Bergdahl: an Obama scandal in less than 48 hours
As one of the characters in “Anchorman” observed of its bloody brawl between news teams: Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.
Two days after President Obama broke the law to arrange an insanely reckless swap of five incredibly dangerous Taliban terrorists for captive American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, virtually every aspect of the deal has blown up in Obama’s face, and the whole thing has soured into another five-star scandal for an Administration riddled with them. Maybe it’s the accumulated weight of Obama fatigue, or the sheer stupidity and arrogance the President displayed in this particular abuse of power, but even people who stood by him through Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and the IRS scandal are asking: What the hell was he thinking? What did the White House think was going to happen here?
I think the Administration’s crucial error was expecting the military to shut up and let them write the story. That didn’t happen. Troops who served with Bergdahl have been speaking out, and they’re not mincing words. They’re especially angry about the lives lost in search missions conducted after Bergdahl walked away from his post. “I was pissed of then, and I am even more so now with everything going on,” former Sgt. Matt Vierkant told CNN. “Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war, and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him.”
“Any of us would have died for him while he was with us, and then for him to just leave us like that, it was a very big betrayal,” said former Sgt. Josh Korder, who CNN notes “has the names of three soldiers who died while searching for Bergdahl tattooed on his back.”
The wife of Army Master Sergeant Mark Allen, wounded in the search for Bergdahl and no longer able to speak, called Bergdahl a “traitor” on her Facebook page. The mother of 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews told the Army Times, “It gets really hurtful when I think, this guy was worth my son’s life? My son who was patriotic? Who was a true soldier? Who defended his country with his life? This guy was worth that? I don’t think so.”
Another soldier who was involved in the search, Nathan Bradley Bethea, wrote a column for the Daily Beast in which he declared, “He is safe, and now it is time to speak the truth. And that truth is: Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unite died trying to track him down.” Bethea, along with some of the soldiers interviewed by CNN, say they were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements against disclosing information about Bergdahl’s capture or the rescue efforts… a highly unusual measure that the Examiner recalls was also employed after Benghazi.
An image of six soldiers who died searching for Bergdahl has been spreading across the Internet like wildfire:
Fox News reports the Pentagon is “reviewing” claims that all six of these men died during efforts to rescue Bergdahl, but it’s supposedly “impossible” to “confirm right now whether anybody’s death was directly linked to the hunt.” Really? There’s no way to instantly look up the details of the missions these six men died on, and confirm that one of the mission objectives involved rescuing Sgt. Bergdahl? Insulting the intelligence of the American people is only going to enrage them more – particularly the loved ones of the troops injured and killed on these missions, as quoted above – and it makes Team Obama’s incompetence swell to epic proportions. It never occurred to any of the teenagers who run this White House to do a little research in advance on the man they were proposing to trade five deadly terror masterminds for?
As Senator Ted Cruz pointed out, the lives lost in capturing the five Taliban officers who were traded for Bergdahl should also be added to the total. Cruz also said military force could have been used to rescue the captive American without giving up those Taliban leaders… a claim bolstered by new information pouring out of the Pentagon, as you’ll see in a moment.
As I said earlier, the Obamanoids clearly assumed the entire U.S. military apparatus would roll over for them and help sell their preferred political narrative. They didn’t bother with a lot of hard thinking about how difficult that narrative might be to sustain.
Twitchy reports that a White House petition drive to punish Bergdahl for desertion is under way. Not much chance of that, folks. It would end the Obama presidency, assuming some of the terrorists he just released haven’t pulled off fatal attacks on Americans and ended it already.
The White House narrative that Bergdahl was captured on the battlefield and served with distinction – lies peddled by none other than Benghazi mouthpiece Susan Rice on the Sunday shows – has completely collapsed. Literally no one believes that… inconveniently including the Pentagon, which the Washington Times reports has considered Bergdahl a deserter for years:
The Pentagon on several occasions had ground-level intelligence on where ArmySgt. Bowe Bergdahl was being held captive at various times — down to how many gunmen were guarding him — but special operations commanders repeatedly shelved rescue missions because they didn’t want to risk casualties for a man they believed to be a “deserter,” sources familiar with the mission plans said.
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.
In more recent times, special operations commanders apparently knew where Bergdahl was being held, but did not seek approval for a rescue mission because they knew a deal to obtain his release was under way. They wanted a much better deal than the ludicrous arrangement Obama struck, which special-ops officers were reportedly “appalled” by:
The aide said military officials in Afghanistan spent recent months pushing for a stronger deal than was ultimately struck, but were “superseded” by the White House and State Department. The aide would not comment on what the parameters of a “stronger” deal may have looked like, beyond saying they would have involved the Pakistani government.
