In a purely symbolic act, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution to condemn President Obama for exchanging five Taliban leaders for Bowe Bergdahl. Although the bill will most likely not be considered in the Senate, the resolution exposed fractures in the Democratic party.
House leader John Boehner published this press release about the resolution,
“By negotiating with terrorists, the Obama administration encouraged our enemies. By setting free five top Taliban commanders from U.S. custody, the Obama administration made Americans less safe.”
The lines have been repeated many times since President Obama first got Bowe Bergdahl out of Taliban custody. However, the case has gotten more complicated as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its opinion that the Obama administration did break the law in the swap.
According to the GAO, the administration violated the law when it used $988,400 of an unrelated wartime account to set-up the Bergdahl transfer and failed to give Congress 30 days notice. Rear Admiral John Kirby defended the White House saying,
“The administration had a fleeting opportunity to protect the life of a U.S. service member held captive and in danger for almost five years. Under these exceptional circumstances, the administration determined that it was necessary and appropriate to forgo 30 days’ notice of the transfer in order to obtain Sgt. Bergdahl’s safe return.”
Unfortunately for President Obama, even some members of his own party were not persuaded by the Pentagon’s statements. Twenty-two Democrats were among the House members who passed the resolution condemning Obama and the Bowe Bergdahl swap.
Boehner’s statement continued.
“By ignoring the law that requires the White House to notify Congress at least 30 days before implementing this kind of transfer, the Obama administration did damage to our institutions of democratic government. Today’s vote demonstrates that many Republicans and Democrats have grave concerns about President Obama’s release of these terrorists and how it impacts our foreign policy and Americans’ safety.”
Some of the Democrats who voted for the resolution face tight races in the November mid-term elections, like Jack Barrow of Georgia. Voting to condemn might be a way of distancing themselves from President Obama, whose approval ratings are dropping.
The Bowe Bergdahl case has polarized the country in the past months. Some see Bergdahl as a traitor who was not worth the high price paid for his release. Others think of him as an honorable soldier and applaud the administration’s effort to secure his release.
Although the resolution will soon fizzle away, the debate over Bowe Bergdahl will continue for some time.
[Image Credits: khou.com and Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons]