Friday Firesmith – The Swap: What’s True and What’s Not

Friday firesmithTo begin with let’s look at the facts and not what everyone is saying. First things first and that would be that there is no evidence that Bowe Bergdahl deserted his post in the middle of the night. There is no evidence that soldiers looking for him were killed. The five men he was traded for were not the worst of the worst and not “bin Laden’s cabinet” as a friend of mine describes them.  And last but not least there is no evidence he’s been hiding out with the Taliban giving them a wealth of information as to how America can be brought to her knees.

Now, Bergdahl may very well be a deserter. I have no idea if he is or if he is not, and neither do you. We do know that, of course, he was looked for, but there is no factual evidence that anyone was killed looking for him. It may very well be true that someone was, but I’m saying we simply do not know at this point.

Good luck with that treason thing. It very rarely sticks.

Take a very deep breath and take a look at what we absolutely do know to be true here.

Of the five men freed, and please don’t tell me they aren’t actually freed because they haven’t taken the next flight home to Afghanistan, only one of them is truly and honestly frightening. But then again, in this case, it’s like saying that only one of the five sharks in the pool is dangerous.

Mullah Mohammad Fazl, is that one dude. He’s wanted for war crimes and apparently, every news source I’ve read lists him as a unrepentant- straight- ahead- kill- them- all type terrorist that we really do not want released back into the wild.

The first thing we do know for certain is the swap was illegal. The President has to notify Congress a month in advance before he does this sort of thing and there isn’t anyone anywhere they knew it was going to happen until it hit the news.

Let me say that we do indeed negotiate with terrorists and we’ve been doing it since we paid the pirates in Libya to leave us alone back a couple of hundred years ago. This does not set a precedent. Trades like this have been par for course. We swap spies and the like all the time, Gary Powers comes to mind, easily.

Here’s the thing;

The swap was illegal and such things are illegal for a variety of reasons, most of all because you really don’t want one branch of government making all the decisions. Secondly, given the very and truly scary nature of the people in the swap, in particular Fazl, you’d think that you’d want a lot of people doing a little thinking before he sets foot on earth without a drone coming down on him.

But I don’t have all the facts and I know it. Our president either knows a lot more than anyone else or he’s winging it.

How’d that thing in Syria come out? How’s the Ukraine situation? Yeah, uh huh.

I am all for bringing the man home. If there is evidence against him then let him be tried just like anyone else. He ought to welcome the chance to explain what happened. We owe him an impartial jury. We owe this man the benefit of the doubt. We ought to be happy for him, his family, and the country as a whole, right now. Let the facts be presented before we make a decision that isn’t based on all the evidence. That’s Obama’s thing.

And while we’re at it, and we are, how’d dealing with those pirates turn out two hundred years ago? We paid them off and they kept attacking us. And until we sent the Marines in they weren’t about to stop.

We simply do not have enough facts here to say what Bowe Bergdahl is or isn’t, or what he did or did not do.
The President’s record speaks for itself as far as recent foreign policy goes. And this one goes too far.

Take Care,
Mike

 

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

 

31 comments to Friday Firesmith – The Swap: What’s True and What’s Not

  • Scurvy Duck

    The president had the approval of the joint chiefs of staff. They know even more and I suspect there is an intelligence gathering aspect.

  • Woohoo

    Congress had no power to block the move even if they were notified. So they are crying over a non-issue. This is clearly a case of sour grapes and hatred of Obama.

    Congress would press charges against Obama if he shampoo, but didn’t rinse and repeat.

    Congress would press charges against Obama if he tore that tag off of his mattress.

    Do you think I am kidding? How many NON BINDING VOTES did congress have about the Afordable Care Act? Total waste of time and money to have those votes (they are NON BINDING, regardless of vote outcome it changed nothing).

    • My problem, Woohoo, is that in this case Obama should have reached outside his circle and gotten some sort of input from someone he can’t fire as to whether or not this was a good idea.

      I’m less impressed with Congress than Obama on any given day, sure, but at the same time, this was too much of a complex situation for one man to make the call.

      • ray

        As I understand it, it was deliberate to not go to Congress in order to assure Bergdahl’s safety.

        Is it true? Don’t know. All I can do is watch the hypocrisy of those who only months ago were asking for Bergdahl to be brought back home, and when it happens, they call him a traitor and everything else under the sun. Even worse, they went after his father.

        There may be real case of PTSD here, and if this guy comes home and gets wind of all that has been going on, I guess all those conservatives will be happy to see another soldier kill himself, especially if he does so before any trial or evidence can be brought forth. It’s always easier to speak ill of the dead, since they can’t defend themselves, ya know.

