On one side – five battle-hardened terrorists, men who live for killing Americans and returning the Taliban to power. On the other side – one U.S. soldier who unquestionably deserted his unit in eastern Afghanistan. Would you have made the deal? When pollsters put that question to military veterans, 68% said President Obama made the wrong decision, while just 16% endorsed the swap.
Let's be very clear. Bowe Bergdahl was not a prisoner of war captured on the battlefield. And to be even more clear, he did not serve with "honor and distinction," as claimed by serial prevaricator Susan Rice. Our pal, the always-quotable Lt. Col Ralph Peters, says this about the president's National Security Adviser: "Ms. Rice is aggressively stupid, immaculately clueless, and a disgrace to our system of government." Peters points out that, by Rice's definition, Bradley Manning and Benedict Arnold also served with "honor and distinction."
Of all the scandals and controversies enveloping the White House, this one could be the most damaging of all. President Obama's admirers in the media, which means pretty much everybody, have studiously avoided delving into Benghazi or the IRS. But in recent weeks even some on the far left have been criticizing their guy – first for the V.A. fiasco and now for this questionable-at-best swap.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel testified on Wednesday that the deal had to be made quickly, that there wasn't time enough to notify Congress. He also assured legislators that the five scoundrels will be kept under a watchful eye in Qatar for the next year. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has declared that the Taliban five "are not a threat to the United States." She doesn't know that, no one knows that, which is why so many Americans are giving this deal two thumbs down. (As an aside, a State Department spokeswoman actually referred to the Taliban killers as "gentlemen.")
As for Bergdahl, the Obama administration has claimed that he was in poor health, lingering at death's doorstep. But doctors who examined the sergeant in Germany and Afghanistan say he is physically fine. His psychological state is another matter, and no one should dismiss the possibility that Bergdahl suffered brutal treatment during his five years in captivity. We all should cut him some slack in that regard.
But we should also respect the opinions of Bergdahl's former platoon mates, who are unanimous in their opinion that he is, pure and simple, a deserter. The New York Times shamefully tried to discredit those honorable soldiers and their former unit, but most clear-thinking Americans aren't fooled by the Times' smear tactics.
The Taliban is in some ways similar to Hitler's Nazi Party. Both believe their ideology gives them the right to murder civilians and commit crimes against humanity. So let's go back in time 70 years for a thought exercise: Soon after D-Day, the U.S. Army captures and imprisons Goering, Himmler, Goebbels, Rohm, and Eichmann. Would FDR or Truman trade those five evildoers for, say, the notorious World War II deserter Pvt. Eddie Slovik. Of course not. The comparison is imperfect, but the truth is that we released five dangerous war criminals in exchange for one man who may well wind up in the stockade at Fort Leavenworth.
Make no mistake, the Taliban poses a grave danger to Afghanistan, the region, and even the world. They will stop at nothing to impose their vision of an oppressive Islamic state. And now this evil organization has five of its best and brightest walking free, perhaps anticipating future battles against the infidels.
President Obama, as commander-in-chief, has an obligation to protect this country from harm, but freeing five notorious war criminals does just the opposite. This whole fiasco is a huge victory for the jihadists and will inspire even more violence in the world.