Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Last night I dreamt that the Obama administration obtained the release of the only American POW being held by the Taliban, and Republican politicians all praised the return of the captured soldier. Not just that they temporarily praised the return, and subsequently took down their congratulatory Twitter posts.  No, in my dream the opposition decided to be gracious, recognizing that getting this American prisoner freed represents a significant achievement.

Senator McCain, for example, recognized that he had recently said he supported the idea of a prisoner exchange with the Taliban to obtain the release of Bowe Bergdahl. "I said then that I would support the prisoner exchange, and of course I still support it. Why would I suddenly change my position just to score some cheap political points?"

Senator Ayotte, who only last month issued a press release mentioning her "ongoing efforts to urge the Department of Defense to do all it can to find Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and bring him home safely," [actual quote] said it would be bad form now to criticize the deal that obtained the return she herself had pushed for.

Senator Jim Inhofe said last year that " the mission to bring our missing Soldiers home is one that will never end. It’s important that we make every effort to bring this captured Soldier home to his family.” [actual quote] This week the senator was of course grateful for Bergdahl's return and appreciative that the Obama administration had done exactly what he had urged them to do.

In response to a few objections to the administration's apparent inability to notify Congress about the prisoner exchange a full 30 days before it occurred, a large number of Republican congressmen pointed out that this statute did after all, represent a substantial impingement on the President's constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy, and therefore was of dubious validity.  Moreover, one Republican congressman mentioned, "we imposed no such restrictions on President Bush. The Bush administration released hundreds of Guantanamo detainees, without getting anything whatsoever in return. And a lot of them returned to the battlefield. It would be unfair of us to complain about President Obama releasing a mere five prisoners in exchange for the only American serviceman still held in Afghanistan."

And to those who questioned whether the circumstances of Bowe Bergdahl's disappearance made him unworthy of efforts to retrieve him, Republican politicians, as well as their supporters on Fox News, were quick to silence such critics. "When the time comes, it might be appropriate to hold some inquiries into this question. But it is our policy to leave no soldier behind, no matter what his actions. To deviate from that policy would be unpatriotic."

Finally, in response to a few questions about whether we were negotiating with terrorists, Republican leaders were quick to point out that this was not a negotiation with terrorists, it was a prisoner swap in a war that is winding down to a conclusion, something that occurs at the end of every war. "If we are withdrawing from Afghanistan, we have no legal basis for holding captured Taliban fighters any longer. Since we have to release them eventually anyway, it only makes sense to trade them for an American prisoner." Anyway, these Republicans admitted, "if you want to bring up the champion of negotiating with terrorists, that would be Ronald Reagan, who traded arms for hostages with the Iranians. After setting that kind of example, how could we possibly turn around and criticize President Obama for doing something that needed to be done, and that we had in fact urged him to do?"

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