Susan Rice probably realized there would be political fallout from bringing home Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Political rancor is easy to predict nowadays, and no good deed goes unpunished. In today’s ‘everything is politics’ atmosphere, if President Obama does a good deed you can count on conservatives to try to punish him. Which is why National Security Adviser and former Ambassador Rice had to appear on ABC’s This Week to defend the trade to recover the Army Sergeant in exchange for five Guantanamo bay detainees.
Ms Rice had her work cut out for her. Susan had to refute a complete narrative formed to dismiss the release.
The first part of the story is that we negotiated with terrorists, and, of course, America’s policy is to never negotiate with terrorists.
As former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said, “By trading to release hostages, we are invariably putting a price on the heads of other Americans.” As if Taliban fighters are not currently trying to capture US army personnel because they lack motivation and this trade will rally them off the couch.
The problem with this story is that the Taliban may be horrible people, but they’re not technically deemed “terrorists.” They were protecting the terrorists, Al Qaeda, who ironically make millions from ransoming off westerners. Unfortunately, Susan Rice can’t say this without creating a whole new PR problem and being called a terrorist-sympathizer.
So in response, Ambassador Rice said, “regardless of who may be holding an American prisoner of war, we must do our best to bring him or her back.” Susan Rice referred to this as a “sacred duty.”
The second part of the story is that these Taliban officials were too dangerous to be released.
These were high-level Taliban officers, dubbed the Taliban Dream Team by conservative pundits. Two were accused of mass murder of religious minorities. So now they will be free to go out and can kill again.
Ironically, they were also too dangerous to be charged or ultimately sentenced with anything.
But kill again where? In Qatar? When Susan Rice had to answer for this issue on ABC, the audience was reminded that detainees are not going to Afghanistan. One thing the conservative narrative leaves out is that the Taliban fighters will be sent to Qatar and not allowed free movement. Nevertheless, National Security Adviser Rice did have to ease concerns of whether security in Qatar is enough to hold the dream team.
In response, Susan Rice said, “And those assurances [from the Qatari government] relating to the movement, the activities, the monitoring of those detainees give us confidence that they cannot and, in all likelihood, will not pose a significant risk to the United States.”
Then there’s the part of the conservative story that gets dirty: that Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl wasn’t worth it. As Bill Kristol, the conservative commentator said, “It’s one thing to trade terrorists for a real POW, for someone who’s taken on the battlefield and fighting honorably for our country, it’s another thing to trade away five high-ranking terrorists for someone who walked away.”
He refers to reports that fellow soldiers were angry that he deserted his post, and that good men died looking for him. That issue also came up in Susan’s appearance on This Week.
Susan Rice replied with the best answer possible, “That is really not the point. The point is that he is back.”
Despite becoming the norm, there is hopefully still some anger over the fact that every piece of news has to be feed through the partisan meat grinder. Are there concerns about releasing terrorists? Of course. But to outright dismiss the release of an American, and calling his duty into question, is simply not classy.
For some reason, there are still many questions for Ambassador Rice going unasked. Such as, is this going to be part of a larger solution to figuring out what to do with the Guantanamo bay detainees? Right now they continue to sit in captivity and exist in a legal gray zone.
Then there is the question that is probably on most American’s minds, are we really still at war in Afghanistan? That’s a question Susan Rice hasn’t had to answer in a while.