The men and women who served our country have made countless sacrifices ranging from multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan to giving their life for the freedoms we enjoy. To the Veteran, these sacrifices are threaded in their lives, part of their purpose, and their job; however, to the American people these are extraordinary accomplishments that can only be imagined. As this generation has transition out of the military and back into the civilian life, companies have developed hiring initiatives to help Veterans with employment, organizations and non-profits have implemented programs to help wounded Veterans, and communities have collaborated to meet Veterans’ needs.
These are all great steps to honor our military, but Veterans did not serve to receive recognition. They served to protect our country from those that threaten America’s freedoms and way of life. They understand a purpose greater than themselves and a mission aimed to protect America’s foundation. They know if our military does not go to the terrorists, the terrorists will come here to our families and homeland. Through multiple deployments and over a decade, these Veterans have witnessed the slow progress being made. They have sacrificed to ensure terrorist organizations are disabled, broken, and unable to operate. They found Saddam Hussain. They killed Osama bin Laden. And they have been responsible for the capture of hundreds of other key terrorist leaders or members.
These missions involved detailed planning, multiple rehearsals, and sometimes result in close comrades being injured or killed. The result, however, is there are less terrorists in the world to plan attacks on innocent people. Whether killed or captured, they are removed from planning, operating, or executing terrorist attacks. The pride of a successful military mission is just the same as how the local law enforcement officer feels when he/she removes a common criminal from the public. People are safer!
But our current administration and the Afghan government has only wanted to release those captured, not bringing them to trial, and undermining the hard work and dedication of our military. One of the first items of President Obama’s agenda when he took office was to close Guantanamo Bay. While it is still open, he did successfully release many of the detainees that were being held. Just this week the Afghan government announced their intention to release 88 prisoners held in the Bagram prison. This contradicts the purpose of our military and is very insulting to those that have work so hard and made ultimate sacrifices to protect the world from terrorists. Releasing them back to their operations will only start this costly cycle over again.
Many sides of the argument include human rights violations, social reform, prisoner treatment, and justification for detention. These subjective arguments cannot stand against the fact that most terrorists return to their activities after confinement. A recent study pulling data from the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) on recidivism, show 67 percent of released prisoners committed at least one serious offense within three years of being released. Additional studies show the average sentence for a convicted terrorist is less than 10 years and can be reduced by good behavior. Doing the math, a 12 year long war will begin releasing incarcerated terrorists over the next decade, many who have not been reformed.
Finally, the Washington Post reported a former Guantanamo Bay detainee is suspected to be involved in the Benghazi, Libya attack on the American compound. Clearly not reformed or rehabilitated by his prison sentence and was allowed to return to terrorist operations, he successfully killed four Americans, and is still planning the next attack.
Terrorism is not a criminal mindset. The terrorist philosophy, unlike the criminal, is to accomplish a political, religious, or ideological change violently through an individual, group, or government. Rehabilitation in prison will not work for a terrorist because they believe they are serving a greater cause. Much like our military believes in their mission and would defend their country to the death, the terrorist is the same way. Proactive counterterrorism programs, collaborative partnerships with NATO forces, and strict sanctions will reduce global terrorism. Releasing the incarcerated terrorists back to the battlefield only strengthens the organizations to which they belong.
Melissa S. Gresham is an Adjunct Instructor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a former helicopter pilot with the U.S. Army. She is also completing her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration with a specialization in Terrorism, Mediation, and Peace.