Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Cruising the Web

More and more is coming about released POW Sgt. Bergdahl to indicate that he was a deserter who came to despise the American army and so "just walked off in the dead of night." The AP is reporting that the Pentagon concluded back in 2010 that Sgt. Bergdahl had deserted from the US military.

Tragically, we lost at least six men searching for him and then the army deceived the parents of at least one man who died during that search as to why as their son died. Time Magazine reminds us of those six men whose lives were lost searching for the deserter. And then there are the others who died because U.S. troops were stretched thin to deploy others in the search. Jake Tapper at CNN is reporting that Bergdahl's fellow soldiers were told to sign nondisclosure agreements not to talk about his disappearance and the search for him. The Washington Times is reporting that the Pentagon knew where Bergdahl was being held, but decided not to risk anyone else's lives in attempting a rescue for a man deemed a deserter.
Commanders on the ground debated whether to pull the trigger on a rescue several times in recent years, according to one of the sources, a former high-level intelligence official in Afghanistan, who said the conclusion each time was that the prospect of losing highly trained troops was too high a price to pay for rescuing a soldier who walked away from his unit before being captured by the enemy.

A second source told The Washington Times that the rescue operation plans were “high risk” and became even less attractive in recent months when officials in the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command grew convinced that the Taliban and the militant Haqqani network, whose operatives were holding Sgt. Bergdahl, were eager to cut a deal for his release.

“Joint Special Operations Command always had the rescue mission on the table and it was entirely under their ownership, but the big question centered on whether Bergdahl was somebody you risk lives for when you still have time and space to maneuver diplomatically,” said the source, a high-level congressional aide, who, like the former intelligence official, spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
In other words, it was thought better to release five Taliban members from Gitmo, five men who had blood on their hands and two of whom were wanted by the UN for war crimes than to try to risk a rescue or to just leave him in captivity. That is really skewed logic.

So how does the administration report this deal to the public? They hold a Rose Garden ceremony with Bergdahl's parents when his father tweeted just last week a message to the Taliban.
“I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners,” the tweet said, according to various screen grabs. The tweet was subsequently deleted. “God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen.”
Then they send their go-to person to the Sunday morning show when they need a lie told, Susan Rice. She told us what "a joyous day" it was that Bergdahl had been released in exchange for Taliban heavyweights. And Rice told another untruth to the American people when she said that Sgt. Bergdahl "served the United States with honor and distinction." Remember that the Pentagon had concluded back in 2010 that Bergdahl had deserted. This is what the administration considers a "joyous day"? What a view of world affairs these guys have!

Bret Stephens reminds us that, if Sgt. Bergdahl had been found after he left his base, he might have been tried in a court martial for desertion which, in time of war, could be punished with a death sentence. He would have least have gotten a prison sentence.
But wait: We are not "in time of war." We are in Time of Obama.

In Time of Obama, dereliction of duty is heroism, releasing mass murderers with American blood on their hands is a good way to start a peace process, negotiating with terrorists is not negotiating with terrorists, and exchanging senior Taliban commanders for a lone American soldier is not an incentive to take other Americans hostage but rather proof that America brings its people home.

In Time of Obama, we may get the facts about the circumstances of Sgt. Bergdahl's disappearance and captivity. But first his parents are going to get an invitation to the White House so Mr. Obama can milk the occasion for his own political purposes. First Sgt. Bergdahl will be welcomed home by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. First "senior defense officials" are going to prejudge a potential verdict by a military court because, as one such official averred, "five years is enough."

In Time of Obama it has become impossible to credit claims by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice that a prisoner exchange had to be made because Sgt. Bergdahl was in dangerously declining health.

This assertion was instantly contradicted by eyewitness accounts that the sergeant was "in good condition" when he was released by his captors. "Freed U.S. soldier Bowe Berghdal developed a love for Afghan green tea, taught his captors badminton, and even celebrated Christmas and Easter with the hardline Islamists," the AFP reported Sunday, citing a Pakistani militant commander.

In Time of Obama, the testimony of the Pakistani militants regarding Sgt. Bergdahl's health is at least as credible as anything Susan Rice has to say, on any subject, on any Sunday talk show....

We'll see. In the meantime, think of what it says about the administration's concept of honor that it considers Sgt. Bergdahl's release a point for political boasting. Consider what that says to enemies who, say what you will about them, care about honor, and suspect we have none.

For this decision to release what some are calling the "Taliban Dream Team" in exchange for a deserter, the President decided that he didn't need to follow the law and inform Congress. Just a year ago Jay Carney had assured the press that the administration would not release any Taliban from Guantanamo without informing Congress. This is what Carney said back in June, 2013,
MR. CARNEY: What I can tell you is that the main dialogue that we support is the dialogue between Afghans -- between the Taliban and the Afghan government. However, there are some issues that we would like to discuss with the Taliban directly, and this includes the safe return of Sergeant Bergdahl, who has been gone for far too long.

We continue to call for and work toward his safe and immediate release. We cannot discuss all the details of our efforts, but there should be no doubt that on a daily basis we are continuing to pursue -- using our military, intelligence and diplomatic tools -- the effort to return him home safely. And our hearts are with the Bergdahl family.

With regard to the transfer of Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, we have made -- the United States has not made the decision to do that, though we do expect the Taliban to raise this issue in our discussion, if and when those discussions happen.

As we have long said, however, we would not make any decisions about transfer of any detainees without consulting with Congress and without doing so in accordance with U.S. law.
Is it any wonder that Jay Carney wanted to leave his job?

Mary Katharine Ham ponders why the administration might have made this decision in the first place. Didn't they have a sense about the questions that their deal with the Taliban would raise?
And, this is why the White House’s decision on this Bergdahl deal becomes more perplexing by the minute. If the law-breaking— which, let’s face it, may be the least of the problems with this deal— is blatant enough to have liberal lights scolding their contemporaries for accepting this president’s lame signing-statement excuse, this is just the first and perhaps smallest in a string of very serious miscalculations about how this would play out. I’ve dispensed with analyzing this administration as if they have a plan for anything they do beyond pulling their own chestnuts out of the political fire on any given day by whatever means necessary. There is no larger strategy or or longer sight than that, for the most part.

Given that, one must assume the White House thought this deal would bring an immediate political benefit, at least by wiping out the VA story for a couple days with a feel-good returned POW story. But how could they have miscalculated so badly what the reaction would be? Did they not know all of this information about Bergdahl’s conduct? We’re finding out, especially within the military community, very serious suspicions about Bergdahl were an open secret if not common knowledge. I will not put it past this White House to be ignorant of the intelligence community’s work on Bergdahl. I won’t even put it past them to be ignorant of the openly reported strange accounts of Bergdahl’s conduct on the night of this disappearance. I’m not convinced anyone who makes a decision over there is engaged even on the minimal level necessary to glean this information. I do think it’s possible this White House could be so detached from the military community as to overestimate the extent to which everyone would fall in line with the story of the glory of bringing one of our boys home. I think it’s entirely possible they could have underestimated the anger the men who claim they were betrayed would feel at having lost some of their friends in the search for an alleged deserter now getting a Rose Garden welcome.

Surely this isn’t going the way the White House envisioned. Right?

Meanwhile, as Leslie Eastman reminds us, a former US marine who made a wrong turn and ended up in Mexico where he right away told authorities that he had guns in his car is still being held as a prisoner.

I thought the administration's approach today was not to do "stupid sh**." Their decision-making in this case seems to show that they've forgotten their own admonition.