“No” means “no” except when you’re talking to the Obama administration about prisoner exchange-when “no” could mean anything at all. Even “yes.”
Press Secretary Jay Carney was quoted in a June 21, 2013 news briefing saying that the Obama administration would make no decision on trading Guantanamo detainees for absconded American soldier Bowe Bergdahl “without consulting with Congress and without doing so in accordance with U.S. law.”
Then suddenly as a bolt from the sky, President Obama suddenly appeared, arm in arm at the White House with the mother of the absconding soldier and the bearded dad spouting prayers of thanks to the Taliban in Arabic and Pashto, to say that Bowe Bergdahl had been freed.
The president announced this apparently with the expectation of wild applause, but that’s not how it turned out. Top Democrats and Obama supporters like Senator Diane Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, were incensed that the president had kept the trade a secret from her committee. Others were angered at the unevenness of the exchange, an obvious triumph for the Taliban and an inducement to fight with new vigor.
The five released Guantanamo inmates, war criminals with a record of intentional murder and terrorizing of civilians, are the worst of the worst and were described as such by several military and intelligence review panels.
In a country less conditioned to government dissembling, Americans would not be accepting any reasons for doing exactly the opposite of what Mr. Carney said Mr. Obama would not do. Yet, the White House is now in the uncomfortable position of field testing several cover stories to forestall the congressional and public revolt that has despoiled the planned photo op.
The most fantastic of these administration excuses, that the trade became abruptly urgent due to Bergdahl’s alleged “deteriorating health condition, threatens to upstage the magic video story Hillary Clinton used to explain away the Benghazi horrors. This latest feckless attempt at rationalizing the release of senior Taliban operators is based on a so-called intelligence analysis that diagnoses Bergdahl’s health by examining and comparing videos of Bergdahl from 2011 against videos of Bergdahl in 2013.
That’s quite a medical trick, if not an outright miracle. Perhaps the rest of us should no longer bother to visit doctors when we are ailing. We could just send video selfies to the Obama administration for photographic diagnosis.
The Bergdahl affair has been a long term embarrassment for the Obama administration which wants desperately to be rid of the Afghanistan war, and any sticky problems associated with it, at any cost to troop morale and human lives.
When Bergdahl disappeared from his unit in Afghanistan, the operative phrase of officialdom was that he “walked off.” The military did an investigation, the results of which neither the public nor congress has ever seen, while the views of soldiers in Bergdahl’s former unit have, until recently, been systematically and officially repressed.
Desertion is a legal term and Bergdahl has not been charged with it. Unofficial reports say he stocked up with food and other necessities, abandoned his mission and his comrades, and soon got his wish of being hooked up with the Taliban.
The persons who should be heralded in this fiasco are not the Bergdahls, nor the president’s staff, nor the people who petitioned for this disgraceful tradeoff. The true heroes of this fiasco are the dutiful young war fighters who stayed at their bleak posts in a distant land, and in some cases, died while looking for Bergdahl.