Last year, National Security Adviser Susan Rice beamed with something very close to pride as she informed the American people that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had served his country with honor. Bergdahl’s parents were invited to the White House, where a Rose Garden ceremony unfolded in celebration of Bergdahl’s release. Yes, there were critics of what President Obama had done to secure that release, but in the end, wasn’t this just a gosh darn great day for America? We got our man back!
To say that mood soured last month would be putting it mildly. The Army announced that Bergdahl would face a court martial this summer, charged with desertion and a more serious charge of misbehavior before the enemy. Put together, a conviction could land the former Taliban prisoner behind bars for the rest of his life.
But this week, Fox News reported that if some were surprised by this turn of events, it was only because they lacked access to all of the facts. And one of those facts, in particular, paints this entire scenario in a damning new light. According to the report, Mike Mullen – then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – knew in December of 2009 that Bergdahl had walked away from his Afghanistan base.
Fox News spoke with three of Bergdahl’s platoon mates, all of whom described meeting with Mullen at that time and discussing the details of Bergdahl’s desertion. “Without a doubt,” Sgt. Matt Vierkant told the reporter, “he knew Bergdahl deserted or, you know, was suspected of desertion. There was no doubt in my mind that he fully understood what Bergdahl did.”
If Mullen knew, then Obama knew. It’s as simple as that. And if Obama knew in 2009, then why the ceremony in the Rose Garden? Why the lie from Susan Rice regarding how Bergdahl served? And why, for the love of god, did we trade five top Taliban prisoners to get back a man who intentionally walked away from his post?
There will be those, even with this knowledge, who will insist that America’s military policy rests on the premise that we leave no man behind. And to be sure, it is admirable – even with this added knowledge – that the military would make every attempt to free Bergdahl from the Taliban. As long as there was no evidence that Bergdahl actually committed treason and attempted to take up arms against the United States, he deserved to be rescued.
But a rescue attempt is a far cry from negotiating with terrorists. And negotiating with terrorists is only the beginning of what went wrong here. Even if you want to give the Taliban the undeserved label of a foreign government, this was a bad deal. This was a trade made by a president who is desperate to make good on his promise to close Gitmo and even more desperate to bring the Afghanistan War to an end. And in that desperation, he made a deal that endangered Americans, exposed us as weak, and quite possibly broke the law.
In other words, a patented Obama decision.