Last year, without consulting Congress, President Obama made a controversial deal. He traded one American soldier held by the Taliban for five Taliban commanders who had been held at Guantanamo.
The swap was controversial not only because the President of the United States had just concluded a secret deal with terrorists, but also because the American soldier – Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — was said to be a deserter, a charge made by more than a few soldiers who served with him in Afghanistan.
The other day, after months of investigation, the United States Army made it official: It charged Bergdahl with one count of desertion and one count of misbehavior before the enemy. If he’s found guilty he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
So, was the swap worth it — one American, a possible deserter, for five high level Taliban terrorists? Last year when he made the deal, President Obama said it was.
“We have a basic principle, we do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind,” the president said. “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.”
And the other day, when asked if the White House still thought the swap made sense, incoming White House communications advisor Jen Psaki said the swap was “absolutely worth it.”
It is arguably a noble idea that the United States of America does not leave any American in uniform behind, as a matter of principle — no matter what he might have done. But getting an American, even one now charged with desertion out of captivity is one thing; trying to turn him into a heroic figure is something else.
There was the post-swap ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, the president walking arm-in-arm with Bergdahl’s parents, giving the impression that Bowe Bergdahl was some kind of war hero returning home. Was a celebration – on national television — necessary? Was it intended to do anything more than make Mr. Obama look good as he was winding down the war in Afghanistan?
And why did Susan Rice also go on national television to defend the swap, saying Sgt. Bergdahl had “served the United States with honor and distinction.” Honor and distinction? This is the same Susan Rice who misled the American people with a phony story about how a video touched off the massacre in Benghazi. Why should anyone trust anything Ms. Rice says? Why is someone with so little credibility still the president’s National Security Advisor?
In a polarized America, everyone has an opinion about the deal. So, conservatives think the swap is one more piece of evidence that Barack Obama is out of his depth when it comes to handling complex foreign policy matters. Liberals who still adore the president will go along with just about anything he says and does. But for those in the middle, for those without any particular pro or anti-Obama ideology, the deal the president made — given the charges just filed against Sgt. Bergdahl — cannot sit well.
The five Taliban commanders, who are in Qatar under the agreement of their release, will be free men in early June – free to go back to the battlefield and kill Americans.
And they probably will.
Ron Fournier of the National Journal asked an important question on the Fox News program Special Report: “Empty five cells in Guantanamo and fill one in Leavenworth, does that sound like a good deal in hindsight?”