Celebrity Fox News reporter Geraldo Rivera defended President Obama’s arrangement for the return of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl with the following line: “Wars end when you negotiate with your enemy.” The truth, of course, is slightly different. Change the order of the wording and we get closer to the mark: when wars end, then you negotiate with your enemy. Rivera was almost telling the truth. We could, in fact, say that Obama and his defenders are forever almost telling us the truth.
So it is with the case of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the young P.O.W. America’s Commander-in-Chief brought home. Right there we hit our first snag – Bergdahl was almost a P.O.W. He once escaped captivity for five days, which implies he was a prisoner of anti-government forces (AGF) in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, members of Bergdahl’s platoon last week drew to the public’s attention the fact that although the sergeant had been a prisoner, he was not a P.O.W. That moment in 2009 when Bergdahl stepped out of his makeshift US army base – leaving behind his weapon, uniform and protective gear – and went in search of the AGF, he ceased to be a soldier in the US armed forces. Instead, he became a deserter and, to all intents and purposes, a civilian (albeit in the pay of Uncle Sam, pending a court-martial).
This brings us to the identity of Bergdahl’s captors. In exchange for Bergdahl’s freedom, President Obama liberated five men from Guantánamo Bay: Abdul Haq Wassia, top Taliban intelligence officer; Mohamed Fazal, the Taliban’s military chief of staff; Mohammed Nabi, a Taliban liaison officer with Al Quaeda; Mullah Khalrulla Khalrkhwa, former Taliban provincial governor with links to Osama Bin Laden; and Mullah Norullah Noori, former Taliban governor and Taliban military commander wanted by the UN for War Crimes. Viewers watching President Obama in the Rose Garden with Jani and Bob Bergdahl on Saturday, May 31, could be excused for thinking Bowe Bergdahl’s captors were members of the Taliban — an assumption that was almost correct.
The Islamists who detained Bergdahl for most of the five years are members of the Haqqani Network, a terrorist outfit that is aligned with the Taliban but is not the same as the Taliban – different enough for the US Department of State in 2012 to formally categorise the Haqqani Network as a foreign terrorist organisation. The Obama administration once put a figure of $5,000,000 on the capture on the network’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani. Are we to believe the Haqqani Network, as much a Mafia-style criminal enterprise as a straightforward Islamic terrorist organisation, gave up a lucrative asset in the form of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl free of charge?
On Sunday, June 1, 2014, Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, went on the US Sunday morning television programmes to explain that Bergdahl served the United States with “honour and distinction”. But in short time the White House’s narrative started to unravel. In the aftermath of President Obama’s Rose Garden performance, sensational new claims began to enter the public domain. Bergdahl’s desertion, according to verifiable reports, resulted in six American soldiers losing their lives in 2009 during attempts to locate and retrieve him. There were suggestions of not only desertion, but also collaboration with the enemy.
Several days later, Rice acknowledged there was now “lots of discussion and controversy” concerning the circumstances of Bergdahl’s incarceration in Afghanistan. The national security advisor wished to clarify her earlier remarks: when asserting that Sgt. Bergdahl served his country with “honour and distinction” all she meant to imply was that Bergdahl’s enlistment in the armed forces represented “in and of itself” a “very honourable thing”. The sentiment expressed by Rice in her clarification statement was – if you were, say, distracted by the traffic and late for work – practically the same as in her Sunday morning appearances.
Outgoing White House Press Secretary James Carney insisted that the release from Guantánamo of the Taliban’s Dream Team was “not a security threat to the United States”. Next day President Obama backed up – or, more or less, backed up – Carney’s assurance, though The One did admit there was “a possibility” of some of the five returning to activities that could be “detrimental” to the United States. Nonetheless, Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, called it “baloney” to suggest the Dream Team would harm US personnel in the future. His reasoning? Obama is winding down America’s presence in Afghanistan, and so there will be no US personnel in future for Abdul Haq Wassia et al to harm. This might be true “in and of itself” – as Rice would say – and yet the threat of terrorism against Americans is hardly confined to Afghanistan. Kerry helpfully added: “I am not telling you that they don’t have some ability at some point to go back and get involved, but they also have an ability to get killed if they do that.” One cannot help feeling that, to paraphrase Shakespeare, Team Obama and its boosters in the mainstream media are intent on telling half-truths in order to betray us with the deepest consequence.
Take, for instance, the treatment of John McCain by the New York Times. In one of its editorials last week, the pro-Obama newspaper accused Senator McCain of hypocrisy for having supported four months ago the proposed exchange of “five hard-core Taliban leaders” for Bergdahl, before switching his position after President Obama actually did the deal. The leftist opinion-makers lashed out at McCain for depicting the prisoner exchange as “troubling” and something that “poses a great threat”. Republicans such as McCain, according to the Times, are using “Sergeant Bergdahl’s captivity as a cudgel against the administration.” John McCain’s position – or changing position, as apologists for Obama would have it – is highly emotive because McCain was a P.O.W. during the Vietnam War.
It turns out – shock, horror – that the Times editorial board was very nearly faithful to Senator McCain’s initial position, as outlined to CNN. Yes, in that interview he agreed a prisoner exchange to secure Bergdahl’s freedom was something America “should seriously consider”. On the other hand, the anti-Republican editors omitted from their original piece McCain’s not insignificant qualification: “Obviously, I’d have to know the details…” An updated version of the editorial now includes McCain’s rider, which “in and of itself” demolishes the editors’ accusation of hypocrisy. Perhaps “the paper of record” hoped nobody would notice them changing the record. After all, they were almost telling us the truth about John McCain the first time around.
Obama’s May 31, 2014, speech echoed the January 20, 1980, release of the final fifty-two hostages held by the Iranians. You could close one eye and squint with the other and imagine a delighted Ronald Reagan announcing the liberation of freedom-loving Americans from the grip of Islamo-fascism. Alas, the illusion only lasted until Bob Bergdahl, resplendent in an Islamic-style beard, began his brief address with an Arabic phrase that translates as: “In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.”
The world’s first post-American president smiled indulgently.
Daryl McCann blogs at darylmccann.blogspot.com.au