Leave No Man Behind
Nothing makes Republicans madder than President Obama doing his job and succeeding. They’ve spent the last few weeks blowing up pseudo-scandals, like Macy’s parade balloons, that they hope to keep inflated through the summer.
Poor old Prosecutor Gowdy is still arm-wrestling with Judge Issa over witnesses and trying to get his “show horses” to finish reading Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies before the big trial.
And BOOM! along comes Obama saying I’ll see your Benghazi Special Investigation, your IRS and VA scandals and raise you a high-profile Imperial Presidency prisoner swap.
There! you want something to cry about? I’ll give you something to cry about.
But they’ll have to be smart to put points on the board with this one because no one really wants to hear any whining about a soldier’s homecoming . . . they’re not smart, though, are they?
Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said in a statement that Obama is required by law to notify Congress 30 days before any terrorists are transferred from the U.S. facility. They said Obama also is required to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially mitigated.
The top Republicans on the House and Senate armed-services committees cautioned that “we must carefully examine the means by which we secured [Bergdahl’s] freedom,” warning that the U.S. had effectively reneged on its policy not to negotiate with terrorists.
Which is a curious statement since the US has not designated the Taliban a terrorist organization. But, by now, we should be used to our Congresspersons playing fast and loose with facts.
In addition, how is it that a Congress that has been one of the most shamefully ineffectual, abysmal flops in the history of American governance can get all snippy about being sidelined when something real needs to happen? If these people had to operate for one week in their beloved free market they’d be toast. All of them.
Perhaps, if Congress hadn’t been so anxious to stymie the president’s pledge to close Guantanamo and had been more inclined to provide those Gitmo prisoners with anything like due process they wouldn’t have still been been moldering away there to use in a swap.
And, about that 30 day notification law? It was attached to last year’s defense bill to prevent Obama from moving on Guantanamo closure. When he signed that defense bill last year, Obama said that “other provisions of the bill on military programs were too important to jeopardize” by vetoing it outright. Instead, Obama signed the defense bill but also issued a signing statement contending that the notification requirement was an unconstitutional infringement on his powers as commander in chief and that he therefore could override it.
And he did. Imagine that, a politician who means what he says.
The White House said it moved as quickly as possible given the opportunity that arose to secure Bergdahl’s release. Citing “these unique and exigent circumstances,” the White House said a decision was made to go ahead with the transfer despite the legal requirement of 30 days advance notice to Congress “due to a near-term opportunity to save Sergeant Bergdahl’s life.”
The administration determined that given these unique and exigent circumstances, such a transfer should go forward notwithstanding the notice requirement.
Especially since the alternative was to go hat-in-hand to the same Congress that already shut down Bergdahl’s release once, in 2012.
As Raw Story reports:
In addition to using congressional oversight, special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman was told by Republican leadership that negotiating an exchange of Sgt. Bergdahl that involved detainees from Guantanamo Bay would be the president’s “Willie Horton moment.”
Does it get any more cynical than that?
Of course, Obama’s action in this case is not without precedent. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan faced a similar dilemma - seven Americans held hostage by Iranians in Lebanon. Ronald Reagan felt that, as president, “he had the duty to bring those Americans home.” He decided that giving Iran 1500 missiles was a fair trade. I’d say Obama did a much better deal trading five Taliban members and saving the missiles for another time.
Taliban is not al Qaeda. Taliban is not designated a terrorist organization by the US. Neither are these people being repatriated, they have been handed over to the Qatari government, an American ally in the region.
Meanwhile, while admitting they celebrate Bergdahl’s release, McKeon and Inhofe warned that the exchange “may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans.”
“Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk,” they said.
If Congress would like to discuss presidential actions that “put our forces . . . around the world at even greater risk,” perhaps the time is right for a thorough investigation of the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq . . . ? Or their cavalier abandonment of said Wounded Warriors when their medical care requires more funding than our parsimonious Congress is willing to dole out?