Someone at the White House utterly failed to think all the way through today’s crazy effort to spin away the growing Bergdahl scandal – a fire they keep trying to put out by dousing it with gasoline. From the Associated Press:
The Obama administration has told senators it didn’t notify Congress about the pending swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban officials because the Taliban had threatened to kill him if the deal was made public, three congressional officials have told The Associated Press.
The threat, ??? not just concerns that Bergdahl’s health might be failing ??? drove the Obama administration to quickly make the deal to rescue him, the officials said Thursday. The threat was transmitted by Qatari officials at the height of the negotiations, they said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was referring in part to the threat when he said Sunday that “there was a question about his safety,” the officials told the senators in a closed-door briefing on Wednesday.
The latest explanation comes as several administration and congressional officials say that a December video shown to senators in the briefing portrayed Bergdahl’s health as in decline but not so severe that he required an emergency rescue. An assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies in January came to the same conclusion, said two congressional officials familiar with it.
Taken seriously, this is an argument for removing Barack Obama from the Oval Office immediately – I mean, before sunset today – because he’s the biggest walking, talking national security risk America has ever seen. If the Taliban can order him to violate U.S. laws, there’s no telling what else they could make him do – or, indeed, might have already instructed him to do. To say nothing of what they’ll order him to do when they grab their next set of hostages, which they’re currently promising to do as soon as possible, as they dished to Time Magazine:
A Taliban commander close to the negotiations over the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl told TIME Thursday that the deal made to secure Bergdahl???s release has made it more appealing for fighters to capture American soldiers and other high-value targets.
???It???s better to kidnap one person like Bergdahl than kidnapping hundreds of useless people,??? the commander said, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. ???It has encouraged our people. Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird.???
But of course, there’s no reason to take Obama’s latest flapdoodle seriously. Just for starters, the original White House spin (from the weekend, which seems like a thousand years ago now) was that they did notify Congress of the deal. Later, we were told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was informed several days ago. Why didn’t his captors kill Bergdahl when they saw that stuff in the news? Did they tell Obama it was okay to loop Harry Reid in, because he’s a nut and nobody listens to him anyway?
Then we’ve got the fact that the Taliban themselves have been trumpeting this deal for propaganda purposes, and there are U.S. media reports about it going back for months. Here’s one from the Washington Post in February:
In an effort to free American captive Bowe Bergdahl before the bulk of U.S. forces leave Afghanistan this year, the Obama administration has decided to try to resume talks with the Taliban and sweeten an offer to trade Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the Army sergeant, current and former officials said.
Five members of the Afghan Taliban who have been held at Guantanamo for years would be released to protective custody in Qatar in exchange for the release of Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2009 and is thought to be held in Pakistan by the Haqqani network, an allied insurgent group.
To refresh the American offer, which has been on the table for more than two years, senior officials from the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies decided within the past month to allow the simultaneous release of all five men. Taliban representatives had objected to the previous plan to release the prisoners by ones or twos as a test of Taliban and Qatari intermediaries??? ability to make sure the men did not return to militancy.
And whaddya know – they got everything they wanted less than four months later, from that hard-charging master of the deal, Barack Obama.
What happened here is that the panicked White House, desperate to salvage at least some element of the story they spun over the weekend, tried to explain Bergdahl’s passable health in those Taliban propaganda videos by saying well, we didn’t think he was dying, we thought the Haqqanis were going to kill him, so we had to move fast. What they wanted to say was that they couldn’t take any chances that Congress would squelch the deal, so Obama broke the law and kept them out of the loop. They needed to make this look like one of those Jack Bauer snap decisions under pressure… so they ended up with a story about how President Obama is willing to violate American law, if terrorists tell him to.
Which is rather difficult to square with all the shifting stories we’ve been getting over the past few days, and also with the White House spin – assiduously pushed by spokesman Jay Carney, among others – that the Taliban and their Haqqani pals are not terrorists, and Bergdahl was not a hostage. The enemy in Afghanistan is now being portrayed as a legitimate government fielding lawful combatants, and Bergdahl was supposedly a POW. If that’s true, then there’s no way his captors could threaten to kill him if the President of the United States didn’t comply with their illegal demands. They’re either legit, or they’re terrorist gangsters; they can’t be both.
It also doesn’t make much sense that they’d threaten to kill the only hostage they had, if the President didn’t do something illegal to please them. If all of this was true, we would have heard about it on Day One of the scandal, and it probably would have garnered some sympathy from the American people, at least until they thought through the implications…. one of which is that Barack Obama keeps his deals with the Taliban, but not with the United States Congress, or with the American people.