Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Evolving: Bowe Bergdahl Release Exchange — GOP Apoplectic

Older Picture (PFC) - Today Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
(CINC's Sworn Duty)

GOP's Perceived Sworn Duty
(Mike Luckovich nails it)

6th Update (June 4, 2014): About one aspect of this exchange - the requirement for the President to give Congress a 30-day advance notice before any detainee release or swap, this what I call a "bombshell information" moment for the GOP. To wit the below headlines. But, in this fast-moving 24/7 "info world" who and what can the public believe and trust?

One side says X; yet another side says Y; then still another side says both are wrong. 

"Bergdahl-Gitmo Detainee Plan Presented by W/H to Congress in 2011"

A WTF moment for sure.  More: The former Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said in a statement she issued today (June 3, 2014) that she said she was part of the 2011 classified meeting with the NSC, the CIA, State Department, and DoD where the plan to swap Guantanamo Bay detainees for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was the topic. (Note: She also appeared on a FL TV station seen this in this short 2-minute clip).

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)

More specifically on her statement, which in some aspects is not clear: Her office noted that because the meeting was classified, she never spoke of it before now. Speaker Boehner (R-OH) acknowledged that the meeting took place. Ros-Lehtinen also had charged that the Obama administration had leaked the idea of a prisoner swap to the press back in 2011. She said she is “outraged” now that the administration quickly agreed to the swap despite congressional opposition, and without proper notification. House members have said they got five hours’ notice about the deal, not the 30 days’ notice required by law.

Okay, let’s be clear here, if that's humanly possible with this "out for Obama's head GOP crowd" shall we and call this, well, sort of like another Rick Perry “Oops” moment shall we – I’d have to say that the 30-day mandatory notification of the possibility of a release in the making was not met (the 5 hours she noted was) due to fast-moving events. If a 30-day notice had been given I guarantee you that this Congress would have left Sgt. Bergdahl rot in captivity rather agree to the release.

5th Update (June 3 2014): This story is moving so fast that it's hard to keep up. But, it's an important story and a page in military history yet to be written - certainly not completed. But, the the GOP outrage is any indication and they somehow get their way, then Sgt. Bergdahl is ready for the hangman's noose. Just skip the investigation, charges (if any), just bring the "guilty bastard in, give him a fair trial and then hang him."

This is very good insight as if no one is keeping track as the GOP has kittens.

4th Update (June 2, 2014) re: GOP outrage about this exchange deal, or should I say misplaced outrage. Allow me to continue.  

First: this on Bergdahl and the GOP nastiness, which I also call craziness: I ask everyone of them: “Imagine this were your only son.”

I also contend that the other GOP argument is weak. It regards them saying that the five Taliban detainees released will return to the fight - that is patently bizarre fiction. The I would ask them: “Would John McCain have returned to flight status and the bombing war against North Vietnam if he'd had the chance after his release as a POW?”

Then these historical facts:

In 1982, Democrats had control of Congress passed the Boland Amendment, which restricted CIA and Department of Defense operations in Nicaragua specifically.

In 1984,
 a strengthened Boland Amendment made support almost impossible. A determined, unyielding Reagan told National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, “I want you to do whatever you have to do to help these people keep body and soul together.”

What followed would alter the public's perception of the president dramatically. How "Iran" and "Contra" came to be said in the same breath was the result of complicated covert activities, all carried out, the players said, in the name of democracy.

That happened before this historical fact:

In 1985, while Iran and Iraq were at war, Iran made a secret request to buy weapons from the United States. McFarlane sought President Reagan's approval, in spite of the embargo against selling arms to Iran. McFarlane explained that the sale of arms would not only improve U.S. relations with Iran, but might in turn lead to improved relations with Lebanon, increasing U.S. influence in the troubled Middle East. Reagan was driven by a different obsession. He had become frustrated at his inability to secure the release of the seven American hostages being held by Iranian terrorists in Lebanon.

As president, Reagan stated that he felt that “he had the duty to bring those Americans home.”

The arms-for-hostages proposal divided the administration. Longtime policy adversaries Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultz opposed the deal, but Reagan, McFarlane and CIA director William Casey supported it. With the backing of the president, the plan progressed.

By the time the sales were discovered, more than 1,500 missiles had been shipped to Iran. Three hostages had been released, only to be replaced with three more, in what Secretary of State George Shultz called “a hostage bazaar.”

Now here we are today with more current and sustained GOP wackiness.

3rd Update (June 2, 2014): Comments related to this prisoner exchange are getting more frequent and nastier, but I totally agree with this statement by National Security Adviser Susan Rice on TV Sunday: “Had we waited and lost him, I don't think anybody would have forgiven the United States government.”
  • One GOPer called it a troubling precedent — another GOPer called it shocking.
  • Sen. John  McCain (R-AZ), said of the five Guantanamo detainees exchanged: “These are the hardest of the hard core.”
  • Other Republicans are pressing hard, too. “Have we just put a price on other U.S. soldiers?” asked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). “What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists?”
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said, “I'm going to celebrate him coming home, but the release of five mid- to high-level Taliban is shocking to me, especially without coming to Congress.”
  • The Afghan Foreign Ministry weighed in calling the swap “...against the norms of international law if it came against the five imprisoned Taliban detainees' will," and then adding: “No state can transfer another country's citizen to a third country and put restriction on their freedom.”  The five detainees left Guantanamo are to be banned from leaving Qatar for at least a year.
2nd Update (June 1, 2014):  Events on this story are moving fast and now as indicated, very disturbing. The first update follows this update. I suspect more will develop and follow on this story. But, as I said, this one is particularly disturbing.