The former intelligence official who spoke with The Times corroborated that assertion but declined to offer further details, saying only that the deal turned out the way it did because “the administration wanted to close the door on this no matter what the price was.”
Separately, the former official said, “Military commanders were loath to risk their people to save this guy. They were loath to pick him up and because of that hesitancy, we wind up trading five Taliban guys for him.
“The mentality was, ‘We’re not going to lose more of our own guys on this,” the former official said.
A Pentagon source quoted in the Washington Times piece says “I know for a fact that we lost soldiers looking for him,” which is going to make today’s absurd claims that the Pentagon can’t confirm or deny those fatalities blow up in the Administration’s face, just like every other aspect of this story has.
According to a bombshell report by James Rosen at Fox News, many in the intelligence community “harbor serious outstanding concerns not only that Bergdahl may have been a deserter but that he may have been an active collaborator with the enemy,” and have compiled a “major classified file” on him.
Bergdahl’s own writings are becoming public knowledge, and they sure don’t make trading five Taliban masterminds for his release look like a better deal. From the UK Daily Mail:
He buried himself in books about Zen meditation, the writings of Aristotle and a book called Three Cups Of Tea, about a crusade to educate girls in Afghanistan. He told a friend that if their first tour of duty in Afghanistan was ‘lame’, he was going to ‘walk off into the mountains of Pakistan’.
Members of his unit, part of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, say his manner became odder when they reached eastern Afghanistan’s remote Paktika region. ‘He spent more time with the Afghans than he did with his platoon,’ said a comrade.
He told some of them he wanted to walk to India. His father admitted to military investigators that his son became ‘psychologically isolated’.
In letters and emails home, Bergdahl made his disillusionment clear. ‘I feel ashamed to even be American,’ he wrote. ‘The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.’
In an uncanny echo of [the television series] Homeland, Bergdahl was particularly affected by seeing an Afghan child fatally run over by a U.S. armoured vehicle.
‘We don’t even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armoured trucks,’ he complained in a final email sent three days before he disappeared. ‘I am sorry for everything. The horror that is America is disgusting.’
The Daily Mail mentions Taliban claims that Bergdahl had thrown in with his captors and was teaching them “how to make bombs and set ambushes,” claims which are probably addressed in that big classified file James Rosen wrote about. I certainly wouldn’t take anything the Taliban says at face value. I also wouldn’t spring five of their top commanders from Gitmo.
The accumulated weight of these revelations – combined with the illegal means Obama used to make the deal, criticized as such by a growing number of legal analysts, including liberals Jonathan Turley and Jeffrey Toobin – and the harrowing danger represented by releasing those five terrorist big shots, have combined to make this a “perfect storm” scandal for the Administration… whose ham-fisted efforts at spin control are making things worse by the hour. They doubled down by pushing false narratives about Bergdahl that have only served to infuriate critics. Obama, apparently under the delusion that his media allies have erased Benghazi from the public mind, is trying to make tough-guy statements about how he’ll leave no one behind… the last remnants of his original political strategy, which involved setting a bear trap for Republicans by making a crazy illegal deal, and slandering them as unpatriotic and unconcerned about the welfare of American troops when they objected.
And when the slimeballs Obama released claim their next victims, the other shoe is really going to drop. The best reason to hope they won’t reappear in the Afghan theater any time soon is that the Taliban wants to keep Barack Obama in office, and they know a massive terror attack featuring any of guys they just got back from him would finish him off. That isn’t stopping them from doing touchdown shuffles all over their benighted land, celebrating their victory over Obama, and the way the White House has legitimized them as a valid government by striking this deal with them. From NBC News:
The Afghan Taliban are celebrating the release of their five top commanders — who were swapped in exchange for American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after being held in Guantanamo Bay for 12 years — serving their guests with sweets and goats cooked in rice.
“This is a historic moment for us. Today our enemy (for the) first time officially recognized our status. I can’t explain how our people are happy and excited over this unbelievable achievement. Today we reached our destination,” a senior member of the Afghan Taliban told NBC News exclusively from a hideout in Afghanistan.
[…] He said the release of the top five commanders was great news that spread like wildfire among their fighters.
“Our leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, after a long time, heard a very good news. He is so happy and anxiously waiting to see his senior commanders,” the Taliban commander said.
Omar on Sunday released a rare statement calling the prisoner exchange a “great victory” for the Taliban.
According to the commander who spoke to NBC News, the release of Mulla Fazal Akhund, Noorullah Noori, Abdul Haq Waseeq, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Mohammad Nabi will boost the morale of their fighters.
“Once we confirmed the arrival of our five heroes back in Qatar, celebrations started everywhere in Afghanistan and the neighboring Pakistan. It’s nonstop. The guests were first served with sweets and green tea but now there are official celebrations on behalf of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (official name for the Afghan Taliban),” he said.
