The mixed reaction to the return of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is clearest in Congress, where Rep. Buck McKeon has celebrated his release while calling for hearings on the deal that made it possible. The general consensus among conservatives is that, while it's great that Bergdahl's family has him back, there are a lot of questions that need answering.
Bergdahl was taken as a prisoner of war in Afghanistan in June 2009, after walking away from his guard post. On Saturday the Obama administration announced that nearly five years later they had secured his release, in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Lawmakers are calling for hearings on what will happen to the five Gitmo prisoners he was traded for, and whether trading prisoners is ever justifiable, while writers at Breitbart News are casting doubts on Bergdahl's story. There's also a sense that the timing — just days after Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation on Friday — is a little too convenient.
Congress says it "will be holding hearings"
The law requires that the president give Congress 30 days notice before transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the need to move quickly prevented the government from giving that notice, according to the Los Angeles Times. Rep. Buck McKeon, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, told Fox News Monday that "we will be holding hearing, we will be looking into this" because “more than 72 hours after this deal has been done, we have still have not been told what they’re going to do to ensure that these top five Taliban leaders do not re-enter the fight." McKeon said all of his information is coming from "the media." McKeon, along with Sen. James Inhofe of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a statement Saturday celebrating Bergdahl's return but warning the prisoner trade "may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans."
Breitbart: Did Obama trade five terrorists for 'a Taliban sympathizer'?
Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl's platoon, alleged that Bergdahl "deserted during a time of war," according to CNN. Breitbart News took that accusation one step further and argued that Bergdahl might be "a Taliban sympathizer."
Jordan Schachtel and Raheem Kassam at Breitbart News argued on Sunday that, in 2010, the Taliban claimed that Bergdahl converted to Islam, taught them how to make bombs, and changed his name to Abdullah — but "the mainstream media largely ignored the story, seeing it as comparable to the tale of Sgt. Brody in the fictional Homeland television series on Showtime." (And, possibly, because the Taliban is not a reliable primary source.) Though the Defense Department also didn't take the report seriously, Schachtel and Kassam argue that "why (Bergdahl) seemingly walked off of his forward operating base in 2009, an infringement upon basic standard operating procedures, has not been explained."
Former Rep. Allen West stopped short of calling Bergdahl a real-life Nicholas Brody, but argued it was weird that Bergdahl had been kept alive for five years. But a security analyst told Agence France-Presse that militants wouldn't have hurt Bergdahl because "harming him would have had a negative impact on their propaganda efforts." Still, several other far right activists are suspicious of Bergdahl's story.
Bergdahl's release pushed the VA scandal out of the news
The Hill noted Sunday that Bergdahl's released had pushed the VA scandal out of the news, and several argued the timing was suspicious. "How convenient," tweeted conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna. "It's almost as if that was the plan," wrote Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, of PJ Media. "Exactly as intended, the story of the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has dominated news coverage, ma(k)ing the VA scandal yesterday’s news," wrote the conservative American Thinker.
Republicans argue this sends a "dangerous" message
The least surprising criticism of the deal is that it sends a "dangerous" message that America is willing to negotiate with terrorists. "What does this tell the terrorists? That if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists," Sen. Ted Cruz said on ABC's This Week, according to the Los Angeles Times. Former prisoner of war John McCain said Sunday that we need more information, but "it is disturbing that these individuals would have the ability to reenter the fight." Susan Rice, Obama's national security advisor, and Hagel both said they don't believe this will encourage terrorists to kidnap more soldiers.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.