Enemy combatants held to keep them from taking up arms

Posted: Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Abdul Ghaffar, an Islamic extremist, was captured during the liberation of Afghanistan and sent to Guantanamo Bay -- where he was detained with other particularly dangerous members of the Taliban. The U.S. government, under intense legal pressure to release or charge the detainees with a crime, has been setting dozens of them free.

After Ghaffar was freed, he returned to Afghanistan and rejoined the Taliban. He became a regional commander and, according to the Afghan government, played a role in several attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces. He was making plans to disrupt the upcoming elections there when he was tracked down and killed in a fierce gun battle.

Nobody knows how many people died because Ghaffar was released, or whether any of the victims were U.S. soldiers.

This much is clear, however: There is nothing illegal or immoral about holding enemy combatants until a war is over. They need not be charged with a crime. It isn't against the law to fight in a war.

The purpose for holding them is to keep them from returning to the field and taking up arms again.

That is exactly what Ghaffar did, thanks to legal activists who put more value in the enemy's theoretical rights than the safety of U.S. soldiers in a war zone.

Another former detainee is Slimane Hadj Abderrahmane, a Danish man. When he was set loose from Guantanamo, he signed a pledge to refrain from warfare.

The man told reporters last week that his own countrymen in Iraq were legitimate targets for terrorists, and Americans could use his pledge as toilet paper because he was going to Chechnya to help terrorists kill Russians.

Perhaps the most reviled member of the Taliban still in captivity is John Walker Lindh, an American citizen who converted to Islam and helped wage war against his own country's allies in Afghanistan. Lindh was charged with a crime -- and negotiated a 20-year prison sentence. Now he is asking President Bush to commute that sentence.

Bush should refuse. Ghaffar's actions show that compassion doesn't turn the hate this nation's enemies have for America into love.

-- Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

Oct. 5

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