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SGT Bergdahl--a complex disaster

The saga of the recently recovered SGT Bergdhal shows the White House staff at its worse. It either did not do its homework or it miscalculated the reaction to the ill-advised swap of five high ranking Taliban terrorists. A third possibility is that it needed to drown the VA care crisis by changing the subject. The latter is probably true and then the bad staff work took over as the White House staff sought a convenient and easy to execute game changer. In the end the VA crisis and the Bergdahl disaster may collide rather than a diversion.
The Bergdahl trade is fraught with mistakes and shows this administration at its worst.
• The administration argued that time was of the essence because of his health, but the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman (Diane Feinstein (D-CA)) said that she hasn’t been convinced that there was a “credible threat” against the life of Bergdahl that motivated the White House to keep its plans secret from Congress.
• The White House also has framed its decision as consistent with the obligation to ensure no soldier is left on the battlefield. This is a laudable statement. The problem is the price paid for the probable deserter and possible traitor—five Taliban Commanders—an entire Taliban staff with a year in Qatar to plot and scheme.
o One of the five Taliban leaders freed from Guantanamo has pledged to return to fight Americans in Afghanistan. "After arriving in Qatar, Noorullah Noori kept insisting he would go to Afghanistan and fight American forces there.”
o The Taliban leader Mullah Omar delivered a rare statement Sunday calling the trade a “great victory.” A victory for the Afghanistan Muslim nation. The US thus treated the Taliban as equals and elevated them to the status of a sovereign nation not the terrorists that they are.
o The Taliban have said that they now feel empowered to take more captives because of the price that they received for SGT Bergdahl.
Susan Rice, President Obama’s National Security Advisor, who went on national TV to claim that SGT Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction” has now back tracked to say that she was speaking about the fact the Idaho native enlisted and went to Afghanistan in the service of his country..
o Conversely, numerous members of Bergdahl’s platoon have come forward to testify that:
 He deserted—this is substantiated by emails that Rolling Stone has published.
 He may have committed treason by helping the Taliban. They support this claim by documenting the changes that occurred in the Taliban’s tactics after he left the base camp.
 The administration’s counterattack against these former soldiers is to accuse them of “swift boating” SGT Bergdahl in an attempt to discredit them and their detailed recollections.
• The State Department and White House are now claiming that both SGT Bergdahl and the Taliban were Prisoners of War (POW) and therefore prisoner exchanges at the end of a conflict are the norm.
o The President’s history is wrong on how deserters were treated during and after past conflicts.
o SGT Bergdahl was never listed as a POW by the Defense Department
o The Taliban were terrorists who were held in Guantanamo Bay and were never listed as POWs.
• Finally for the President to appear in the Rose Garden with SGT Bergdahl’s parents and have his father with his Muslim beard praise Allah was a huge public relations disaster.
The Bergdahl issue has blown up in the administration’s face, but it did get the VA’s problem off of the front page. The Bergdahl fiasco shows no signs of going away. In the end the White House calculus may be that the President should pardon Bergdahl, endure the short firestorm and the issue will then die.
In fact when one ties the way this issue was handled and the disservice that many veterans have received in the VA health system one can see a total disdain for honorable service to the country by the White House.. It treats a deserter as a hero and true heroes as second class citizens all in the name of spin.
The bottom line may be that one can only spin for so long before he starts spinning himself. Spin and spin and spin and soon you have a whirlwind to reap.

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