President Obama would have been better off avoiding the hero narrative when he announced last weekend that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been handed over to members of the U.S. Special Forces. He could have just said we got our guy back. Let him recover and we’ll figure out what happened. It’s better to have Bergdahl back home than to allow him to languish or die in the hands of the Taliban.
Instead, the president and senior administration officials opened a window for critics to pounce on questions of whether Bergdahl deserted his unit and whether his rescue was worth exchanging five senior members of the Taliban insurgency. Due to overwhelmingly negative blow-back and concerns over public safety, residents in the small community of Hailey, Idaho canceled plans to hold a welcome-home event this weekend.
For the latest on the Bergdahl story, watch the video below by ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz:
Politicians and conspiracy theorists thirsting for another scandal of Benghazi-like proportions are going nuts. The president and his cabinet brought it on themselves. But it is best to withhold judgment until Bergdahl is able to speak for himself and a thorough review of his capture and hand-off is completed. If he did indeed commit a crime, then the military should begin formal procedures to punish him.
The public should be just as skeptical of conflicting reports making their way around the Internet as it is about the initial statements from the Obama administration. Several members of Bergdahl’s unit publicly blame him for deaths that may or may not have been caused by the Army’s searches for him in Afghanistan. Yet according to a Wednesday New York Times report, those accusations are hard to verify because military records show there were already increased insurgency attacks around the time a disillusioned Bergdahl left his base.
To those who might feel angry about the Guantanamo detainees being released, remember these are people who’ve been locked up for over a decade without any formal conviction. Efforts have been underway for years to shutter the prison. (Read this National Journal story.) Below is an excerpt from an eloquent analysis written Wednesday by Amy Davidson of The New Yorker:
These five prisoners, known to be Taliban commanders and officials, were ones the Obama Administration had said should be held indefinitely, because they posed a threat. However, it was not prepared to charge them with any crime. One thing that the angry response to the trade revealed is that the implicit definition of “indefinite,” in many quarters, was “forever.” But indefinite means indefinite; when you have what, despite the frippery of various review boards, are essentially extrajudicial imprisonments based on the judgment of the executive, you might have people who get out a lot sooner than one would expect, too. Want to be more sure that the people now at Guantánamo stay prisoners for an extended period of time? Then convict them of something; give them a sentence.