How the Left is Spinning Surrender to the Taliban

Salon editor Elias Isquith takes right-wingnuts to task in his latest piece, objectively titled “Wingnuts’ war on the troops: The ugly lesson of Bowe Bergdahl and Sarah Palin.”

The article is riddled with false assertions and insanely muddled logic bent to satisfy a preferred apologist agenda, the most ridiculous example I’ve seen since David Sirota’s “Gee, I hope the Boston Bomber’s a White Guy and Not a Muslim” article from last April which, incidentally, also graced the e-leaves at Salon.  But it’s yet another example exposing the extent to which entrenched media figures will commit to impossible mental somersaults to defend against the indefensible.

Isquith chastises Sarah Palin for her Facebook post which argues, “You blew it again, Barack Obama, by negotiating away any leverage against the bad guys.”   

“Their argument, in brief,” writes Isquith, obviously referring to Palin and those dim enough to entertain her points of criticism, is that “[b]y agreeing to trade prisoners of war with the Taliban, Obama made the US look – what else? – weak.” 

I, for one, am impressed at the boldness in such a statement being made to convey the stupidity of those on the contrary side of his argument.  Imagine the egotism it takes to think that typing such a short tongue-in-cheek quip would upend decades (at least) of conventional wisdom so sound that it had heretofore been considered unmovable US foreign policy.  Consider for a moment -- had the words “the Taliban” been replaced in the previous citation with “terrorists,” only a fringe ideologue could suggest that such an action would not make the US look weak for capitulating to demands requiring the release of five enemy officials for one friendly soldier, in an obviously lopsided exchange.     

So what gives?  Is Isquith making the argument that the Taliban is not a terrorist group?  If he is making that argument, it can only be because a) he is so irretrievably disconnected from reality that his writings are akin to the ravings of a loon, or b) President Obama supported the legitimization of the Taliban last summer in an equally fallacious foreign policy endeavor, and its legitimacy is therefore beyond question. 

Let’s assume, for the moment, that it’s simply the latter explanation.  And let’s cast aside the more ridiculous of his assertions in the piece, such as his claim that conservatives see American soldiers as “legends and gods” rather than “individuals,” despite the VA scandal which proves that this administration sees American soldiers as “numbers” rather than individuals deserving of the healthcare benefits that they have earned, and whose quality of life may be determined by a panel of government bureaucrats.  No fault of the administration there, of course.

But here’s an indisputable fact that obviously didn’t factor into Isquith’s ideological diatribe.  The Taliban has never openly committed to a cessation of hostilities against Americans, much less made any admission of defeat.  When Obama extended the olive branch and supported legitimization of the Taliban last year, its officials burned the olive branch and strapped on the suicide vest, as I noted at the time:

The Taliban craves legitimacy – something terrorist groups have, until recently, been prudently denied by the civilized world.  But what has the Taliban done to earn an offer from the United States to grant it legitimacy?  The Taliban hasn’t offered a cessation of hostilities or the slightest change in political orientation to further any kind of “peace,” nor has Barack Obama’s naïve offer compelled them to do so.  As a senior Taliban official reminds the world, “peace negotiations will have no impact on the Taliban’s deadly campaign.”

So here’s what happened.  Obama said he was willing to open a legitimate Taliban office in Qatar for peace talks, but his conditions were that the Taliban would have to “accept an Afghan constitution that renounces ties to al-Qaeda, ends violence, and is committed to the protection of women and minorities in the country.”  The Taliban responded by saying, in a nutshell, “We don’t care what your conditions are, nor do we care what comes of your proposed peace talks.  Nothing will stop us from trying to kill you.”

So if the argument is that the Taliban is not a terrorist group or that negotiation with the Taliban equates to civilized dialogue between two parties desiring peaceful coexistence, Isquith and his cohorts are, at best, guilty of egregious incoherence about the nature of global terror, to say nothing of his incoherence about Islamic terror which specifically prescribes no avenues for peace short of global Islamic hegemony via jihad -- which the Taliban, in particular, vocally espouses.

So when a year later, Obama circumvents Congress in an unlawful act to “negotiate” the release of five high level Taliban captives for one US soldier, it certainly makes the US look weak.  A sane person would see it that way, or, at the very least, would raise an eyebrow and ask questions, rather than commit to Pavlovian defense of the president’s actions.

And then there’s the elephant in the room: Bowe Bergdahl and his alleged affinity to our Islamic terrorist enemies and his alleged hatred of his country which interjected itself into Afghanistan’s Islamic and homogenous way of life.  

According to many of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers, his was an act of willful desertion, not a “capture” in the sense we would typically imagine.  Beyond that, there’s the other, more incriminating bugaboo in the reports that he allegedly aided the enemy to kill American soldiers.

Isquith has a gymnastic floor routine to answer those allegations as well, complete with a back-three-and-a-half twist:

As you might expect with any Palin story, there are some issues.  For one, whether Bergdahl found himself under Taliban control by bad luck, as the administration claims, or because he decided to abandon his post is up for debate. (And keep in mind that, even if he had deserted, that hardly makes it ethical for the government to abandon him to his captors.)

What is obvious is that he buys the administration’s “claim” wholesale, and equally obvious is that he will offer no consideration to a contrary claim beyond it being “up for debate.”  But what if the administration’s claim is wrong, and the many people who, you know, knew him and fought alongside him are right?  All that journalistic integrity fluff about seeking the truth at all costs, do these charges not warrant examination of perspectives beyond those of the head of state?

According to CNN (via Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch):

Former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow was the team leader with Bowe Bergdahl the night he disappeared.

“Bergdahl is a deserter, not a hero,” says Buetow.  “He needs to answer for what he did.”

Within days of his disappearance, says Buetow, teams monitoring radio chatter and cell phone communications intercepted an alarming message: The American is in Yahya Khel (a village two miles away).  He’s looking for someone who speaks English so he can talk to the Taliban.

“I heard it straight from the interpreter’s lips as we heard it over the radio,” said Buetow.


Many soldiers in Bergdahl’s platoon said attacks seemed to increase against the United States in the Paktika province in the days and weeks following his disappearance. 

“Following his disappearance, IEDs started going off directly under the trucks.  They were getting perfect hits every time.  Their ambushes were very calculated, very methodical,” said Buetow.

We should not pronounce Bergdahl’s guilt, here or anywhere else, until we have confirmation of that fact.  But we can say that these charges, coupled with the Obama administration’s willful renouncement of the policy to not negotiate with terrorists, not to mention his circumvention of a law which he signed, is troubling to say the least, and worthy of the most diligent and honest inspection to discern accountability -- the guilty should be  punished in accordance with the law, and that is prudent.  As for my criticism of the inept manner in which this administration has handled our surrender to the Taliban (can we call what the Obama administration has done in the past year anything else?), it is warranted and justified in both the scope of history and in modern context.

That is not the raving of a right-wing loon.  That is the reasonable observation and assessment of an ordinary American citizen. And if our supposedly non-partisan journalists interested in the truth were so inclined, they would spur an inquiry for truth which would be supported by the vast majority of Americans -- not just the “wingnuts” whom the left is so quick to condescendingly scold in lieu of making a genuine argument.

William Sullivan blogs at and can be followed on Twitter.  He can be emailed here.