Why is the left defending the swap of 5 terrorists for a deserter?
I am shaking my head in wonder this morning at the manner in which some on the left seem determined to defend the administration's swap of 5 Gitmo terrorists - who shortly will be back killing Americans - for an admitted America hater and deserter.
In order to carry water for President Obama, the left has had to ignore the obvious and raise strawmen regarding Bergdahl's status, while positing fanciful theories about why the terrorists would have been freed anyway.
First, Michael Tomasky writing in the Daily Beast:
Buckle up: The right is going to try to turn the Taliban prisoner swap for ‘deserter’ Bowe Bergdahl into a Willie Horton moment for the president—and they’ll ride it to January 2017.
Why the scare quotes around the word "deserter"? The evidence is overwhelming that Sgt. Bergdahl went over the wall. Whether he defected or not is in question. Whether he collaborated with the enemy is also unknown at this point. But there is evidence galore - from Bergdahl himself - that he left his post without authorization.
Tomasky then sets up the strawman argument that we really shouldn't pay attention to criticism of the deal because the right is only using the matter to score political points against Obama:
So let’s imagine that on Saturday night, the news had emerged not that Bowe Bergdahl was being freed but that he’d been murdered by his Taliban captors. What do you suppose we’d be hearing from Republican legislators? You know exactly what: Barack Obama is the weakest president ever, this is unconscionable. Which, of course, is exactly what we’re hearing from them now that the U.S. Army sergeant, held by the Taliban since 2009, has been freed. And it’s going to get worse. I’m even tempted to say forget Benghazi—Bergdahl may well end up being the flimsy excuse for the impeachment hearings they’ve been dreaming of before all this is over.
The Republicans’ audacity here is a bit beyond the usual. Let’s face it: There is no question that if President George W. Bush or a President McCain or President Romney had secured Bergdahl’s release in exchange for five Taliban prisoners at Gitmo, Republicans would be defending the move all the way. That business about notifying Congress? They’d have a dozen excuses for it. We got our prisoner of war home, they’d all be saying. That’s what matters.
This is actually amusing. The question isn't what the reaction on the right would have been if a Republican president had been this stupid. The question is whether McCain, Romney, or Bush would have even entertained the notion of a 5 terrorist for one deserter swap in the first place. The military is outraged over the swap - something a GOP Commander in Chief would have known almost instinctively.
And no, the reaction among many Republicans - far more than the number of Democrats today who are speaking against the deal - would have been equally harsh. Tomasky doesn't know jack about conservatives if he thinks a sizable number of them would have let a President Romney skate on this deal.
Then there's the canard that the 5 terrorists were going to be released anyway so we might as well have gotten something for them.
When wars end, prisoners taken custody must be released. These five Guantanamo detainees were almost all members of the Taliban, according to the biographies of the five detainees that the Afghan Analysts Network compiled in 2012. None were facing charges in either military or civilian courts for their actions. It remains an open question whether the end of U.S. involvement in the armed conflict in Afghanistan requires that all Guantanamo detainees must be released. But there is no doubt that Taliban detainees captured in Afghanistan must be released because the armed conflict against the Taliban will be over.
Sgt. Bergdahl was a U.S. soldier captured in an active zone of combat. The circumstances of his capture make him a Prisoner of War, not a hostage as some have erroneously claimed. In traditional conflicts, both sides would release their prisoners at the conclusion of hostilities. This is not a traditional conflict, however, and the Obama administration rightly had no expectation that Sgt. Bergdahl would have been released when U.S. forces redeployed out of Afghanistan. As that date neared, any leverage the United States possessed would have been severely undermined.
Conservative critics, however, are stuck fighting the political fights of the last decade and refuse to appreciate the cunning maneuvers that secured the release of the lone American soldier taken prisoner in Afghanistan at little risk to the security of the United States.
Cunning? Yes, I'm sure the administration negotiators are legends in their own minds.
And if the war was going to end soon anyway and all those Taliban released, why negotiate at all? The fact is, the administration has trumped up some health issues for Sgt. Bergdahl to defend the indefensible; their refusal to inform Congress as required by law that the release of five terrorists from Guantanamo was being effected. The supposed bad health of Bergdahl is also being cited as a reason for the haste in concluding the negotiations. Seemingly desperate to remove Bergdahl from the clutches of the Taliban because his life was in imminent danger, the exchange of 5 dangerous terrorists who are being celebrated in Pakistan as heroes and where Taliban spokesman has said they will rejoin the battle soon., was justified by "exigent" circumstances.
Baloney. As is the claim by Susan Rice that Bergdahl served with " honor and distinction." Or that his service was "honorable," as Jay Carney claims. Freeing an American from thte clutches of terrorists is fine. We should support the notion that Bergdahl has to come home, deserter or not. But is this really the best deal we could have gotten? Really?
Finally, the next president of the United States - as declared by the media - Hillary Clinton, weighs in:
“This young man, whatever the circumstances, was an American citizen — is an American citizen — was serving in our military,” Clinton said in response to a question about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, whose release was announced Saturday.
“The idea that you really care for your own citizens and particularly those in uniform, I think is a very noble one.”
It certainly is, Hillary. Another noble idea is that the Commander in Chief is responsible for all US soldiers and that releasing these 5 cold blooded killers puts other American military personnel in danger. It is also noble that at least 6 soldiers died trying to find and rescue someone who may or may not have wanted to be rescued at the time. But if you read the left's straw man arguments, excuses, and attacks on the right, you note that the six dead soldiers are mentioned in passing - or not at all.
Finally, I include this passage from Tomasky's screed only because it demonstrates an obliviousness to the facts that only someone besotted with partisanship would write:
He wandered away from his unit. A Fox News commentator called him a “deserter.” He is officially in good standing in the Army and has even received the promotions due him during his time in captivity, but some consider him a deserter and traitor. Get ready to start hearing more of that.
"He wandered away from his unit" but he may not be a deserter? What does Tomasky think he was at the point he wandered away? A tourist?
Tomasky is right about one thing. He and his friends on the left are going to be hearing a lot more about this apparently illegal prisoner exchange. And the American people will make their own judgment about it.