The announcement of the exchange of four prominent Taliban prisoners in detention at Guantánamo Bay for the last American prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan (Bowe Bergdahl) has brought howls of protest from the usual suspects on the Republican side (and from a few Democrats like Senator Dianne Feinstein). The alleged objections include:
- that Guantánamo prisoners were released without the congressional consultation required by a law passed last year as a rider on the defense appropriations bill;
- that those released were particularly dangerous;
- that the price for Bergdahl’s release was too high; and
- that Bergdahl was a deserter and thus somehow undeserving of retrieval.
Each of these objections is cynical, reflecting a determination by the opposition to condemn the president no matter what he does, and to cook up scandals with whatever ingredients become available. The legal provision inserted in the defense appropriation was one more attempt to frustrate Obama in his declared intention to close the detention facility at Guantánamo, which he rightly views as an embarrassment to the United States.
Those alleging that the price was too high would be the same folks who in other contexts would unleash florid rhetoric about no price being too high to bring back American prisoners or hostages.
While there is always a risk when releasing prisoners who have been held illegally and often tortured, that they might return to military action against the United States, the allegation that these particular terrorists are more dangerous than the others still in custody is questionable. Obama’s opponents would likely have made the same allegation about any prisoners released. And were it not for congressional restrictions on bringing the detainees to trial in U.S. courts, they would probably be serving time in prison by now.
Those alleging that the price was too high would be the same folks who in other contexts would unleash florid rhetoric about no price being too high to bring back American prisoners or hostages. It’s a cheap shot from people who weren’t doing the negotiating.
The whispering campaign about Bergdahl is the most outrageous. We have heard that he walked away from his sentry post without authorization, thereby endangering his mates. We have also heard that he had expressed disillusionment in letters home. But the fact is that we simply do not know the truth. For people and the press to condemn him without a full investigation amounts to kangaroo justice. He certainly doesn’t deserve to be left to the tender mercies of the Taliban (who might do to him what we did to the Taliban prisoners in Guantánamo).