Obama: "Absolutely no apologies" for swapping five Taliban leaders for Bergdahl

First off, take a listen to the question that prompted this answer. It’s a marvel of incoherence, leaping not just from Barack Obama to David Cameron but from the Bowe Bergdahl swap all the way through to Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup next decade. Diagramming that question might need a wall-sized Venn diagram.

Nonetheless, Obama responded on the swap that he had “absolutely no apologies” to make over the swap:

President Obama said Thursday he would make “absolutely no apologies” for ordering the controversial prisoner swap to rescue Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the last American prisoner of war in Afghanistan.

Obama said he was never surprised by “controversies that are whipped up in Washington,” but deflected criticism from members of Congress and the military over the trade of five Guantanamo prisoners for Bergdahl, who has been accused of abandoning his post in Afghanistan before his capture.

“I make absolutely no apologies for making sure we get back a young man to his parents,” Obama said at a joint press conference with in Brussels with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

None? None at all for, say, using the Bergdahls for the big announcement before even bothering to notify the relevant members of Congress, like the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence committees? Apparently not, because Obama says he needed to “humanize” the swap:

The president also defended the decision to appear alongside Bergdahl’s parents during an announcement of the deal on Saturday. Some have argued that decision elevated the soldier’s profiles and invited the tougher examination of his conduct on the battlefield.

But Obama said he felt it was important to humanize the decision, and said he wrote “too many letters” to parents whose children don’t return from war.

“I think it was important to understand this is not some abstraction, not some political football,” Obama said.

Clearly that turned out to be an utter failure, as well as a total contradiction in terms. He didn’t want to turn the swap into a political football, but then brought the Bergdahls into the Rose Garden for public-relations purposes. Huh?  Obama had weeks to notify Congressional leadership of the pending swap and didn’t because either (a) Bergdahl was too ill to wait, and/or (b) it went too fast to make the calls — but they just so happened to know that the Bergdahls were in DC and where to find them. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Chuck Lane notices something else about Obama’s argument from the transcript:


He’s Bob Bergdahl’s “child,” but not a child on his own. We don’t have “child” soldiers in the US Army, nor in any of the service branches. Bergdahl fils was and is a young man, responsible for his own actions.

Speaking of total failure — if Obama hoped to accelerate the closing of Gitmo with this trade, it’s about to backfire in a very big way. Members of Congress of both parties are so angry over his violation of the law that they’re going to make it harder to do more transfers of those left at the detention facility:

President Barack Obama’s goal of closing the Guantanamo Bay prison is facing re-energized opposition from Republicans and increased questioning from fellow Democrats amid widespread anger in Congress over the swap of five Taliban detainees for the last American prisoner of war in Afghanistan.

Obama appeared to advance his effort last month when a Senate panel approved greater authority for him to transfer suspected terrorists to the United States, on condition he presented a plan to close Guantanamo and Congress approved it.

But the deal that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after five years of captivity has driven a new wedge between the president and lawmakers of both parties who accuse the Obama administration of breaking the law. …

Members of Congress say the prisoner trade almost surely will end with the Taliban commanders returning to the battlefield. Lawmakers also say Obama ignored the law and his administration’s own pledge to provide Congress with notification at least 30 days in advance. The White House insists it acted lawfully.

The disagreement is prompting some lawmakers to try to tighten rules on transferring prisoners from Guantanamo.

Obama expected euphoria over the release of five dangerous Taliban figures when packaged with the return of one soldier who was captured after going AWOL. He also apparently expected Congress to do nothing while he high-handed them over a swap that had almost unanimous bipartisan opposition in both the House and the Senate, when considered with even tougher restrictions than the five Talibani have now in Qatar. That’s about the level of competence we have seen from this White House all along, and incompetence has dangerous consequences at this level. Apologies for it do little to mitigate them, but a few might at least signal that this administration might learn from some of its errors and arrogant overreach.