of terrorist detainee Omar Khadr, who was 15 when he allegedly launched the grenade that killed U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer, because a prosecution of Khadr would violate his "rights as a child." (Next month, Khadr will be 23.)
President Obama's circle of friends includes Rashid Khalidi, a cohort of and flak for Yasser Arafat, the master terrorist responsible for two intifadas and the murder of U.S. diplomats in Sudan. It also includes the unrepentant former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
The Los Angeles Times observes that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered only muted criticism of the Megrahi release (she found it "deeply disappointing"). Mrs. Clinton was first lady when President Clinton pardoned (i.e., commuted the sentences of) 16 Puerto Rican terrorists whose organizations, including the FALN, had carried out numerous bombings in the United States. The pardons were transparently an effort to appeal to Hispanic voters in New York, where Mrs. Clinton was a candidate for the U.S. Senate. On his last day in office, moreover, Clinton also released Weather Underground terrorists Susan Rosenberg (whose 58-year sentence was thus commuted to 16 years) and Linda Sue Evans (whose 40-year sentence was thus commuted to 15 years).
In the Justice Department, pardon issues are overseen by the deputy attorney general. The DAG at the time of these Clinton commutations was Eric Holder. The Los Angeles Times adds that Holder meekly expressed regret that the interests of justice "have not been served by" Scotland's release of Megrahi.
Obviously, the fecklessness of the Obama administration in response to Scotland's release and Libya's celebration of a terrorist who murdered 270 people, including 189 Americans, is outrageous. But the Obama administration is staffed with appeasers who all but ensure outcomes of this sort. What did we think the attitude of other countries was going to be when we put these folks in charge?— National Review's Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (Encounter Books, 2008).