Iraq "could be one of the great achievements of (the Obama) administration," Vice President Joe Biden told CNN's Larry King Feb. 10.
This statement was fascinating, on at least three levels.
First, it's a breathtaking lie. What turned around the situation in Iraq was the troop surge President Bush ordered in January, 2007. Then Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden strenuously opposed it.
Second, it assumes the American people are idiots. It's not exactly a secret that Sens. Obama and Biden opposed the troop surge. They spoke about it often. There are plenty of television news clips attesting to this.
Third, it indicates that after a year in office the Obama administration is so hard up for "accomplishments" that it feels compelled to claim credit for the leading accomplishment of its much maligned predecessor.
A caveat. This was Joe Biden speaking.
"I felt like I was watching 'Alice in Wonderland,'" retired Army LtCol. Ralph Peters, an intelligence officer turned columnist, said of the Biden CNN interview. "Joe Biden, he's a decent guy, but he's all gunpowder, no bullets. He's like the crazy uncle in the family that sits around the holiday dinner table and always says something wacky and the rest of the family just rolls their eyes and keeps eating, you gotta kinda treat it like that."
But the next day White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs essentially repeated the claim, so it isn't just Slow Joe running off at the mouth again. The skeptical response to Mr. Gibbs from the normally sycophantic White House press corps indicates this will be a hard sell.
The vice president wasn't the only Obama administration official saying wild things last week. Speaking at the Islamic Center at New York University Saturday, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan noted the Pentagon thinks 20 percent of those who have been released from the prison at Guantanamo Bay have gone back to terrorism, but dismissed this as inconsequential.
"You know the American penal system, the recidivism rate is up to about 50 percent or so, as far as return to crime. Twenty percent isn't that bad," Mr. Brennan said.
Mr. Brennan didn't say that those who've been released from Gitmo so far were those who were considered least likely to return to terrorism. As harder core terrorists are released, the recidivism rate will go up.
But the more important point is that if the terrorists weren't released, the recidivism rate would be zero.
A terrorist poses a far greater threat to society than does a pickpocket or a burglar. And while ordinary criminals serve specific sentences and must be released at the end of them, under the laws of war, enemy combatants lawful and unlawful may be held indefinitely. We are under neither legal nor moral obligation to release terrorists before the war on terror is over.
What is driving the release of terrorists is President Obama's political determination to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The administration plans to send back to Yemen the failed state where crotch bomber Umar Abdulmutallab trained most of the 90 Yemenis still in our custody. At least a dozen Yemenis released earlier have returned to terrorism, the London Times said Jan. 5.
The president's insistence on closing Gitmo strikes many as odd, since in a Gallup poll in December, more than twice as many respondents (30-64) opposed closing the prison as supported it.
Mr. Obama wants to move about 100 prisoners to the Thomson prison in Illinois, at a cost to taxpayers of about $100 million. But a Rasmussen poll in December indicated 51 percent of Illinois residents oppose the plan, and only 39 percent support it.
Legislation's been introduced to deny the president the funds to make the move to Thomson. But in the most delicious of ironies, the death blow to Mr. Obama's scheme may come from the prisoners at Gitmo themselves.
Marc Falcoff, an attorney who represents some of the Yemeni detainees, told Newsweek in January his clients might sue to remain in Cuba, where the climate is more pleasant than in Illinois, and where they are treated according to the Geneva Convention rules, rather than the harsher conditions that prevail at "supermax" prisons.
"As far as our clients are concerned, it's probably preferable for them to remain at Guantanamo," Mr. Falcoff told Newsweek's Michael Isikoff.