Thursday, June 05, 2014

Faithless Execution

Last week, Obama had a problem. The news media was out of line, reporting about how the VA had allowed veterans to die while they waited to be treated by the single-payer medical system we provide to our soldiers. This was a first for the propaganda branch of the Obama administration, one of his most loyal and ardent sources of support, right up there with liberal arts professors, union bosses, and Obamaphone owners. Usually they would be reflexively spinning the story to Obama's favor or just refusing to acknowledge that it exists, but perhaps in this case, it was too big to ignore. Or maybe they knew that it would not be particularly harmful to their messiah. After all, similar problems have been occurring for as long as the government has been in the healthcare providing business. It can't all be blamed on Obama, and once he fires some high-ranking person, he can claim he has dealt with it and move on.

But still, Obama doesn't like his failures or the failure of government-run healthcare to stay in the headlines for long. Something had to be done. Then some mid-level staffer had a burst of brilliance. Obama needs to do something to make him a hero to the military. Then they will forget that he let veterans die on secret waiting lists and gave bonuses to the administrators who ran those waiting lists for the cost savings. There was one American soldier still being held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. His name is Bowe Bergdahl, and he has been in captivity since 2009, showing up occasionally in Taliban propaganda videos. If Obama could negotiate his release, that would be a great victory, and the VA debacle would be forgotten in the ensuing Obama lovefest.

John Kerry's State Department got busy, and sensing that the Obama administration was suddenly desperate to obtain Bergdahl's release at any price, the Taliban demanded the release of five notorious Taliban leaders in return. The deal was made. Bowe Bergdahl was dropped off to American special forces in Afghanistan, and the five Taliban leaders were set free in Qatar.

Obama called a press conference and waited for the waves of jubilant accolades for his heroic achievement. Bowe's father spoke, starting out by thanking Allah, in whose name the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies kill, maim, and destroy. But the response Obama was looking for didn't happen. All of the celebration, it seems, is on the Taliban side. They did get a much better deal, after all.

America has had a long-standing policy of not negotiating with terrorists. While this policy is occasionally painful to maintain, it is important to not give terrorists an incentive to collect more bargaining chips. When we make concessions to terrorists in return for the return of the people they are holding hostage, it motivates them to abduct more Americans. Refusing to negotiate keeps all Americans safer in the long run. Today, that policy is officially out the window.

Who were these five men who Obama set free? What did they do to end up at Gitmo, and at what cost were they captured? According to a 2008 Pentagon dossier on Gitmo inmates, all five were considered to be a high risk to launch attacks against the United States if freed.

Mullah Mohammad Fazl led a series of massacres against Afghanistan's Shi'ite Muslim population. "There was not a single undamaged house or garden," said Masjidi Fatehzada, a shopkeeper in Mir Bacha Kot, the district center. "My entire shop was burned to the ground. There was nothing left."

Mullah Norullah Noori was hand picked by Osama bin Laden to lead a 1995 offensive against the northern alliance, our allies in Afghanistan.

Khairkhwa, a former Taliban governor of Herat, participated in meetings with Iranian officials after 9-11 to help plot attacks on U.S. forces following the invasion.

These are evil men, and they are now free to plot their revenge against America. American soldiers died in the effort to capture these men, and more Americans are likely to die because of their release. Worse yet, terrorist groups now know that they can get their people released by kidnapping Americans. The price has been set. Five terrorists for one American.

Who did we get in return?

Shortly after the trade was announced, soldiers from Bergdahl's unit began to come forward with their accounts of Bergdahl abandoning his post. Contrary to some reports that Bergdahl was captured when he lagged behind on a patrol, and contrary to other reports that he was abducted while using the latrine on the Army base, it is becoming clear that Bergdahl had serious grievances with America and with the mission in Afghanistan, and intentionally deserted his unit. Liberals responded with shrill cried that Bergdahl is being "swiftboated". The working definition of swiftboating is when fellow soldiers give the facts which contradict a soldier's false claims of heroism. Now the administration has gone even further, smearing Bergdahl's entire platoon as "psychopaths".

But we don't have to rely on the testimony of Bergdahl's fellow soldiers. Bowe himself wrote an email to his parents: “The future is too good to waste on lies, and life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be American. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.”

We can also listen to Afghan villages who met Bergdahl after he walked away from his base at night, with a compass, a knife, water, a digital camera, and his diary. They say that they warned him not to continue in the direction he was heading. The Taliban are there. He went on in spite of those warnings.

Once these facts came out, a second wave of protest arose from the soldiers who spent months searching through the mountains of Afghanistan, looking for Bergdahl. Worse yet, the parents of soldiers who died in that effort were faced with the knowledge that their sons died trying to rescue a traitor.

As the reality of what Obama had done spread, the White House went into spin mode. Susan Rice, the Tokyo Rose of the Obama Administration, was dispatched. We don't know who wrote her talking points this time, but she declared that Bergdahl had "served with honor and distinction", apparently calling all of the soldiers who were there liars.

Before the weekend was over, it was pointed out that Obama himself signed a bill called the "National Defense Authorization Act" requiring that he give Congress 30 days notice before releasing any inmate from Gitmo. Releasing the Taliban Five without notifying Congress was against the law. But a White House spokesperson was quick to justify the decision, citing the "unique and exigent circumstances." Yet again the President believes that the laws do not apply to him, at least not if he declares there to be "unique and exigent circumstances". Of course he is the sole arbiter of such circumstances, and his alleged good intentions, not the law or the actual facts of the case, should determine how he is judged. True to form, Obama supports the rule of Obama, not the rule of law.

After the first two rounds of explanations did not stick, the Obama administration is offering yet another excuse. They now claim that they couldn't notify Congress because the Taliban said that if news of the deal became public, they would kill Bergdahl. In essence, Obama is saying he broke the law because the Taliban told him to. But this tale doesn't hold up to any scrutiny. The White House routinely gives classified briefings to Congress, or more commonly, to particular committees within Congress. Obama could have notified Congress without making the matter public. One must remember that while excuses may change repeatedly, the truth does not.

In Brussels Belgium on Thursday Obama was asked if he was surprised by the controversy swirling around the decision to make this trade. “I’m never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington," Obama answered. "I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents and that the American people understand that this is somebody’s child and that we don’t condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get them back. This is not a political football.” Obama tried to discount the outraged response of the American people by characterizing it as being "whipped up in Washington." Then he falls back on his second favorite rhetorical trick (the first being to claim ignorance of what his own administration is doing), the straw man. Obama rebuts an argument that no one is making, and claims to have settled the issue. You can search all day long, and you will not find anyone suggesting that Bergdahl is not someone's child, or that we should not make an effort to get him back. The question is "At what price?" Most people find the release of five dangerous Taliban leaders an outrageously unacceptable price for one traitor.

Nearly a week after the deal was announced, many Democrats in Congress have condemned the President's action, but Obama himself insists that it was the right decision, offering the precedent of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who negotiated the release of prisoners of war after winning the war and obtaining the unconditional surrender of the enemy. But the conflict is not over just because Obama declares it over. The terrorists in Afghanistan and neighboring countries are no less intent on killing Americans. Of course the Taliban has not surrendered, and when Obama pulls American troops out of Afghanistan next year as he has announced, they will fight to re-establish their tyrannical rule of that nation, the Taliban Five calling the shots, no doubt. But just for reference, George Washington built a gallows sixty feet tall for deserters. Abraham Lincoln had deserters flogged, and in some cases shot. Roosevelt court-martialed them and sent them to prison. What will Obama do with Bowe Bergdahl now that he has given away five Taliban leaders to secure his release?