Welcome back, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Members of the Taliban handed over the only U.S. service member known to be held hostage in Afghanistan on Saturday morning in exchange for five Afghan detainees. The deal, which the Obama administration has been pursuing for several years, was brokered by the government of Qatar. “Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield,” President Obama said in a statement, after he delivered the news to the soldier’s parents. “And as we find relief in Bowe’s recovery, our thoughts and prayers are with those other Americans whose release we continue to pursue.” According to a senior Defense Department official, when Bergdahl was safely aboard a helicopter, he wrote the letters “SF?” on a paper plate, meaning “special forces?” A team member responded, “Yes. We’ve been looking for you for a long time,” at which point Bergdahl broke down in tears.
Not everyone is happy about how this deal happened. House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mi) went on CNN to blast the Obama Administration for dealing with the Taliban.
“I’m extremely troubled that the United States negotiated with terrorists and agreed to swap five senior Taliban leaders who are responsible for the deaths of many Americans. This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages.”
“Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk.”
And of course John McCain had something to say.
“These particular individuals are hardened terrorists who have the blood of Americans and countless Afghans on their hands. I am eager to learn what precise steps are being taken to ensure that these vicious and violent Taliban extremists never return to the fight against the United States and our partners or engage in any activities that can threaten the prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan.”
Apparently the Obama Administration didn’t tell “senior Afghanistan officials” of the impending exchange and the New York Times reports the president may have done an end run around Congress which explains why Republicans are fuming so.
That, and of course they can’t abide the thought the Kenyan Socialist with no birth certificate has done it again. If Obama walked on water, laid hands on the blind and lame and they could see and walk while feeding the masses with only some bread and fish, the Fox News headline would be “Obama Still Talkin’ that Income Inequality Crap, Can’t Swim.”
By now even Obama knows there is nothing he can do Republicans will give him any credit for and it is futile to go looking for any.
If Bergdahl’s release reminds the many there is a price only a few of us are paying for fighting this forgotten war and most of us don’t have to share in that cost that alone makes the deal worth it. There’s been a lot of discussion about the current mess at the Veterans Administration that cost former General Eric Shinseki his job and not enough on how the system is being overwhelmed by the influx of new patients from the Iraq and decade-old Afghanistan wars.
The best way to avoid these sort of situations and the resultant schisms that come from them are not to play at war anymore and particularly not when you’re not going to go all-out to win. Haven’t we learned from Viet Nam what happens when the United States goes to war in places the American people don’t really want to be for reasons they don’t understand?
A lot of people die and not much of anything comes from it.
Prediction: Republicans will give Obama an earful for a week or so, but after their hissy-fit passes most Americans will give the president credit for not leaving Sgt. Bergdahl in the hands of the Taliban than worry about the five prisoners he was exchanged for.
Personally, I would have traded every prisoner at Gitmo to get one American soldier out. Set ’em free now and kill ’em all later if you must, but leave no man behind. Even one as problematic as Bergdahl.