Written by Roger Aronoff
The ghosts of Benghazi are haunting the Obama administration as it attempts to gain the upper hand in the narrative concerning the swap of the American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, for five of the worst of the worst Taliban terrorists who had been held at Guantanamo Bay. While the administration first thought they would benefit politically for “leaving no man behind,” when the reality of the deal became clear, the American public didn’t like it at all. Nor should they.
The director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, Army Col. Mark Mitchell, recently told The Washington Times that one of the Taliban released, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, is a “a petty tyrant who justified his psychopathic behavior using a veneer of religion” and may not be able to easily reclaim his stature if he tries to reintegrate with the Afghani Taliban. “I have no doubt that he remains a psychopath, and he’s probably a danger to fellow Afghans,” said Mitchell.
Like Benghazi, the controversy over the swap doesn’t seem to be going away. The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) marked up a resolution condemning the President for, among other things, negotiating with terrorists and not providing Congress due notice for the transfer of the five terrorists to Qatar, who are to remain there under house arrest for a year.
Qatar is notorious for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and its propaganda channels, Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera America. And, as the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi highlighted in its Interim Report, when the U.S. decided to facilitate arms to al Qa’eda-linked terrorists in Libya, it worked with none other than Qatar. How are we supposed to trust that these five will not expand their terror network while living in Qatar? Yet the U.S. continues to expand its partnership with this country; it recently signed an $11 billion deal with Qatar for “Apache attack helicopters and Patriot and Javelin air-defense systems,” according to Reuters.
In addition, the so-called “ceasefire” deal that Secretary of State John Kerry presented to Israel—which was unanimously rejected by their cabinet—was crafted by Turkey and Qatar, two of the very few nations that support Hamas. Qatar is the home of the so-called “political leader” of Hamas, Khaled Meshal. Hamas is recognized as a terrorist group by Kerry’s own State Department, as well as by the European Union.
Some are concerned that the terrorists released in exchange for Bergdahl will ultimately return to the battlefield and harm U.S. interests, treasure and blood. The resolution marked up by the HASC “expresses that the Obama administration’s release of the five detainees has burdened unnecessarily the trust and confidence in the administration’s commitment and ability to constructively engage and work with the legislative branch, and therefore works against what is in the best interest of the people of the United States.” It was supported in a bipartisan manner at the committee level.
Others might call the resolution pure politics. The National Journal does, calling it “another front… in [Republican] efforts to publicly repudiate President Obama.” But the story of Bergdahl was cast falsely by the administration from the beginning. According to National Security Advisor Susan Rice, “He [Bowe Bergdahl] was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield,” whose health was failing, and this latter point was the reason why the President didn’t give Congress 30 days notice for the trade of Bergdahl for terrorists.
This isn’t the first, nor will it probably be the last, time that Rice has been caught lying on the Sunday talk shows. Last time, she claimed that the death of four Americans was caused by a YouTube video, which had incited a demonstration hijacked by extremists who attacked the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Libya. There was no demonstration. This was the great Benghazi lie, and Rice was prepared to perpetuate it despite receiving an email days earlier that said the State Department wasn’t yet drawing a connection between the attack and the video “Innocence of Muslims.”
In her Bergdahl-related appearance Rice was happy to cast a soldier who, at best, left under suspicious circumstances, as an American hero returning home. But the search for this deserter cost considerable American blood. “Former members of Bergdahl’s unit have taken to the airwaves and social media calling him a deserter and alleging other soldiers were actually killed searching for him,” reported CBS News. “Josh Korder, a former sergeant in Bergdahl’s unit, has the names of those soldiers tattooed on his body.”
“At this point, not a single soldier from Bergdahl's platoon has come forward to defend him or to justify his disappearance,” wrote Katie Pavlich for Town Hall.
“I told my son, ‘I helped capture that guy,’” Chris Spence, a former Special Forces communications specialist, told The Washington Times. “Now that I know Muhammad Fazl is free to return to his previous life as a terrorist, I think about all the Americans and Afghan soldiers who either died or were wounded putting these terrorists where they belong.”
