Bergdahl was dying, the Taliban Five will behave themselves, and other myths
As we await the traditional Friday afternoon news dump, in which the Administration attempts to quietly secrete news it would rather not have the public discussing on a work day, let’s check in with President Obama’s spin team and see how their latest Bowe Bergdahl story is holding up. Only rascally Republicans doubt the official line that he was in severely poor health, or under threat of execution, and needed immediate rescue – leaving our heroic President no time to obey the law and consult with Congress – right? From Politico today:
Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said she has not seen any evidence that the Taliban would have killed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl if details of an agreement had leaked, contrary to what Obama administration officials have said.
When asked whether there was a “credible threat” on Bergdahl’s life if word had gotten out, the California Democrat responded: “No, I don’t think there was a credible threat, but I don’t know. I have no information that there was.”
Whoops! So much for the insane fourth (or was it fifth?) story they trotted out, the claim that Obama was taking orders from the Taliban, who instructed him not to inform Congress, or else they’d kill their only hostage and leave their five top commanders to rot in Gitmo. The second (or was it third?) storyline they floated, about Bergdahl wasting away in captivity, seems like it crumbled to dust a thousand years ago. In fact, some who have seen the “proof of life” video filmed by the Taliban last December – notably including Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), a medical doctor – think Bergdahl was more likely drugged than suffering from maladies that necessitated his immediate recovery at all costs.
So we’ve got Democrats like Feinstein joining in with Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to accuse the Administration of lying. Rubio has been prominent among congressional representatives who can’t help noticing the stuff Administration officials tell them in private sessions doesn’t line up with what they’re saying in public about the Bergdahl affair. It’s a breach of trust that has further strained the already tense relationship between President Obama and branch of government he finds increasingly superfluous, now that he’s not a member of it any more. (Think he might re-discover his appreciation for the prerogatives of Congress if his wife ends up serving in the Senate under a Republican president?)
A new point of contention is the report filed by intelligence consultants who claimed Sgt. Bergdahl had fully thrown in with his captors, at least for a time, and was not only a convert to Islam, but declared himself a holy warrior, was permitted to carry firearms. There are many questions to be asked about this report, which relies heavily on second- and third-hand reports, but as Sen. Rubio put it: “Clearly, if this happens to be true, we’ve got a very serious problem with the Administration misleading members of Congress.”
But at least all the Democrat power players are on board with the release of those five Taliban honchos, right? Allow the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to introduce you to the latest member of the Republican Scandal Machine, who I offer a hearty welcome as a recently-inducted member myself:
A former top adviser to President Obama on Wednesday questioned the release of dangerous terrorists in exchange for an imprisoned American soldier as anger spread among lawmakers in Washington over the secret deal to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
“I don’t fault the administration for wanting to get him back. I do question whether the conditions are in place to make sure these terrorists don’t go back into battle,” former CIA director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a gas industry gathering in Pittsburgh.
Panetta, who was in the Cabinet for four of the five years Bergdahl spent in Taliban custody, said he opposed a swap for the terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when he was Defense secretary.
“I said, ‘Wait, I have an obligation under the law,’” Panetta said during a lunchtime address at the Hart Energy Developing Unconventionals DUG East conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. “If I send prisoners from Guantanamo, they have to guarantee they don’t go back to the battlefield. I had serious concerns.”
He said talks fell apart because the Taliban “asked for five top guys.” He did not say when during his 2011-13 tenure in the Pentagon that discussions took place.
“I just assumed it was never going to happen,” Panetta said.
Surprise, Mr. P! No doubt he wishes he was still a member of Obama’s team, so he could have spent the day apologizing to congressional Democrats for keeping them in the dark, as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, chief of staff Denis McDonough, and senior adviser John Podesta reportedly spent the last few days doing.
How are the five released Taliban leaders getting along? Well, according to a Fox News report filed by Amy Kellogg, the “Dream Team” is living a “life of luxury,” which makes it sound like terrific opportunity for a Big Brother-style reality show has been missed:
Reporting from Doha, Kellogg said it’s unclear exactly where the men are living, but they are not allowed to leave Qatar for one year. The only other restriction on them is that they’re not allowed to fundraise or get involved in political activities. At the end of the one year, they’ll be free to go back to Afghanistan.
Qatar’s foreign minister has said that taking in the detainees was a humanitarian gesture. As for the country’s track record, it lost track of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was there in 1996. Another Gitmo detainee was released to Qatar in 2008 and escaped to London, where he was arrested.
Smashing! Well, at least these guys will probably behave themselves better than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. (Say, if Obama’s serious about recovering all prisoners at any price without any conditions, what’s to prevent the Taliban or Haqqanis from grabbing another American and demanding KSM in trade? I sure hope that’s just meaningless blather the President pumps out to give his faithful followers some talking points to hang on to.) We can count on the Taliban Five to behave themselves, can’t we, NBC News?
One of the five Taliban leaders freed from Guantanamo Bay in return for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release has pledged to return to fight Americans in Afghanistan, according to a fellow militant and a relative.
“After arriving in Qatar, Noorullah Noori kept insisting he would go to Afghanistan and fight American forces there,” a Taliban commander told NBC News via telephone from Afghanistan.
Noori pushed to return to Afghanistan after learning that the U.S. had provided written assurances that no country would arrest any of the five freed for a year as long as they lived peacefully, one of his relatives told NBC News by telephone from Afghanistan.
Not to worry, because the Taliban assures us the poor dear “heroes” are suffering from a variety of “mental issues” from their grueling captivity at the hands of the sinister Americans, and won’t be getting involved with any operational business until they’ve fully recovered. And the Taliban wouldn’t lie about something like that.
As with the Benghazi scandal, the truth of the Bergdahl affair is fairly straightforward, which is why it has to be covered with a mountain of twisted Crazy Straw lies and shifting narratives by President Obama. He wanted this deal to begin closing Gitmo, he wanted a public-relations coup (even before the VA scandal rocked his world, but it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that affected his timetable) and he wanted to bait a political trap for Republicans. He was really looking forward to his minions yelling at them on the talk-show circuit when they dared to mention those annoying little “laws” people keep claiming the super-President is supposed to respect. How could they dare invoke a bunch of fine print when an American soldier’s life was on the line? There wasn’t much room for nuance in that setup, so it was all steamed out of the official narrative, and Sgt. Bergdahl became a distinguished war hero captured in battle.
Everything the panicked White House has said and done as this story unraveled – under pressure from Afghanistan veterans who wouldn’t keep quiet, nervous Democrats who couldn’t believe they had a new Obama scandal on their hands, and a surprisingly stubborn contingent that insists on the rule of law – is a damage-control effort designed to muddy the waters, give the dwindling band of Obama dead-enders something to talk about, and exhaust the energy of the news cycle. They’ve given up on securing a triumph, and will settle for a distraction they can survive with a few bruises. I suspect the next effort to change the subject will be something super-duper-partisan that can rope in the stray Democrats who seem genuinely upset about the Bergdahl deal.