The country has debated all week the terms of the swap that exchanged Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with five Guantanamo Bay prisoners. These guys were not just any Guantanamo Bay prisoners; they were five of the most senior Taliban leaders, declared to be some of the worst of the worst. Now they are roaming free in Qatar, with the stipulation that they would only be watched for one year. After that, they are free to return to their same old activities in Afghanistan with the Taliban, and truth be told, they are very likely to return to those prior activities, there is nothing stopping them. Just the terms of the trade itself seems off, for years the policy of the United States has been to not negotiate with terrorists, and now we have traded five senior Taliban officials for one soldier who many claim to be a deserter.
President Barack Obama stands by the exchange, stating that prisoner exchanges are frequent towards the end of wars. The President used the Civil War as an example, though a poor example as the Civil War was fought on American soil and once the war was over, it was over. Once American troops leave Afghanistan these Taliban leaders will still be roaming around and still be planning to take over Afghanistan and attack anyone who is attempting to stop them. It doesn’t make any sense why we would give the Taliban some of their top leadership that we had in Guantanamo Bay.
Many are also questioning Sgt. Bergdahl himself and the terms of both his capture and release. Bergdahl’s former platoon members have told the media repeatedly that Bergdahl didn’t want to fight in the war and that he was a deserter. Bergdahl was captured when he walked off the base, despite being told not to leave. This of course was five years ago. Neither the Taliban nor al Qaeda has kept any American prisoners for that length of time, so many find it odd that Bergdahl was kept alive during that time. After watching The Lone Survivor and hearing an interview of former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who made the point that the Taliban tried everything they could to capture and kill him every chance they had, I also wonder how Bergdahl was kept alive for five years. New documents were also released to Fox News stating that Bergdahl had converted to Islam during his time in captivity, and now describes himself as a “Mujahid” or warrior of Islam.
Another point that bugged me about the exchange, but I suppose it makes sense given this administration’s track record, was that the Obama Administration never got the proper authorization from Congress for this swap. Under law, the Obama Administration was required to give Congress 30 day notice of any prisoner releases from Guantanamo Bay. However, Congress was not notified of these specifics, and the prisoners were released only on command of the President of the United States. Due to this, the number of people calling for President Obama’s impeachment has grown, as he has now broken his own laws that he has put into place. Impeachment at this point is not likely as the calls are still very small, but it important to note the idea was floated around in Congress back in late January.
Emotions have run high with this particular case as many would expect them to. The President did violate his own law by single handedly releasing Guantanamo Bay prisoners without Congressional approval or notification. The nature of those released has also caused tension, as these men should have not been released, there was simply no excuse.
In the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, there are many different details going around that are making people question who he really is. I would call for people to take a step back and look at all of the facts before judgments are made. It appears that Bergdahl did desert his team, and for that he would have to the military. However, I do believe it is only a matter of time before more details come out about Bergdahl, the exchange and the prisoners that were released. At that point, the American people will decide whether or not the President has shown even more incompetence in his foreign policy.
One final point, the VA scandal has slowly faded in the news as this story has become the main focus of the media, but the scandal has not actually faded away. We should still be demanding that the broken VA system is fixed and that our veterans get the best treatment and care possible.