How many men were killed trying to find Bergdahl? According to the men in his unit, six of whom were on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News show, all believe he deserted, and that he did not, as Rice has said, serve with “honor and distinction.” The guys who were there said that every mission for the next three months was about finding Bergdahl, and yes, some were killed. Cheryl Brandes, mother of Pfc Matthew Martinek, said on Fox News Sunday that her son was killed looking for him. Andy Andrews’ son, Lt. Darryn Andrews, died heroically, taking an RPG blast head-on to save his comrades while searching for Bergdahl. The contrast is stunning.
The Obama administration blamed Bergdahl’s poor health for the rapid swap, yet the former prisoner of war, within weeks, left the hospital and returned to active duty at a desk job, with a “sponsor,” a paycheck, back pay, and his own room in the barracks. A “reintegration” entourage followed him around as he visited local restaurants, grocery stores, the library and other sites.
The back pay for his time with the Taliban is estimated at $200,000, and he could receive another $150,000 if he is determined to be a prisoner of war, reports the UK Daily Mail.
Oft-repeated is that the military must hear Bergdahl’s side of the story before it can reach a conclusion in the case. Bergdahl was recently interviewed for nine hours by Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, at which time the former responded and waived his right to be silent, according to NBC News. NBC ran the story outlining this development while glossing over details that may have been useful for the public to know, such as why some consider Bergdahl a deserter.
According to Retired Spc. Cody Full, witnesses saw Bergdahl crawling in the reeds low on the ground, and an interpreter told them that Bergdahl was in an Afghan village looking for water and asking to talk to the Taliban. Full called it desertion, pure and simple, at a Congressional hearing and said that even if Bergdahl was to be brought home, it shouldn’t have been done with Rice’s comments that Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction.”
In a Rolling Stone piece that casts Bergdahl in a favorable light, readers glean this tidbit: “Bowe looked at his friend and made no bones about his plans,” recounts Michael Hastings. “‘If this deployment is lame,’ Bowe said, ‘I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Pakistan.’”
“I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of U.S. soldier is just the lie of fools,” Bergdahl emailed his parents in 2009, three days before he went missing. “I am sorry for everything. The horror that is America is disgusting.” According to the New York Post, his father replied with the following words: “OBEY YOUR CONSCIENCE.”
Medea Benjamin of Code Pink praised Bowe’s father, Robert Bergdahl. She quotes him as saying, “I don’t think anybody can relate to the prisoners in Guantánamo more than our family, because it’s the same thing…How could we have such a high standard of judicial process for horrible war criminals [during World War II]…and yet now we can go for 10-11 years without even having judicial process? It’s just wrong.”
Here are a few questions for President Barack Obama or Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel: How many Taliban leaders were you willing to give up for Bergdahl? How many lives were you willing to risk or sacrifice to free him? How much money would you, or did you pay to get him back? And how does his life compare to that of a military hero, who fought valiantly for our side, and never deserted, in terms of intent to get him back?
The was a bad deal all around. The administration tried offering the release of one terrorist detainee at a time. Apparently the Taliban turned it down. And two years earlier, President Obama was close to releasing the Taliban Five for nothing, except the right to claim he was once again advancing the cause of peace, this time with the Taliban. But a solid bi-partisan group in Congress said no, and President Obama went ahead and acted unilaterally. Sound familiar?
Many who favor the trade with Bergdahl urge patience and restraint, saying that since the military investigation is not complete, all the facts are not in. But others have a differing perspective. “In light of the propaganda value, I do not expect the Department of Defense to punish Bergdahl,” asserts Nathan Bradley Bethea, an officer in Bergdahl’s unit, for The Daily Beast. Given the amount of stonewalling on Benghazi, and the treatment of the Nidal Hasan case, can we really expect the government to fairly investigate this matter without first considering the optics?