Monday, June 2, 2014

Several readers wrote...

Several readers wrote ... to ask what I thought of the exchange of five Taliban prisoners at Gitmo for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.  This morning's Wall Street Journal editorial almost perfectly captures my thoughts.  Bottom line: it's wonderful that our soldier is coming home, and there's nothing intrinsically wrong with a prisoner exchange (something we've done many times before).  The real problem is Obama's wimpy foreign policy, which at this point must have convinced even the stupidest adversary that we're not serious about defending either ourselves or our allies.

I'll make two additional points:
  • Obama has already declared the unilateral end of hostilities with the Taliban by no later than 2016.  If I correctly understand the military rules under which the Gitmo prisoners are being held, that means that he would be legally obligated to release those prisoners no later than 2016.  The way things are looking right now (with no Afghan security agreement in sight), hostilities may be over within a year – and those prisoners would have been released anyway.  In other words, the bargaining chip he used was one that was fast depreciating, and the price paid isn't quite as high as his opponents are screeching it is.
  • Press reports are claiming that Bergdahl was a seriously disaffected soldier, even that he was considering desertion in the period immediately preceding his disappearance.  The clear implication is that perhaps he did desert.  If press reports are to be believed (a dubious proposition at best), many of his military peers are quite upset that high value Taliban prisoners were exchanged for someone they're assuming was a deserter.  I think all of those speculations are irrelevant.  The question of the circumstances of his abduction is something for the military to deal with once he's back home.  If he did anything wrong, he should be tried and (if convicted) punished for it.  But ... once he was being held against his will by our enemy – the very definition of being a prisoner of war – then he deserved the treatment we would have given any other prisoner of war.
My readers know that I am no supporter of Obama or his policies.  Even knaves and fools sometimes get something right, though ... and this is one time when I think Obama did.


  1. I'm sure he did it because its hard to call the war over if there are still prisoners of war held there. Such as in the case of Vietnam. Its a political move like everything he does.

    Though I'm often dismayed at often secret legal gymnastics that created Gitmo and for that matter the CIA rendition program etc., since the prisoners in Gitmo are being held as illegal combatants, not prisoners of war, I wouldn't imagine he was under any specific legal obligation to release them at the end of hostilities.

    I'm not all that worried that he broke with policy on negotiating with terrorists, I'm far more concerned about the possibility that once again he has done something without congressional approval and specifically against the law. We are heading down a very, very bad path in which the Chief Executive implements his own agenda regardless of the constitution or the law. He does this routinely. Actively hiding information from oversight committees, thumbing his nose at (an admittedly useless) congress.

    This man has no real accomplishments, except for somehow becoming President, and then as President he still has no accomplishments....except maybe one....destroying the rule of law and turning the US into a defacto dictatorship.

  2. On the requirement for Gitmo prisoner release: from memory, the requirement to release the prisoners from Gitmo when hostilities cease was part of the enabling legislation AND Justice Department approval in Bush's term. I don't know anything that would have changed that, but I'm certainly no expert in this area, and I could easily be wrong.

    With regard to Obama's illegal action in failing to notify Congress 30 days before releasing any prisoners: when that bill was approved and signed, there was a consensus from the legal experts that the notification clause was itself an unconstitutional infringement of the commander-in-chief's authority. More than half the Senate Republicans voted "no" on that bill for precisely that reason. Obama's "signing statement", a la Bush, stated that (the irony runs deep there, as Obama forcefully objected to Bush's signing statements). The legal consensus seems to be the same today. It's actually unclear, under the Constitution, what the enforceability of an unconstitutional, but approved, piece of legislation is. I doubt anyone would file suit alleging Obama acted unconstitutionally, because they'd almost certainly lose. So that clause really ends up being just sort of window-dressing, without any real force...