Back in the United States, hearings on the newest Obama scandal already been announced by the House Armed Services Committee, and there is word the Senate may follow suit. It is good to have any missing American home… but it matters if the President’s actions in securing his release were legal, what price was paid for him, and how he became a captive in the first place. Evidently Team Obama thought all of those considerations were either irrelevant, or bait for the political bear trap they were trying to set for Republicans. If one of Obama’s objectives was to knock the VA scandal out of the news… mission accomplished, I guess.
Update: And this isn’t just an Obama scandal, as Benghazi Clinton has now become directly involved. Jake Tapper of CNN wonders if Obama was briefing her about the Bergdahl swap, getting their political narratives in harmony, even as he was breaking the law to avoid notifying Congress.
Update: It occurs to me that one reason this scandal is turning into a mushroom cloud so quickly is that all of the Obama talking points were written to cast objections as nothing but ankle-biting from Republicans… but military personnel and their families have been among the first and strongest critics. That leaves Obama’s talking-points robots dispensing obsolete political snipes that hit the military community like insulting slaps to the face, sound irrelevant to those who have tough questions about the wisdom of letting those Gitmo detainees go, and pique the interest of reporters who can clearly see the Administration’s stories don’t line up. The White House is down to having arguments with itself, in public, about whether the Taliban are terrorists or a legitimate government. Even torpid media sharks who prefer not to bite Barack Obama can’t doze off when there’s this much blood in the water.
Update: What could make this story even worse for Obama? If this afternoon’s rumor that Bergdahl renounced his American citizenship holds up, it should do the trick. Here’s the relevant passage from the report at Fox News:
“Yes, I do believe he deserted, without a doubt in my mind,” Cody Full told Megyn Kelly Monday. “He did not serve the United States with honor. We all took an oath — he violated his oath when he deserted us and put other Americans in jeopardy.”
Sources who had debriefed two former members of Bergdahl’s unit told Fox News Bergdahl left behind a note the night he left base in which he expressed disillusionment with the Army and being an American and suggested that he wanted to renounce his American citizenship and go find the Taliban. U.S. military officials would not confirm the existence of the letter, but if it does exist, it would likely be part of the original file on the investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance.
Some of Bergdahl’s activities prior to his disappearance, including reportedly mailing his gear home, indicated premeditation, according to Full, a 25-year-old former infantryman now living in Houston. It bothers them that a soldier they believe betrayed his comrades, possibly leading to their deaths in subsequent rescue efforts, could be seen as a hero.
“I just don’t want to see him hailed as a hero and I just want him to face the consequences of his own actions and possibly face court-martial for desertion,” Gerald Sutton, a 31-year-old Michigan college student who left the military in 2012 after serving with Bergdahl in Afghanistan, told Kelly.
Update: Here’s an example of what I meant about Democrat talking-points robots going right off the rails, because their White House-issued talking points assumed the blowback would be a political story about Republican politicians grousing, rather than members of the military community: Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) saying on Twitter, “Really sad to watch Obama haters attack this kid who CHOSE to fight to protect the rest of us, just to score political points.”
Murphy’s like the lone Japanese soldier still holding out on an island in the Sixties because he thought World War 2 never ended. Jim Geraghty at National Review does a good job of explaining how just about every word in his Tweet is either dishonest or painfully stupid.
Update: Think Obama’s hit rock bottom yet? There’s no way this story could get any worse for him? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the released Taliban prisoners: “I’m glad to get rid of these five people.” Assuming you’re reasonably sane, that whooshing noise you just heard was the air leaving your lungs.
Update: The Bergdahl scandal might have just gone nuclear, as Jake Tapper at CNN interviews Sgt. Evan Buetow, the leader of Bergdahl’s team in Afghanistan… who says intercepted radio chatter from shortly after Bergdahl’s disappearance had him attempting to make contact with the Taliban. “I heard it straight from the interpreter’s lips as he heard it over the radio,” Buetow said. “There’s a lot more to this story than a soldier walking away.”
The Secretary of the Army has announced a “comprehensive, coordinated review” of Bergdahl’s case, which seems like the sort of thing that should have been done before we traded five high-ranking Taliban officers for him. The pressure exerted on military officials by the Obama White House to make sure that comprehensive, coordinated review comes out the “right” way will be enormous. But what if it doesn’t, and Bergdahl is confirmed as a deserter, or maybe even a traitor? This is starting to look like an existential crisis for the Democrat Party. There’s no way endangered 2014 candidates can distance themselves from Obama by merely tut-tutting his poor judgment and lackluster respect for the rule of law, not if the worst suspicions about Bergdahl are confirmed.