What about Gitmo?

Now that President Bush finally has returned the unrelenting fire of his critics on Iraq, he should use hard-hitting speeches and White House white papers to address liberal bellyaching about Guantanamo.

Beyond reminding his opponents that the Gitmo boys are there for brutality they committed before they arrived, the president should explain to friends and foes at home and abroad that detainees released from Guantanamo do not always go quietly into the night.

The Pentagon knows of roughly a dozen former Gitmo detainees who did not return to the peaceful Koranic reflection from which their leftist defenders seem to believe they were sidelined. At least for some ex-Guantanamites, U.S. military custody was a mere vacation from their violence.

In late 2001, U.S. troops in Afghanistan caught Rasul Kudayev, an associate of the al Qaeda-tied Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and sent him to Guantanamo. On Feb. 28, 2004, Kudayev and six other Russian detainees were handed to the Kremlin, which freed them that June. Kudayev made headlines last month when Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel accused him of supporting an attack in Nalchik, capitol of the North Caucasus’ Kabardino-Balkariya region.

“First of all, there is his own confession and the testimony of five witnesses, who said he led the military group that assaulted the Interior Ministry’s health facility and the presidential cottage,” Shepel told Novosti news.

Kudayev claims innocence in the Oct. 13 attack, which killed at least 91 Islamic terrorists along with 35 law-enforcement officers and 12 innocent civilians.

Abdullah Mehsud returned to Pakistan in March 2004 after about two years at Guantanamo. Officials believe he leads an al Qaeda-linked group that kidnapped two Chinese engineers in October 2004. Terrorists strapped explosives to the chests of these hostages who were building a dam in disorderly South Waziristan. Pakistani commandoes freed Wang Ende, although Wang Peng died in the crossfire, along with all five abductors.

Maulvi Abdul Ghaffar was a top Taliban commander who was caught after Afghanistan’s liberation. According to Interior Minister Ali Jalali, Ghaffar spent about eight months at Guantanamo before his release and repatriation to Afghanistan in the summer of 2002. After learning that he planned to attack police, Afghan forces killed Ghaffar and two of his terrorist colleagues in Uruzgan province on Sept. 25, 2004. According to its governor, Jan Mohammad Khan, Ghaffar also attacked U.S. Special Forces troops and a Helmand district chief, killing three Afghan soldiers.

“The process of assessing detainees is difficult and involves a certain degree of risk,” says Pentagon spokesman Commander Flex Plexico. “Many detainees later identified as having returned to their terrorist activities falsely claimed to be farmers, truck drivers, cooks, small-scale merchants, or low-level combatants.”

The Pentagon says that after leaving Guantanamo, former enemy combatants killed an Afghan judge as he departed a mosque. Others have shot at U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, while even more have been killed in action there.

Some former Gitmoites have not fired their weapons again, but sound eager to do so.

“If I get a chance to fight jihad again, I will definitely go,” Khalil-ur Rahman told the Associated Press. “I will not miss it.” Rahman was sent from Guantanamo to Pakistan in fall 2004 and completely freed last June.

On the Danish government’s request, Slimane Hadj Abderrahmane was released from Guantanamo in February 2004, two years after arriving from a Pakistani terror camp. Since then, this not-so-great Dane has dismissed as “toilet paper” the no-more-terrorism contract he signed with Gitmo officials before departure.

As Henrik Bering reported in the Oct. 18, 2004, Weekly Standard, Abderrahmane said: “I identify myself as a Muslim, and I will shoot anybody who fights against the cause of Allah on the battlefield.”

To be fair, 180 detainees have been released from Guantanamo, and 76 more have been transferred to foreign countries. Most seem to have avoided trouble. Whether they have foresworn terrorism or simply evaded scrutiny is anybody’s guess. But Bushophobes should understand that America remains at war, and the boys of Guantanamo fought in this conflict. Releasing them before victory makes as much sense as freeing captured Nazis in 1944. Nobody knows how much destruction one, five, 12, or more terrorists can commit once unsupervised.

(Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Va. E-mail him at deroy.murdock(at)gmail.com.)