Stillwater News Press

Opinion

June 6, 2014

PAT BUCHANAN: Advisers let down the president

STILLWATER, Okla. — Bowe Bergdahl was “an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield" who "served the United States with distinction and honor,” asserted Susan Rice, the president's national security adviser.

Rice was speaking to ABC's George Stephanopoulos the morning after Barack Obama's Rose Garden celebration of Bergdahl's release.

When she spoke last Sunday, could Rice have been ignorant of the widespread reports that Bergdahl had deserted?

Before last Sunday, her credibility was already in tatters. Not only has her credibility now suffered a second near-lethal blow, her competence as a presidential adviser is open to question.

How could she let the president strut into the Rose Garden to celebrate the release of a soldier whose reported desertion triggered a province-wide search that may have cost the lives of half a dozen American soldiers?

As The Hill reported, a Pentagon investigation in 2010 concluded Bergdahl had walked out on his unit and left a note in his tent saying he was disillusioned with the Army and no longer supported the war.

Was Rice ignorant of this? Did she think it not relevant, when she approved the president's hosting of Bergdahl's parents in the Rose Garden? Is Rice not responsible for the humiliation President Obama has endured all week and the fiasco that diverted national and international attention from his trip to Warsaw, Brussels and Normandy?

Forty-eight hours after Obama celebrated Bergdahl's release, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs was promising an investigation of the soldier on the charge of desertion and related allegations he may have defected and collaborated.

If Gen. Martin Dempsey was aware an investigation into charges so serious that they carry the death penalty was ahead for Bergdahl, did he not flag the White House before the president went before the nation to celebrate Bergdahl's return?

Consider the damage this debacle has been done. Our Afghan allies believe that, to retrieve one of our own, we dealt behind their backs with the enemy, at their expense.

In return for one U.S. soldier, we traded five hardened Taliban commanders and killers. Their release has proven both a moral and military victory for our enemies, and a moral defeat for our friends.

Second, the trade of the Taliban Five for Bergdahl has ignited a firestorm in the United States, polarized the American people further, proven a political fiasco for the president, and caused a diplomatic nightmare during his trip to Europe to shore up our NATO allies.

Patrick J. Buchanan is a national political commentator.

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