There must be a lot that we still don’t know about the curious case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Surely, the Obama administration wouldn’t have dispatched National Security Adviser Susan Rice to publicly announce that Bergdahl had “served the United States with honor and distinction” if there weren’t supporting information to which the rest of us aren’t yet privy. Rice made that statement on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
There appears to be several possibilities:
Rice, or whoever briefed her, didn’t have full information on Berghdahl’s record and the accusations of misconduct.
Rice had the full information but misspoke.
There is information yet to be presented that demonstrates the accusations of misconduct about Berghdahl are unfounded or are outweighed by other factors.
Beyond Rice’s comments, more mystery surrounds the Obama administration’s decision to trade Berghdahl for five senior Taliban commanders who were in U.S. custody. Although White House officials said the negotiations had been in in the works for more than three years, it was a Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who accused the Obama administration of breaking the law by not informing Congress before the exchange.
Even a closed door briefing of the Senate Intelligence Committee didn’t change Feinstein’s assessment. Afterwards, she told reporters the committee was “very dismayed” and said that, “It comes to us with some surprise and dismay that the transfers went ahead with no consultation, totally not following law.”
The President didn’t give Congress the required 30-day notice before the swap.
President Obama continues to defend the move saying the U.S. “has a pretty sacred rule…. We don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind” on the field of battle.
But Democratic and Republican critics ask: at what price? As strongly as Americans believe in bringing home their soldiers, many don’t believe it should be done at all costs. One early survey by Rasmussen Reports shows 40 percent of likely voters agree with the decision to make the trade while 43 percent disagree. In a Fox News poll, 84 percent of voters expressed concern that making deals with terrorists will endanger more American soldiers.
The President also sparked additional debate with the idea that the exchange marks the end of a war. “This is what happens at the end of wars,” said the President, likening his actions to those of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.
“We’re not at the end of a war,” says Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “The President is floating a trial balloon. He wants to convince the public that this is the end of hostilities in Afghanistan and is trying to declare the war over so he can close Gitmo. In fact, we’re at war with Al Qaeda, its affiliates and those who provide material support. It’s not over, it’s just the beginning.”
Graham speculates that the Obama administration is attempting to treat enemy combatants being held at Guantanamo Bay as Prisoners of War to justify releasing them as U.S. troops leave Afghanistan.
“They’re not POW’s,” argues Graham. “They can be held indefinitely as enemy combatants as long as they represent a threat–and they do.”
A State Department spokesman yesterday indicated that the administration and military ought to take Bergdahl’s word for what happened the night he allegedly deserted his platoon over that of his squad.
“I’m saying we don’t know the fact pattern yet here. We don’t. Nobody knows exactly what happened that night. As the facts emerge, as he’s able to discuss them with the Department of Defense, we will see where that takes us,” said the State Department’s Stephanie Harf. “I think he’s probably the person who knows best what happened on that night.”
“I think that his squad mates might have the best indication of what happened that night,” said a reporter.
“I don’t think that that’s the case,” answered Harf.
President Obama urged reporters not to focus on the circumstances leading to Bergdahl’s captivity.
“Whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity — period, full stop. We don’t condition that,” said the President.
The military has promised a full investigation. Depending on the findings, Bergdahl could be exonerated or court-martialed.