The Spectacle Blog

The Bergdahl Backlash

By on 6.2.14 | 3:12PM

In a surprise Rose Garden announcement, President Obama announced the exchange of five Taliban Guantanamo Bay prisoners in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, the only soldier captured during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Bergdahl had been held for five years by radical Islamists in Afghanistan. But while he's on his way home, several questions have emerged surrounding his disappearance, the exchange, and the Bergdahl family.

As reports came in, several soldiers claiming to be in his platoon immediately spoke out about what happened the night Bergdahl went missing. As Jake Tapper reported in an extensive piece, many of them criticized Bergdahl and claimed he was not captured, but that he deserted and went looking for the Taliban. In addition several people were killed in the effort to find Bergdahl. Being the only missing solider, the Taliban and other extremists knew that resources were being diverted looking for him, leaving other bases less secure. This led to a rise in attacks.

In addition, the exchange itself is flat-out illegal. According to federal statute as stated in the New York Times:

There was a potential legal obstacle: Congress has imposed statutory restrictions on the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo Bay. The statutes say the secretary of defense must determine that a transfer is in the interest of national security, that steps have been taken to substantially mitigate a future threat by a released detainee, and that the secretary notify Congress 30 days before any transfer of his determination.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in the article, goes on to claim that in the interest of national security, the administration did not notify Congress because it was deemed that Bergdahl’s health was at risk, despite reports indicating he was otherwise drinking tea and playing badminton with his handlers.

Furthermore, the five prisoners exchanged for Bergdahl are high-ranking Taliban members; one of them was “deputy chief intelligence officer” for the Taliban. The most embarrassing legal point of this exchange is the weak one-year timeout in Qatar, where the prisoners have been mandated to stay. The deal says nothing about preventing the released prisoners from returning to the frontlines after that year.  

Adding to an already bizarre disappearance and exchange are the actions of Bergdahl’s father, Bob Bergdahl, during his son's captivity. In now a famously deleted tweet, Bob Bergdahl pushed to free detainees from Gitmo. After a bizarre press conference in which he compared Idaho to Afghanistan, Bergdahl continued to push for the release of more dangerous detainees.

With so much controversy surrounding the disappearance, the hasty exchange, and the odd behavior on Bob Bergdahl’s Twitter account, the White House and the Bergdahls have many questions left unanswered. The Obama Doctrine, as noted by the Daily Caller, is currently “don’t do stupid sh*t.” Well, without the proper vetting of the situation, it looks like the administration once again stepped in it.

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