Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bowe Bergdahl (Possibly) Did Something Stupid and Got Captured. Why Didn't We Just Wait Until He Was Beheaded?

Bergdahl walked away from his post one night. We don't know what happened.
So why didn't we let him rot when we exit combat in Afghanistan later this year?

Patriots don't cut and run. They wait for their comrades to get beheaded.

Or, in the alternative, we get our men and women home, and then investigate. If Bergdahl did something wrong, we could imprison him for another five years. Why didn't I think of that?

Or we could release him for time served. Or, at least, make him do community service in the Duck Dynasty! Justice must be served!

On the other hand, here is Jonathan Capehart's reasoned take on this.

And, all snark aside, Bergdahl's case is complicated. I land on the side of finding out what happened first. Oh, and yeah, Afghanistan is a country you can't defeat. So how many lives, on both sides, were lost because revenge?

Turns out this is really complicated. Here's a good explanation. Here's a good editorial questioning the deal. Here's one by WaPo, which can generally be counted on to be boneheaded, but this one is surprisingly rational. A couple of paragraphs worth flagging. I toss in some boldface:
The administration’s answers to these critiques are only partially satisfying. It says it did not negotiate with terrorists, since the exchange was brokered through Qatar and not directly with the Taliban. Sgt. Bergdahl and the Taliban commanders, officials add, were prisoners of war, not hostages. Probably the president’s lawyers are correct in saying that the Constitution gives Mr. Obama the authority to carry out such exchanges; a signing statement he attached to the Guantanamo legislation asserts as much. Moreover, administration officials say they were obliged to move quickly because of concern about Sgt. Bergdahl’s health.
Still, the impression reinforced by the deal is of a president anxious to disengage from Afghanistan as rapidly and as thoroughly as possible, with minimal regard for the consequences for Afghans. U.S. officials, who have been talking about a possible exchange of Sgt. Bergdahl for the Taliban commanders for several years, once presented it as a possible first step toward an Afghan peace accord. However, administration officials now play down that notion, and the Taliban dismissed it out of hand.
The first bolded statement rings true to me. It matters not that Congress passed a law if it transgressed on presidential powers, as this appears to have. The president has the right and the power to act.

The second bolded statement strikes me as the usual bullshit: Obama has struck a deal that "reinforces an impression." That's the same thing as a statement in an ad that says "Listerine has been proven to contribute to the prevention of gum disease." So does water. Go ahead and use Listerine, and go ahead and foster "an impression." It means next to nothing.

Finally, the Newsweek article I linked to makes clear that the five Taliban being released are bad actors, but they are in fact state actors. With the Afghan War winding down, we were going to have to make a decision about releasing POWs. With these, now we don't have to, and we don't run the risk of having to illegally detain people we can't convict. That's what's so depressing about Guantanamo. It's illegal, and it show America's worst face. It can't be closed fast enough. Bring people to justice, or let them go.

Guantanamo Bay: a perpetual bad PR operation.
It says, over and over, America the terrible.

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