WASHINGTON – The whole “liberation of Bowe Bergdahl” operation was supposed to be good public relations for President Obama. Instead, in the blink of an eye, it turned from heart warming end-of-the -long-war story into a gigantic fiasco for the Obama administration.
It turns out that the US went to great lengths to free a deserter about whom nobody who served with him has anything nice or even charitable to say. And the President, who should have known all this, still went ahead and made a high profile White House announcement about the regained freedom of a good American soldier held in captivity by the evil Taliban, with Bergdhal’s parents on his sides. So these are the people this President believes deserve special recognition? Deserters?
Obama defends his decision
Taken aback by the strong reactions about what was supposed to be good news, but still hoping that the general public will get tired of the story of how the administration traded 5 senior Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo Bay for 1 US soldier held by the Taliban who may actually be tried for desertion, Obama stood his ground.
Indeed, in subsequent days, the President reaffirmed –actually with defiance– that this was the right thing to do. You see, we are Americans. We do not leave any of our own behind, no matter who they are or what they did. We just do not do that, under any circumstances.
Why the White House statement?
Well, this may be a good argument about working towards the liberation of any POW, Bergdahl included. But if it is so, if this is routine, established practice, what was the point of inviting Bergdahl’s parents to the White House in order to make the announcement of the end of the long ordeal of a good American held in captivity ?
If Obama knew about Bergdahl’s at least questionable service record, what was the point of describing him as a brave soldier who had to endure 5 long years in the hands of the Taliban?
Sadly, in all this Obama looks clueless, and therefore silly.
Susan Rice does it again
But, wait, for there is more. Indeed, Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor, looks even worse. She did say on CNN, after the prisoners exchange and the eruption of the controversy, that Bowe Bergdhal was a good American soldier who had served “with honor and distinction”. Really? A soldier who voluntarily abandoned his post in a war zone and disappeared served with “honor and distinction”?
“Honor and distinction”
When given a chance to explain what she meant, Ms. Rice said this:
“What I was referring to is the fact that this was a young man who volunteered to serve his country in uniform in a time of war. That is itself a very honorable thing”.
Ah, you see, that explains it. What Ms. Rice really meant is something like this: All members of the United States Armed Forces, no matter their actual record during their service, served with “honor and distinction” , because they all volunteered in a time of war. Bergdahl volunteered and so, no matter what he did or did not do during his service, he served “with honor and distinction”.
Explanation worse than the statement
This “explanation” is preposterous, lame and silly. Think about it, according to Ms. Rice, all enlisted men or women, whatever their record during their service, automatically are recognized as having served with “honor and distinction” by virtue of the fact that they volunteered. Imagine this: while wearing the uniform, you committed war crimes. But, hey, you volunteered, and so you served with “honor and distinction”.
The honorable thing would have been for Ms. Rice to apologize for having said something really out of place, in the light of what she knew or should have known about Bergdahl’s desertion.
Remember the Benghazi story?
But no. She wanted to defend an absurd statement by explaining it. And so she said another preposterous thing.
Of course, it is impossible not to connect this implausible characterization of Bergdahl’s military record with her deceitful explanation of the “Benghazi Attack” a few years ago, in September 2012.
At that time, she went on several TV shows repeating a misleading story about what caused the (September 11) attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the death of the US Ambassador and three other Americans. The point of that fabrication was to protect the President who was running for re-election.
This time she did not say that the characterization of Bergdahl as a very good soldier came from some “talking points” she had been given. But the result is the same. She lost credibility.
Loss of credibility
There you have it: as a result of yet another botched affair, the President lost credibility; the National Security Advisor lost credibility.
In the broader context of “red lines” about the use of chemical weapons in Syria that have been crossed, inconclusive “negotiations” with Iran bent on acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities, token reprisals against Putin who acts like the neighborhood bully regarding Ukraine, while we offer meals ready to eat and socks as military aid to the Kiev government, (this is not a joke), all this makes me sad.