I know Americans are torn by the Bergdahl story. Face it, given how poorly things are going, they desperately want a “feel good” story. The Bergdahl repatriation is one where you want to celebrate it, but as the facts come out, you can’t find it in yourself to do so. The guy wasn’t a POW, he deserted and sought out the enemy with the apparent desire to join them.
The administration just as desperately wanted a distraction from all it’s ongoing failures and scandals. But this story and its ending are anything but that. In fact, it stinks to high heaven.
First there’s the way it was done by the administration, which strongly supports the hypothesis that this was done in haste to change the subject and redirect the focus of the news cycle. The subject they were trying to change was their abject failure with the VA. How better to distract from that than repatriating an American soldier and rescuing him from the clutches of the Taliban? Paint him as a hero and take a bow. Let a sympathetic media take it from there.
Except this guy isn’t a hero. He wasn’t “captured”, he deliberately set out to find those who eventually grabbed him and kept him. Since 2010 the Army has determined that this guy deserted his post in time of war. But of course that didn’t stop the Baghdad Bob of this administration, Susan Rice, from heading out to the talk shows soon after the deal was made, and telling us how this deserter had served with “honor and distinction”.
What the administration hadn’t counted on was former soldiers from his unit coming forward and telling the real story. They apparently didn’t know about the 6 soldiers killed in attempts to find and rescue him. The backlash from their attempt to whitewash who this guy was has been overwhelming. And, as usual, points to a clueless administration again bungling it’s attempt at distraction.
But that’s only one part of the story. How about the trade itself? What did it accomplish?
Well for the US, another in a long line of stupid failures. Why “stupid”. Because, as usual, it was ill-conceived plan and a self-inflicted wound. We got back a PFC that deserted (yeah, I know he was promoted while in captivity, but in reality he’s a PFC) and they got this:
- A senior Taliban military commander
- Their deputy minister of intelligence
- Their army chief of staff
- Their governor of the Herat province and former interior minister
- and a senior Taliban figure and security official.
Not only that, the Taliban (aka “the enemy”) got a propaganda coup of unrivaled proportion as “NightWatch” lays it out for us:
The mainstream media have covered the increased risk of hostage-taking as the direct and foreseeable result of the hostage exchange. This was not a prisoner of war exchange.
Two points not mentioned in most mainstream commentary are noteworthy. This exchange invests Omar and his Islamic Emirate with stature that neither had when the Taliban ruled in Afghanistan. It negotiated as an equal with the US and got the better deal. That sets a precedent for potential deals with other NATO members. It is a powerful disincentive for Pakistan to rein in Omar and his cohorts.
The second point is the release of the five Taliban leaders will boost Taliban morale; help improve their organizational and fighting skills and enhance their operations. It might have a ripple effect on the now divided Pakistani Taliban.
The timing could hardly be worse for Allied forces. As NATO draws down its forces, the Taliban get an influx of experienced leaders, undermining years of effort to degrade the leadership. These were men Mullah Omar trusted in the early days of Taliban rule. He now has a seasoned core around which to build a reinvigorated administration and movement.
We, as a nation, have constantly stressed the Taliban is a terror organization. Both Democrats and Republicans. And we’ve also made it a firm rule that we don’t negotiate with them because it does exactly what NightWatch notes this has done. If the Taliban want to empty Guantanamo, they now know how to do it – capture American soldiers. The price and precedent have been set. One can imagine all sorts of scenarios where enterprising Afghans will try to kidnap American soldiers for money from the Taliban. And the Taliban will then expect to trade them for more terrorists. 5 for 1 seems to be the going rate. But with this crew, they’re likely to be able to get an even better deal.
Yes, Afghanistan, which is a deeply hostile place to our soldiers now, just got more dangerous for them. Meanwhile, troop levels will be drawn down to all time lows. Yup, nothing could go wrong with that. Thanks Mr. “Commander-in-Chief”.
I’d like to say the American people are terribly ill served by this abomination of an administration, but that’s just not the case. The majority of them have elected this boob twice. What you see is what you get. You wanted it, you got it – how do you like what you elected?
For the adults in the room who saw through this empty suit and the propaganda machine behind him from the beginning, you will also recognize the terrible damage this man and his administration have done to our national security and foreign relations. It will take decades to recover from this debacle of a White House.
And then there’s the economy, and VA, and Benghazi, and the IRS scandal and the NSA, Fast and Furious, executive orders, EPA …
When something happens in the public sphere, we never know all the details. But usually we know enough to build a plausible mental model for how it all went down. Based on the actors’ previous actions, the context, and what we know about the ideological battles at any time, we think and hope we have some level of understanding.
But then something happens that makes no sense at all. It could only happen with a level of incompetence or malice that we intuitively don’t believe is possible, even in those public figures we despise.
The Bergdahl situation fits that description for me. Here are the links directly from Drudge on the whole thing, in case you’re not up on the latest:
Reintegration: Military hides Bergdahl from public view...
FLASHBACK: 'Converted to Islam And Taught Captors Bomb Making Skills'...
NYTIMES: Left note explaining desertion before going AWOL...
Pentagon knew whereabouts but didn't risk rescue for 'deserter'...
Never Officially Listed as POW...
CHARGE: Soldiers died searching for him...
Former fed prosecutor: Release of Gitmo terrorists impeachable offense...
CHENEY: U.S. will 'pay a price'...
Freed Taliban leaders given hero's welcome...
Toobin: Obama 'Clearly Broke Law'...
Three years since consulting Congress...
FATHER: 'I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners'...
WAS HILLARY IN ON IT?
You can get the gist from the headlines. This guy has been gone five years – notice that I don’t say “missing” because the NYT says he left a note that he was deserting before he left, and apparently his location was known. He was exchanged for five Taliban leaders in Gitmo who were welcomed as heroes back home – and it looks like that was done in clear violation of the law concerning Congressional notice about such releases.
On top of all this, the Taliban said back in 2010 that Bergdahl apparently converted to Islam and collaborated with the very people his unit was fighting.
If that’s all true – and there’s no indication otherwise at this point – then the Obama administration gave five enemy leaders their freedom to retrieve a traitor who went over the enemy voluntarily and didn’t seem in any hurry to leave. There is no conceivable upside for the United States that I can see.
Now, maybe all kinds of things will come out to challenge this interpretation. We’ll wait and see.
I rather hope so. Because as it stands, this simply doesn’t make any sense.
I can think of several ways this could get through the White House, but note of them seem any more likely than any of the others. Here are the possibilities I can think of off the top of my head:
- Nobody at White House knew the details on Bergdahl because they are all incompetent boobs who don’t know how to do due diligence on anything
- Somebody at White House knew, but was afraid to say anything because Obama (or Jarrett) had declared that they wanted this to go forward
- Somebody at White House knew, and put the information in a report, but Obama and Jarrett are both too lazy to read reports closely and realize what’s important
- Everybody knew, including Obama, but he simply didn’t care because he thought it could be spun as a triumph
- Everybody knew, including Obama, and he knew the real nature of Bergdahl would get out, but Obama simply didn’t care because it was an opportunity to poke congressional Republicans in the eye
All of these assume extreme incompetence or malice or both. But I can’t think of any way a competent White House that has the best interests of the country in mind and is operating in good faith takes a decision that gives these results. I’m leaning towards extreme incompetence; in fact, I’m waiting for today’s press conference where Obama tells us he found out all this stuff about Bergdahl the same time we did through press reports, since that shtick seems to work every time he tries it.
OK, sharp and excellent QandO commenters – what am I missing here?