Quotes of the day
posted at 10:41 pm on June 5, 2014 by Allahpundit
Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, Obama acknowledged that he is “never surprised” by controversies whipped up in Washington…
“I make absolutely no apologies for making sure we get back a young man to his parents,” he told a press conference. “This is somebody’s child.”
The White House has been caught off guard by the negative reaction to the deal that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the last American prisoner of war in Afghanistan.
It has been particularly surprised by criticism of Bergdahl, who is accused of walking away from his unit shortly before being abducted by the Taliban…
“They put too positive a spin on what is a very ambiguous set of circumstances,” Southern Methodist University professor Cal Jillson said.
“A big part of the WH stew on this is typical photo op hubris,” said Boston University political strategist Tobe Berkovitz. “Instead of just bringing Bergdahl back, they had to do the full kissy-huggy announcement with mom and dad figuring this good news would push the VA mess off the front page.”
Obama had a perfectly legitimate story to tell: The American POW in Afghanistan had to be returned, irrespective of his character, and even at the cost of negotiating with terrorists or violating the law governing notification of Congress…
So why bring Robert and Jani Bergdahl in for a photo-op that at best would look a bit strange, given Robert’s grooming and his public attempts to find common ground with his son’s captors?…
How were they vetted before their appearance with the president — both for security and for political sensitivities — and how long did the process take? Did anybody at the White House know Robert Bergdahl was going to say “bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim,” along with the “Pashto phrase” that has been getting so much attention?
I am not damning Robert Bergdahl here; I hope never to find out how I would behave if my child were at the mercy of Muslim psychotics. But I am saying it was bafflingly stupid to have him buddy up with the president for international television coverage.
Behind the “the arm-waving and typical Capitol Hill vs. White House gamesmanship,” there are pertinent questions about why the administration didn’t tell Congress about the prisoner swap plan, if such a trade was a good one and whether the White House should have struck a more solemn tone about Bergdahl’s release when there were questions about desertion, Rothkopf said…
“Emotions are running very high on this case,” said CNN senior political analyst David Gergen. “Among the military personnel and veterans, my sense is it has less to do with the trade for the five militants than the celebratory qualities that the administration initially displayed toward Bergdahl. The message they got was this was a hero coming home. And that totally misreads the military mentality on this issue.”
[N]ow, with even more investigations ahead, the circumstances of Bergdahl’s reappearance have made the soldiers’ promises of silence impossible to keep. After first hearing that Bergdahl was back, Cornelison then saw President Obama at the White House with Bergdahl’s parents. Cornelison and several of his former colleagues sensed that some sort of heroic narrative might be forming — and they knew it wasn’t true.
“When the president was there with Bergdahl’s parents, we got this feeling that the American people needed to be told the truth,” Cornelison, who believes Bergdahl deserted his post, explained. “We were there, this is not hearsay, we were on the ground, the first ones to go looking for him. The American public needs to know the truth about Bergdahl before treating him like any kind of war hero, because that is completely false.”
[I]t’s unwise to focus, as many critics of the Bergdahl deal do, on the circumstances of his capture. They say he left his post without authorization, provoking search and rescue operations that endangered other troops and led to several deaths. None of these claims has been adjudicated, and some of them are already unraveling. But the larger principle is that our allegiance to our soldiers has to be as solid as their allegiance to us. We don’t have to love their character, any more than they have to love the character of their commanders. In the military, loyalty transcends personality. And loyalty goes both ways…
Yes, there are limits to what we should trade for a POW. But “negotiating with terrorists” isn’t one of them. Nor is the alleged carelessness of our captured soldier. From the comfort of a congressional office or a TV studio, it’s easy to talk tough about the messages we send to our enemies. But for the people who put their lives on the line, the crucial messages are the ones we send to our friends: I’ll cover you. You cover me. We’re here for each other. We’ll get you out.
Nobody is asking Obama to “apologize” for having got a young man back to his parents. Bathetic as the reminder might be, it remains the case that every single person in the world is “somebody’s child” — whether they are good or evil, honorable or dishonorable, and enlisted or not. And few voices in the chorus are agitating against seizing opportunities should they arrive. Instead, the questions at hand are whether the president got a good deal and whether he acted within his constitutional and legal authority in making one. They are not whether America should seek to emancipate its prisoners of war. Saccharine appeals to apple pie and motherhood just won’t cut it…
It may well be that the administration has got the details right — that the trade itself was a fair one, that Article II of the Constitution confers upon the executive branch the authorities that this president claims, and that treating troubled American warriors as being less deserving of rescue is a dangerous and ignominious game. Its reaction to scrutiny, however, has been little short of disastrous, not least because it has revealed once again that a man who was sold to us as the “no drama” option is disquietingly hostile toward transparency and that his enthusiasts will tolerate neither animadversion nor inquiry. Well before Barack Obama took his first steps into the U.S. Senate, another president gave a bewildering hostage to fortune, boldly declaring “Mission Accomplished” before the facts had had time to jostle into place. He learned, as his successor is learning, that there is a place for triumphalism and a place for modesty, and that facile exultance is no match for the complexities of guerilla war.
Among sailors, a crew member who brings bad luck is known as a Jonah. It’s a long-held superstition, deriving from the Book of Jonah. Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’ They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. And like the hapless crew that sailed Jonah to Tarshish, we found ourselves in a storm fighting in Afghanistan. With Bergdahl’s disappearance always in the background, imaginations ran wild. Why did the Taliban in Paktika execute attacks with such unusual precision and lethality? Some hypothesized that Bergdahl had informed them of our tactics. Why did Afghan civilians refuse civil aid that they so obviously needed? Others believed rumors that Bergdahl had participated in a propaganda campaign against us. None of this could be substantiated, but over there Bergdahl became the idol of discontent for so many. He was the Jonah.
And this wasn’t only among the rank and file. One of my colleagues, a CIA case officer, was charged with collecting information on Bergdahl’s whereabouts. For months after his disappearance, his location was known with a high degree of precision. At various levels of government, certain options had been floated as to what a recovery mission might look like. After flying in and out of Kabul for endless rounds of inter-agency meetings, my colleague grew frustrated by the Army’s inaction. He questioned the efficacy of these deliberations. A senior officer pulled him aside. “No one’s serious about a rescue mission,” he said. “It’d be too risky. Maybe if Bergdahl had actually been captured they’d do something, but he deserted.”…
The only thing that seems clear in any of this is the suffering. For five years, Bergdahl suffered in captivity as an idol held by the Taliban. The soldiers sent to recover that idol suffered, too. Each will decide whether they wish to forgive him—or whether he will continue to be their Jonah.
“Had the choice been mine I would have made the same choice.”
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