        This goes back to an earlier statement I said a while back. Conservatives really don’t care about the average citizen. In Bergdahl’s case they don’t even like soldiers unless it suits their political purpose. People are a commodity to them, to use as they see fit and then abuse them if it suits their agenda. It’s like WooHoo said, it’s all about the hate. Which, to some degree, I have wondered if Obama did this knowing the right would react churlish. But that brings him down to their level. But when you think about it, how much respect do you have for a person who spits on a soldier? Especially if they do so without any facts to back up their accusations– which is stating the obvious about a lot of conservatives.

        • That is what gets me in all this, Ray, is that there is very much we do not know.

          I wonder what people will think if a video of his abduction shows up?

          Then again, what if he admits he left on his own?

          But no matter which way the pressure lies, going after his family is despicable. I think we can all agree on that.

          • ray

            “But no matter which way the pressure lies, going after his family is despicable.”

            A large part of that is due to the right wing media. Too many people march in lockstep with those cretins. If outlets like Faux News and the sort didn’t exist, the family would have been left alone by the public, not to mention that politics alone would most likely be a helluva lot more civilized today. The irony of it all, is these are the same people who use the term “Obamabots” to disparage those who support him.

    • Richard

      Keep in mind that it was Obama that signed the law requiring him to notify Congress of this type of action and that there are any number of key Democrats who are complaining about Obama’s actions.

      • As well they should, Richard.

        I understand wanting the man back but the United States isn’t Bits and Pieces; one man doesn’t get to make all the decisions and honestly, I think Jon does a better job with feedback than Obama does.

  • xoxoxoBruce

    So you came back for more, after that sound thrashing last week, eh? ;o)

    Obama notified Congress… during his campaign he said he’d clean out Guantánamo.
    Whatever Bergdahl did, it wasn’t what an American in a hostile country would do, if they had their head on straight. He needed/needs help, the only difference is he didn’t make it home to shoot up a mall before somebody noticed.

    This is all political bullshit. In January PJ Media (pajamas) was circulating petitions to pressure Obama to get Bergdahl back at all costs. When he does, the gnashing of teeth and renting of cloth begins.

    Damnit people, play politics all you want, but leave our soldiers out of it… they deserve better.

    • I don’t agree that it is all politics and I am wary of “at all costs” considering that usually means it’s going to cost some kid in a uniform his life.

      I said it before and I’ll say it again, we should be happy to get him back. But we have no idea at what price yet.

  • Mikki K

    I do not presume to understand all of what went down, but I know when something smells “rotten in Denmark”.

  • Ted

    Anyone else see Bergdahl, but hear BirdDog?

  • From what I have read and seen on the news it would appear as though your soldier had some kind of breakdown leading him to leave his post? It is a very humane act to rescue him and allow him to get treatment at home. I don’t know if the president acted within the law but you wouldn’t want to leave any of your soldiers behind after a war, would you?

    • Mick,

      Certainly not, especially in that part of the world.

      But what did we pay to get him back and was it too much in too many ways?

      I do not know. There is so very much we simply do not know.

  • Carl

    Nice reference to the Barbary pirates, Mike. Presidents Washington and Adams paid the tribute, but a little known footnote of history is that the “pacifist” President Jefferson chose to unleash the US Navy on the pirates to good effect.

  • Barbwire

    I admire Israel. They trade dozens or even hundreds of prisoners for one Israeli.As so many have said, we simply don’t know the whole story. Isn’t leave no soldier behind an essential part of the mililtary code? As for the “conservatives”, they’re all for the military industrial complex, but when it comes to the actual humans, not so much. Look at the VA. They don’t have computers newer than 1985. Let’s spend some money there.

    • ray

      Several bills have been introduced by those on the other side of the aisle to help cut the backlog at the VA. Guess which side nixed all those bills? Hint: it’s the party that views people only as pawns for political gains.

    • Barb, the VA is a stinking cesspool of red tape from which no one leaves whole and healthy.

      Israel does indeed make some fairly spectacular trades for their people. Did you ever watch the Israeli show “POW”? it addresses this situation very well. You can find it on Hulu.

  • Ron Larson

    Sadly, I don’t trust our current Congress and Senate to work in the interest of the US. They would have gladly left Bergdhal to get murdered if they thought they could score a partisan point out of it on Faux News.

    Can’t blame Obama for not pre-informing the same asshats who tried to shut down our government and destroy what little financial integrity we have left.

