Terrorism Trials & Investigations

Daqduq Transferred to Iraq

By Robert Chesney
Friday, December 16, 2011, 3:37 PM

Oh my.  Ali Mussa Daqduq, a Hezbollah agent held by the U.S. military for many years in Iraq and believed to have been responsible for an episode involving the capture, torture, and murder of a group of U.S. soldiers, has been transferred to Iraqi custody.   I've commented on him many times recently (see, e.g., here).  He was the very last detainee held by the U.S. military in Iraq, and his fate has lately become a flashpoint for controversy.  This decision will stir that pot greatly, though much will depend on whether the Iraqis actually pursue and obtain a conviction and a substantial sentence.

According to Charlie Savage's account at the Times, the administration had concluded that a military commission would indeed be appropriate for Daqduq, and they were prepared to pursue that option on a military base somewhere within the U.S.  That strikes me as a perfectly reasonable option, the best available in the circumstances, and one that frankly ought to have been pursued many years ago at a time when this outcome was foreseeable yet we still had more discretion to actually effectuate a transfer.  Of course, there was a lot of pressure from some in Congress to do it at GTMO instead.  But the location wasn't the deal killer here.  What was?  It appears the Maliki administration simply refused to agree to the removal of Daqduq.  And so this situation turns out to be somewhat like the matter of extending the troop presence.  There will be fierce condemnations of the administration for not somehow getting the deal done, and equally fierce insistence that everything plausible was attempted but to no avail.

Charlie's article indicates that the Iraqis have in fact promised to prosecute Daqduq, and it may well be that in the end they pull it off, get a conviction, and execute or at least imprison him for a very, very long time.  That strikes me as unlikely, though not impossible.  Should Daqduq ever walk free, in any event, it will be a great shame.

For further background: those who are interested in getting a better grasp on how we evolved over time from the conventional detention operations accompanying the invasion phase of the war, through to the hybrid detention-or-prosecution system of the middle period, and on to the transfer-to-Iraq-only phase of the post-2008 period, might want to read my article on the topic.