Is Ransomed U.S. Soldier Bowe Bergdahl a Deserter? UPDATED: Was Release of Taliban Prisoners Illegal?
Updated (10:30 A.M. ET): Two GOP lawmakers charge that the Obama administration violated a law requiring the White House to give Congress a month's notice before transferring or releasing Gitmo captivies. From the AP via Business Insider:
The White House said it moved as quickly as possible given the opportunity that arose to secure Bergdahl's release. Citing "these unique and exigent circumstances," the White House said a decision was made to go ahead with the transfer despite the legal requirement of 30 days advance notice to Congress.
[End of update.]
For President Barack Obama (and thus America), foreign policy in every way remains a disaster. The latest incident? In swapping five Taliban leaders for a U.S. soldier who was held prisoner in Afghanistan for five years, Obama may have just exchanged some certifiably bad guys for…a deserter from the U.S. Army. CNN's Jake Tapper explains:
The sense of pride expressed by officials of the Obama administration at the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is not shared by many of those who served with him—veterans and soldiers who call him a deserter whose "selfish act" ended up costing the lives of better men.
"I was pissed off then and I am even more so now with everything going on," said former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl's platoon when he went missing on June 30, 2009. "Bowe Bergdahldeserted during a time of war and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him."
According to first-hand accounts from soldiers in his platoon, Bergdahl, while on guard duty, shed his weapons and walked off the observation post with nothing more than a compass, a knife, water, a digital camera, and a diary.
At least six soldiers were killed in subsequent searches for Bergdahl, and many soldiers in his platoon said attacks seemed to increase against the United States in Paktika Province in the days and weeks following his disappearance.
This is all completely apart from the question of whether exchanging prisoners for prisoners is a good idea while the U.S. still has over 30,000 troops in Afghanistan (and more than 100 detainees in Gitmo). And once again, yesterday, Susan Rice—she of Benghazi talking points fame—was making spurious claims on Sunday talk shows. She emphasized that Bergdahl had been "captured" on the battlefield, which may not be exactly right. Or even at all right.
I caught a few minutes of MSNBC's Morning Joe earlier today and co-host Mika Brzezinski cautioned that whatever else we know about the five-for-one prisoner deal (which involves the Taliban going to Qatar, where they will be monitored by the government there for at least a year), we don't know everything. Which is likely accurate and besides the point: Leaving aside the Obama administration's constant invocations about its super-fantastic dedication to transparency, this White House has managed to make itself toxic to increasing swaths of the public and drive faith in its best intentions and ability to cross the street through the floor.
Here's hoping that after more than a dozen years of poorly conceived and executed wars—and declining public support for the idea of America as globocop—that official foreign policy will start to appreciate the idea that we cannot undertake large and small-scale military interventions lightly.
Related: "Guantanamo Bay in 54 Seconds":