Who’s in charge at the White House? I asked myself as I watched the weird Rose Garden ceremony in which President Obama congratulated himself for trading five murderous members of the Taliban High Command for one U.S. Army deserter. In my opinion, whoever organized that highly inappropriate and embarrassing White House event should be summarily fired.
That’s highly unlikely, however, because President Obama never fires anyone, no matter how egregious their transgressions are. Remember Kathleen Sebelius? But let’s return to the strange case of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who allegedly walked off his post in Afghanistan before he was captured by the Taliban — if “capture” is the right word — and spent five years as a POW. And then our president decided to trade five dangerous Taliban military commanders for Bergdahl, followed by his Rose Garden victory lap.
That White House spectacle, during which Bergdahl’s heavily bearded father spoke Pashto, the language of the Taliban, reminded me of former President George W. Bush’s “mission accomplished” fiasco aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier during the Iraq War. In both cases the president himself, or his top advisers, were politically tone-deaf.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who blamed the Benghazi massacre on an obscure video, went on national TV again to declare that Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction.” Shortly thereafter, six members of Bergdahl’s platoon publicly denounced him for abandoning them at a remote and dangerous rural outpost in Afghanistan.
The White House is using the “no soldier left behind” argument in a feeble attempt to justify the Bergdahl-Taliban trade, but I’m not buying that weak argument. A USA Today/Pew Research Center poll last week found a plurality of Americans oppose Obama’s lopsided prisoner swap. The American public opposes the swap by a 43 – 34 margin, but military veterans – including your favorite Appeal columnist – reject it 68 – 16. In other words, the military is outraged, as well it should be.
Writing in National Review Online, Army Lt. Col. (ret.) Ralph Peters blasted the president and Ms. Rice for “trying to sell him (Bergdahl) as an American hero,” and accused them of “turning a deserter already despised by soldiers . . . into quite possibly the most-hated individual soldier in the history of our military.” Although Peters’ angry statement may be slightly over-the-top, several powerful Democrats also condemned the controversial prisoner swap.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., criticized Obama for failing to give Congress the 30-day notice required by law for prisoner swaps. Former U.S. Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey called the swap “a ghastly transaction,” adding that “it’s difficult to believe that the president actually understood the enormity of what he had done . . . when he released Taliban military leaders who have a history of close ties to al-Qaida.” Could that be because neither the president nor most of his top advisers have any military experience?
Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane opined “Obama made a fool of himself by treating Bergdahl’s return as appropriate for a Rose Garden ceremony complete with grateful parents, even though he knew ... that Bergdahl is hardly a hero.” He’s not a hero; he’s a man who should be court-martialed upon his return to the U.S. from a military hospital in Germany, where he’s undergoing a thorough psychological evaluation to determine whether he resisted the Taliban, or whether he converted to Islam and signed on as an Islamic warrior, as some reports suggest.
Sgt. Bergdahl, who returned to the U.S. on Friday, should face military justice sooner rather than later.
Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a U.S. Air Force veteran.