Guy Benson


The plot thickens, as Bergdahl's status as (at least) a deserter is looking less "alleged" and more "confirmed" than ever. The New York Times reports:


Sometime after midnight on June 30, 2009, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl left behind a note in his tent saying he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life. He slipped off the remote military outpost in Paktika Province on the border with Pakistan and took with him a soft backpack, water, knives, a notebook and writing materials, but left behind his body armor and weapons — startling, given the hostile environment around his outpost. That account, provided by a former senior military officer briefed on the investigation into the private’s disappearance, is part of a more complicated picture emerging of the capture of a soldier ...“Yes, I’m angry,” Joshua Cornelison, a former medic in Sergeant Bergdahl’s platoon, said in an interview on Monday arranged by Republican strategists. “Everything that we did in those days was to advance the search for Bergdahl. If we were doing some mission and there was a reliable report that Bergdahl was somewhere, our orders were that we were to quit that mission and follow that report.” Sergeant Bergdahl slipped away from his outpost, the former senior officer said, possibly on foot but more likely hiding in a contractor’s vehicle. “He didn’t walk out the gate through a checkpoint, and there was no evidence he breached the perimeter wire and left that way,” the ex-officer said.


Fox News' Jennifer Griffin is hearing similar things about Bergdahl, with an added twist:


Here's the report itself, pointing to a "suggestion" of wanting to renounce his citizenship, which could be subjective. Who has the exact text of the note? Once again, I find myself at something of an analytical loss. The White House must have known this stuff. Even if you're inclined to go the Hanlon's Razor route on this whole fiasco, it is simply beyond the realm of possibility that nobody at the White House was aware of any of the media reports or internal findings that pointed to some form of treachery on Bergdahl's behalf. The apparent fact that he abandoned his unit before being captured by, or defecting to, the Taliban isn't an ipso facto argument against the deal that secured his release, as the principle of leaving no man behind doesn't necessarily come with an asterisk for soldiers suspected of desertion. But the reality of his situation absolutely has bearing on the politics and optics of the swap, which were going to be complicated to begin with. The White House did not need to hold a presidential presser in the Rose Garden. The president's National Security Adviser did not need to hail Bergdahl as having served with "honor and distinction" on national television. These were choices -- political choices -- designed to apply a sugary veneer to a complex story. According to NBC News' Chuck Todd, the administration apparently expected the public to greet the news with "euphoria." Incredible:



To my mind, this confirms the suspicion I aired on Twitter yesterday -- namely, that the White House deeply miscalculated the politics of this. They figured that the feel-good nature of the "POW" returning home narrative would be blindly seized upon and enabled by a media exhausted by the egregious VA scandal story. Unpleasant details would be white-washed or mostly ignored, and the only real outrage would emanate from the usual suspects on the Right. They thought they could counter critiques of the nature and terms of the trade with faux-indignant questions about whether skeptics were in favor of "leaving Americans behind." And they must have been under the impression that the vast majority of our troops would be over the moon about the news, which could also serve as a balm for the VA rawness. A two-fer. Given this combination of factors, the precedent of transferring controversial detainees out of Guantanamo Bay would be set, paving the way for its closure. Wrong on all counts. Many Americans were instinctively suspicious of handing over five of the worst terrorists in Gitmo for one of our own, with concerns over precedent and incentives arising intuitively. The apparent fact that our lone "prize" in this six-man deal is likely a deserter throws a major wrench into the mix, especially because his platoon-mates aren't being shy about voicing their opinions of him. (Some on the Left are trying to make a side-show out of this, but I don't think it'll have much impact). The troops, more broadly speaking, appear to be far from ecstatic. If the scenario I'm painting based on Todd's comments is accurate, the White House absolutely botched the politics of the Bergdahl affair. Badly. Given the uproar over the desertion charges -- and again, there are clues that his actions went far beyond that crime -- how will Americans receive the news that our friends in Qatar have reportedly given the Taliban Five free rein within their country? Yup:


Qatar has moved five Afghan Taliban prisoners freed in exchange for a U.S. soldier to a residential compound and will let them move freely in the country, a senior Gulf official said on Tuesday, a step likely to be scrutinized by Washington.U.S. officials have referred to the release of the Islamist militants as a transfer and said they would be subject to certain restrictions in Qatar.


Here's video of these monsters receiving a heroes' welcome upon their arrival. Jihadi propaganda gold:



Be sure to read Eli Lake's scoop on how Obama "convinced" the defense and intel communities to sign off on this move, after high-ranking officials had categorically rejected the idea when it was first floated in 2012. Cliffs Notes version: He rammed the decision process through quickly, telling as few people as possible. One official called it an instance of "forcing the consensus," a leadership style for which George W. Bush was heavily pilloried by people like Barack Obama. Another official sounds awfully concerned about those "security guarantees" offered by the Qataris, which Jay Carney couldn't explain: "After the first year there are no controls and they still will pose a danger to U.S. interests in Afghanistan.” Terrific. I'll leave you with one of the more ridiculous lefty media attempts to tamp down this shinola storm:



Proud, snarky ignorance from a Politico editor. Here are the gruesome CVs of these "ninjas." Laugh it up.


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography