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Biden's Deal for the Devil

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Drug Enforcement Administration, File

News broke early Thursday morning that American Brittney Griner, a WNBA player who had been imprisoned in Russia for allegedly carrying cannabis oil into the country earlier this year, had been released from custody. It seemed it would be a day of joyous celebration as Griner, who declared her basketball league shouldn't have played the National Anthem during the 2020 season, was on a flight home to her wife and family. And yet, there was also an immediate feeling of concerned doubt. What was the catch? What kind of deal was made? Getting past the headline quickly exposed the sobering reality. 

Griner's release was a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who was serving a 25-year sentence in U.S. federal prison. The "Merchant of Death" conspired to murder Americans, fueled civil wars all over Africa, armed designated terrorist groups in South America, declared the U.S. his enemy, and much more. 

"Between November 2007 and March 2008, Bout agreed to sell to the FARC millions of dollars' worth of weapons – including 800 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), 30,000 AK-47 firearms, 10 million rounds of ammunition, five tons of C-4 plastic explosives, 'ultralight' airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers and unmanned aerial vehicles. Bout agreed to sell the weapons to two confidential sources working with the DEA (the 'CSs'), who represented that they were acquiring them for the FARC, with the specific understanding that the weapons were to be used to attack U.S. helicopters in Colombia," the Department of Justice released on the day of his conviction on November 2, 2011. 

"During a covertly recorded meeting in Thailand on March 6, 2008, Bout stated to the CSs that he could arrange to airdrop the arms to the FARC in Colombia, and offered to sell two cargo planes to the FARC that could be used for arms deliveries. He also provided a map of South America and asked the CSs to show him American radar locations in Colombia," DOJ detailed. "Bout said that he understood that the CSs wanted the arms to use against American personnel in Colombia, and advised that, 'we have the same enemy,' referring to the United States. He also stated that the FARC's fight against the United States was also his fight and that he had been 'fighting the United States…for 10 to 15 years.'"

The trade has serious and grave consequences for U.S. national security as Pentagon officials and members of Biden's party sound the alarm about Bout's release. The U.S. is sending Ukraine tens of billions of dollars in military aid each month to fight back against Russian bombings and assaults. Bout will certainly make that war harder for the U.S., NATO, and the Ukrainians to fight and win. 

"This should be a moment of deep reflection for the United States government to recognize we have a serious problem with hostage-taking of Americans. The Russians and other regimes that take American citizens hostage cannot pretend that there is equivalence between the Brittney Griner's of the world and people like Viktor Bout, the so-called 'Merchant of Death.' Nothing could be further from the truth, and we cannot ignore that releasing Bout back into the world is a deeply disturbing decision," Democratic Senator Bob Menendez released in a statement about the exchange. 

A new precedent has been set, and the price for a kidnapped American has just increased exponentially. 

Making matters far worse, while Biden traded Griner for one of the most evil men on the face of the planet, he left behind U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been falsely imprisoned in the country since 2018. 

"Now what? How do you continue to survive, day after day, when you know that your government has failed twice to free you from a foreign prison? I can't imagine he retains any hope that a government will negotiate his freedom at this point. It's clear that the US government has no concessions that the Russian government will take for Paul Whelan. And so Paul will remain a prisoner until that changes," the Whelan family released in a statement. 

Griner is home, Whelan has again been left behind, and the United States is far less safe as a result. At a very expensive price, Biden made a deal for the devil. 

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