The GOP supports the military, combat Vets, and others right? Büllshït ... just ask GOP House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers (R-MI) who came out as the harshest critic of the decision, saying on CNN as correspondent Erin McPike read a statement from Rogers on the air:

“I’m extremely troubled that the United States negotiated with terrorists and agreed to swap five senior Taliban leaders who are responsible for the deaths of many Americans. This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages.”

He also said he believes the decision will “threaten the lives of American soldiers for years to come.” 

Rep. Rogers: Sir, you are a first rate ässhølë (FYI: Rogers served in the Army from 1985-89, then with the FBI). I hate to sound harsh or nasty, but he has earned my wrath on this subject with this words.

I wonder: What if Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl were his son and been held by enemy forces since 2009 and now had a choice to come home? Would Mr. Rogers have the same view and comments? I doubt it.

1st Update (June 1, 2014):  As I said, it is quickly developing into bigger story than just Sgt. Bergdahl's release in this exchange ... now the GOP is seeking to stain the President. Cite the following:

Throughout military history we have had prisoner exchanges. Some Americans, like Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) fail to recognize or remember any of them, and now add Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) to the list of worry warts (see story below).

1.  Operation Little Switch was an exchange of sick and wounded prisoners during the Korean War in April and May 1953. The U.N. released 6,670 Chinese and North Korean prisoners, and the Communist forces returned 684 U.N. coalition prisoners (including 149 Americans).

2.  Operation Big Switch began in August 1953 and lasted until December. 75,823 Communist prisoners (70,183 North Koreans and 5,640 Chinese) and 12,773 UN prisoners (7,862 South Koreans, 3,597 Americans, and 946 British) were returned. Over 22,600 Communist soldiers, the majority of whom were former Republic of China soldiers who fought against the Communists in the Chinese Civil War, declined repatriation. Much to the surprise of the UN forces, 23 Americans and one Briton, along with 333 Korean UN soldiers, also declined repatriation.

3.  In our own Civil War, Union and Confederate forces exchanged prisoners sporadically, usually as an act of humanity between opposing field commanders. Throughout the initial months of the Civil War, support for prisoner exchanges grew in the North. Petitions from prisoners in Southern captivity and articles in Northern newspapers increased pressure on the Lincoln administration. On December 11, 1861, Congress passed a joint resolution calling on President Lincoln to “inaugurate systematic measures for the exchange of prisoners in the present rebellion.”

WASHINGTON (AP) – Two Republican lawmakers on Saturday accused President Obama of breaking the law by approving the release of five Afghan detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for a U.S. soldier believed held by Islamist insurgents for five years. The White House agreed that actions were taken in spite of legal requirements and cited “unique and exigent circumstances” as justification.  Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California and Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma said in a statement that Mr. Obama is required by law to notify Congress 30 days before any terrorists are transferred from the U.S. facility. Story continues at the link.

Based on my further research and opinion about the remarks from GOP: Rep. Mike Rogers, Buck McKeon, and Sen. Inhofe, I offer the following:

I logically conclude that they greatly dislike prisoner or detainee exchanges based. I further conclude that they prefer to see both side's POW's/or detainees, et al, serve out their time in a camp behind barbed wire in a small cell until the war and fighting is over. Then they can be released to return to their homes. I surmise they follow the format used at the end of our own Civil War with prisoners like this Union soldier (pictured below) was released from the Andersonville (GA) POW camp in May 1865? What a sick attitude to hold by anyone in trusted office.

Immediate update from today:  More details here on the following story:  Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was exchanged today for five Taliban detainees who had been held at Gitmo. It looks like it was a pretty steep price to pay for his release.

All five of them are believed to have been the most senior Afghans held at the prison, they are:

—  Abdul Haq Wasiq: Served as the Taliban deputy minister of intelligence.

—  Mullah Norullah Nori: A senior Taliban commander in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif when the Taliban fought U.S. forces there in late 2001.

—  Khairullah Khairkhwa: Served in various Taliban positions including interior minister and had direct ties to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden.

—  Mohammed Nabi: Served as chief of security for the Taliban in QalatAfghanistan, and later worked as a radio operator for the Taliban's communications office in Kabul.

—  Mohammad Fazl: A person Human Rights Watch says could be prosecuted for war crimes for presiding over the mass killing of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001, at the time the Taliban was seeking to consolidate their control over the entire country.

Original Story Starts From Here — Background: America's only known captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, was released today (May 31, 2014). He hails from HaileyIdaho. He been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009.

Note on this picture: Uncredited/AP — File image provided by Intel Center on December 8, 2010.
 Frame grab from a video released by the Taliban of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The story from here and here — The only American solider held prisoner in Afghanistan has been freed and is back in U.S. custody after nearly five years of captivity, U.S. officials said Saturday. The officials said the Taliban agreed to turn over Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five Afghan detainees from Guantanamo Bay. The transfers happened after a week of intense negotiations mediated by the government of Qatar, which will take custody of the Afghans.

President Obama said Bergdahl's recovery “is a reminder of America's unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield.”

His debrief will be most interesting I am sure. A lot of questions remain to be answered regarding the circumstances of his capture, life and treatment in their custody, and whether or not he has any valuable intelligence (Taliban leadership, camps, other locations, etc.). It will take weeks to conduct that. It will be interesting and should be very revealing. A key question in that regard will involve his treatment in comparison to the treatment of those we have held and still hold. 

The world will be watching as they say with bated breath for answers and comparisons. Stay tuned.

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