"We don't negotiate with terrorists"
- Every US president in history
It was a good weekend for the friends and family of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl: after five years of being held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan, on Saturday morning it was reported that the 28-year-old native of Hailey, Idaho was finally freed. In exchange for his freedom, the US agreed to also set free five Taliban militants - among which the Afghanistan deputy defense minister under Taliban rule and others who was said to be involved in the September 11 attack - held at Guantanamo. In other words, this was a pre-negotiated settlement or, stated otherwise, a negotiation.
Adding fuel to the fire is the realization that Obama was transacting largely alone: instead of abiding by a legal requirement to give Congress advance notice when prisoners are released from the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, Obama once again took unilateral action. Actually it wasn't completely unilateral: it was revealed that the deal was bartered by America's new middle east BFFs (courtesy of the false flagged Syria conflict): officials from Qatar who agreed to keep the detainees in their country for a year.
And then the media circus took over.
On one hand, it was Republicans bashing Obama for keeping the prisoner swap secret and also for negotiating with terrorists. From the WSJ:
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), himself a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, voiced fears that the five prisoners sent to Qatar in exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl could rejoin terrorist networks. "It is disturbing that these individuals would have the ability to reenter the fight," Mr. McCain said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "And they are big, high-level people, possibly responsible for the deaths of thousands."
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), a potential presidential candidate in 2016, released a statement Sunday saying, "The release of five senior Taliban commanders to Qatar under unspecified conditions is very troubling and may endanger American lives. In the coming days the Congress must examine the circumstances under which Sgt. Bergdahl's release was achieved, and what conditions, if any, the administration secured to ensure these enemy combatants do not return to the battlefield."
Fellow Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, also a possible GOP presidential candidate, suggested in an appearance on ABC's "This Week" that there were better ways to free Sgt. Bergdahl.
"How many soldiers lost their lives to capture those five Taliban terrorists that we just released?" Mr. Cruz said. "What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists we've gone after."
* * *
Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said administration officials indeed told Congress about a year ago that such prisoner negotiations were a possibility. "They didn't get a very warm reception from either party in the national security committees," Mr. Rogers said.
Mr. Rogers added that the administration was required "to keep Congress currently informed."... "Some notion that this was so secret and so sensitive that that couldn't happen is just wrong."
On the other hand, democrats scrambled to defend Obama's actions.
First and foremost, it was Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who on NBC's "Meet the Press" in a live feed from Afghanistan where he had made a surprise visit, said prisoner exchanges are a standard practice of warfare and added that "We didn’t negotiate with terrorists." He added that "America’s record is pretty clear on going after terrorists, especially those who take hostages, and I don’t think what we did in getting our prisoner of war released in any way would somehow encourage terrorists to take our American servicemen prisoner or hostage.”
The excuse: the swap had been worked out by the government of Qatar (to whose Amir, none other than the president gave his thanks yesterday).
Another person defending Obama was White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice who appeared earlier on CNN and said the Obama administration informed Congress after Sgt. Bergdahl was in U.S. hands. She said the urgency of the mission, coupled with concerns about Sgt. Bergdahl's health, made it necessary to rescue him without giving the required 30 days advance notice.
Wait, he was in captivity for 5 years, but suddenly 30 days was a matter of urgency?
Ms. Rice said that defense officials, however, consulted with the Justice Department before the operation. "It was determined that it was necessary and appropriate not to adhere to the 30-day notification requirement because it would have potentially meant that the opportunity to get Sgt. Bergdahl would have been lost," she said.
One wonders what other decisions are made in the secrecy of bilateral talks between Obama and the DOJ, which skip America's elected legislative body entirely.
And then the excuses branch out in the outright surreal: "The Taliban prisoners released weren’t mere bargaining chips: It’s quite possible that, as influential figures, they’ll facilitate a broader negotiated settlement,” in Afghanistan, said Blank, a former staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hagel said today it’s possible the agreement could lead to a new round of negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban about the organization’s rule in Afghanistan. “We have strongly supported an Afghan-led effort to come to an agreement with the Taliban,” Hagel said on NBC. “Maybe this will be an opening that can produce an agreement.”
Indeed: now that America is said to be departing Afghanistan (we will believe it when we see it), someone who is friendly to the US should maintain the record opium production: after all the poppy seed, and heroin, must flow and keep western populations drugged up and happy.
Recall the following charts: first, the surge in Heroin use in the US:
And then the following chart which shows opium cultivation in Afghanistan:
Surely there is no relation between soaring US heroin use, soaring Afghanistan opium production (under US supervision) and recent developments in Afghanistan.
But even more perplexing than the simple question of whether Obama negotiates with terrorists - he clearly does - is another question: are we now rerunning an episode of Homeland.
Recall the back in August 2010 when the news of Bergdahl's capture were first making the rounds, that the Sunday Times reported "a captured American soldier is training Taliban fighters bomb-making and ambush skills, according to one of his captors and Afghan intelligence officials. Private Bowe Bergdahl disappeared in June 2009 while based in eastern Afghanistan and is thought to be the only U.S. serviceman in captivity. The 24-year-old has converted to Islam and now has the Muslim name Abdullah, one of his captors told The Sunday Times."
The rabbit hole gets deeper:
A Taliban deputy district commander in Paktika, who called himself Haji Nadeem, told the newspaper that Bergdahl taught him how to dismantle a mobile phone and turn it into a remote control for a roadside bomb.
Nadeem claimed he also received basic ambush training from the U.S. soldier. 'Most of the skills he taught us we already knew,' he said. 'Some of my comrades think he's pretending to be a Muslim to save himself so they wouldn't behead him.'
Afghan intelligence officials also believe that Bergdahl is 'cooperating with the Taliban' and is acting as adviser to fighters at a base in the tribal area of Pakistan.
And then there was Bergdahl's video:
The seven-minute video of Bergdahl shows him sporting a beard and doing a few press-ups to demonstrate he's in good physical condition.
There was no way to verify when the footage was taken or if he is still alive.
In the sometimes choppy video, Bergdahl talked about his love for his family, his friends, motorcycles and sailing.
'I'm a prisoner. I want to go home,' he said. 'This war isn't worth the waste of human life that has cost both Afghanistan and the U.S. It's not worth the amount of lives that have been wasted in prisons, Guantanamo Bay, Bagram, all those places where we are keeping prisoners.'
At times speaking haltingly, as if holding back emotions, Bergdahl - clad in what appeared to be an Army shirt and fatigues - clasped his hands together and pleaded: 'The pain in my heart to see my family again doesn't get any smaller.
'Release me. Please, I'm begging you, bring me home.'
The good news is that four years later he is finally home. The questions remain.