Criticism of Obama mounts over prisoner swap for soldier who left his post

entertainment | Jun 04, 2014 | By Martin Barillas

Political commentator Charles Krauthammer spoke on Bill O'Reilly's show on the Fox Network and excoriated the Obama administration's securing of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by agreeing to release five Taliban insurgents who had been confined at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba. 
Krauthammer said, "This is not a management problem, this is a problem that is intrinsic with hostage swaps. Look, Ronald Reagan who ran a very good administration, very efficient administration, extremely successful administration, slipped and fell and was humiliated over hostage swaps. Administrations always come out on the wrong end of this. 
The view I have of this is rather different from yours. I think that a country has two obligations, absolutely ironclad obligations. Number one, if there is a soldier being held, you get him back. But number two is, if you desert your unit, you are subject to military discipline. I would say you free him and then you try him. That is the only way that you can deal with this." 
And no matter how you do the deal, the west, whenever it deals with hostages, or prisoners of war, always ends up on the weaker side of the deal. The Israelis got back one private, Private [Gilad] Shalit. They gave up over 1,000 terrorists, including many with actual blood on their hands. The mistake Obama made and this is part of his arrogance and also perhaps also ignorance is to celebrate the release with that press conference."
When you make the swap, you know that the terms are uneven. You know the five guys that you have on the screen now are going to return and they are going to try to kill Americans. This is a somber and solemn thing that you do with regret and with sorrow, but you do it in the name of a code."
Also on Fox, Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, told Megyn Kelly, of his dismay over State Department interference in military affairs when it secured the controversial prisoner swap that released several high-ranking Taliban leaders, who are now free to circulate in Qatar for one year before being allowed to leave: presumably back to Afghanistan where they had been captured by Allied forces during the early phases of the war.
Peters said, "Well, Megyn, what you just saw and heard was Benghazi 2.0. A political flunky in a State Department insisting that she knows better what happened on the ground than the soldiers on the front line or the people in a firefight. The arrogance is boundless. You know, I wish the Obama administration if it can't have the grace to be decent about anything else, at least stop insulting our troops. She called those soldiers on the front lines liars. And by the way, she's a liar because I can tell you from the first days, the first hours the military knew exactly what Bergdahl's status was and I have never heard of or seen any report conflict the allegation that he's a deserter. Never. "
But, Megyn, if I just may, this is an example of a very deep cultural divide between team Obama that knows nothing about the military and cares less and those who actually serve. And I think when you listen to Susan Rice and Obama they think that desertion is kind of like skipping class. You're hung over Monday morning so you don't want to get up and go to Gender 101. It is the second gravest sin in the military catechism right behind turning your weapon on your brother soldiers." 
I cannot begin to communicate how deeply the military feels about deserters. And one last point: please, I'm sick of hearing people even on FOX, instant experts who never served in the military saying, 'Well we always went after our deserters and our troops and brought them home, even if they're deserters.' Megyn, throughout much of our history we did go after deserters, and when we got them we shot them or hanged them or if we were in a good mood we would brand them with a 'D' on their cheeks or forehead. When we became enlightened in the 20th century, we still shot some but we always sent them to prison for hard labor. This is not a minor offense. Desertion is very, very grave and team Obama just doesn't get it. "
The retired Army officer also spoke about the parents of Sgt. Bergdahl, who had actively campaigned for the release of their son from Taliban captivity. Robert Bergdahl has worn a Taliban-style beard during the time of his son's captivity. The Washington Post reported that the elder Bergdahl grew his beard in order mark the time of the soldier had been captive and to win sympathy from his son's captors. The newspaper also said that Robert Bergdahl has spent much of the time of his son's captivity learning Pashto, an Afghani language, as well as studying the culture of his son's captors. Private Bowe Bergdahl also showed an interest in Afghani culture, and frequently associated with the villagers who lived near his encampment.
Peters said of the beard, "Mr. Bergdahl's beard is not a tribute to ZZ Top. It's just sad. And what offended me and offended every soldier, I'm sure, and all our service members because Obama during the VA scandal he didn't host the survivors of people that died in the VA system waiting for care. And if he had wanted to really honor our troops, instead of having Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl, the father and mother of an alleged deserter celebrating and giving them more attention than he has any military family. He should have had at the White House the families of the at least six soldiers that died searching for and trying to free Bowe Bergdahl. I mean, the president, he disdains our troops. He uses them as political props and then does something like this. And, oh, by the way, what's the price of getting private Bergdahl back? We have released five of the most dangerous terrorists in the world."
On 'Fox & Friends', co-host Brian Kilmeade criticized the senior Bergdahl's apparent solidarity with the Taliban. Bergdahl apparently tweeted to a Taliban spokesperson, “I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen.” However, the tweet was later deleted. Kilmeade added, “I mean, he says he was growing his beard because his son was in captivity. Well, your son’s out now. So if you really don’t — no longer look like a member of the Taliban, you don’t have to look like a member of the Taliban. Are you out of razors?”
For his part, President Obama said that he is aware that more Americans may be killed as a result of his decision to release the Taliban prisoners. At a press conference in Poland, Obama responded to a question and said "Is there a possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely.” He added, “That’s been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo. There’s a certain recidivism rate that takes place.” 



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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