    • Ron,

      That’s a good point but I trust Obama as little as that other bunch, mostly.

      It’s a difficult situation.

      Once again, and again, there is so much we all just do not know about what got swapped. I can’t wait to see this guy on 60 minutes.

  • Tom Lee

    If Obama had told those jerks in Congress, it would have been leaked to every media in the world, and that would have resulted in failure of the mission …….

    Blabbermouths everyone…….. they couldn’t keep a secret if ……….

    okay off the soapbox………BUT LEAVE NO MAN BEHIND…..remember Nam

    Horsefarmer

  • Bryan Price

    “The swap was illegal and such things are illegal for a variety of reasons, ”

    No, the only reason for it being “illegal” is that he didn’t give Congress their 30 day notice.

    “you really don’t want one branch of government making all the decisions.”

    That IS the reason why the position of President exists. The President, ANY President is Command-in-Chief. There is no one else to make the big decisions. This was one of them. Taking down Bin Laden was another.

    And that’s the problem with Congress pass their 30 day requirement. It’s called separation of powers. Congress does not get to look over the President’s shoulders and get to veto anything that the President may want to do. All Congress can do is control the purse strings. That’s elementary school civics class, right there.

    If the 30 day notification law were to go to the SCOTUS, I would bet some dollars that it would be an unanimous opinion to overturn.

    • “No, the only reason for it being “illegal” is that he didn’t give Congress their 30 day notice.”

      I’m unsure if this is true, Bryan. We don’t know who made the deal, who we were dealing with, what was given over to who for what or anything else. I’m not sure who has the legal authority to do most of the stuff that had to get done, but I’m fairly certain when you deal with the Taliban and you’re giving and getting with them, no matter how worthy the cause, you’ve broken some laws.

      ” That IS the reason why the position of President exists. The President, ANY President is Command-in-Chief. There is no one else to make the big decisions. This was one of them. Taking down Bin Laden was another.”

      Do you think killing bin Laden was legal? I’m pretty certain it wasn’t. Was it right? I’m very certain it was.

      Using the military to kill people is what the president does when he is commander in chief but only Congress can declare war. Moreover, there are limits as to who can be killed even in war. There is a lot of gray here, dude.

      “It’s called separation of powers. Congress does not get to look over the President’s shoulders and get to veto anything that the President may want to do. All Congress can do is control the purse strings. That’s elementary school civics class, right there.”

      I don’t trust any one person’s judgement on these things and you shouldn’t either. Yes, bin Laden being killed was a good idea, even if we did invade Pakistan to do it. And getting one of our own back from over there is a good thing, too, I never said otherwise.

      At what price we don’t know yet and while we’re betting I bet Obama doesn’t fully know either.

      That’s my fear in this.

      Separation of powers is there to make sure no one branch runs the whole show, by the way, if I understand it correctly. Or am I mistaken?

      • Bryan Price

        “We don’t know who made the deal, who we were dealing with, what was given over to who for what or anything else.”

        We know that the Administration made the deal on our side.

        Is this a treaty that the Senate must OK? I don’t think it is. We are exchanging prisoners, that is it. This isn’t a treaty about arms or peace or trade or anything else. As to the other side, are we dealing with a government, let alone anyone that we would truly want to give credence to being a government, legal or otherwise? No, we aren’t. There is the question of Qatar, but I suspect that is a matter of Qatar being the middle man. So I don’t see Congress having a vote in it. I don’t see any matter than can be put in front of the court at this time for their approval, and really, it’s only one court that could possibly have a say, and that’s the SCOTUS, and they aren’t about to stick their noses into this business, not unless forced to.

        So if the Congress can’t do anything and the courts can’t do anything, who are we left with? The President and his administration. There is no other part of government that has the power to do this.

        “when you deal with the Taliban and you’re giving and getting with them, no matter how worthy the cause, you’ve broken some laws.”

        I don’t think so. If you can’t communicate and do things like prisoner exchanges with enemies, then you’ve taken a lot, if not all, of the abilities of a president to come to any kind of resolution when it comes to war. That effectively makes sure that that the only way to win the conflict is to kill the enemy, 100%. And you’re never going to do that, without taking casualties of innocents. Even our supposed superior drone strikes have proven that one.

        “Do you think killing bin Laden was legal?”

        I honestly don’t know. The answer to that question is above my pay grade and requires knowledge that I know I will never have. I can’t say that I am surprised, but the orders were fairly clear cut on the matter, take bin Laden alive if you can. But it didn’t happen. I can’t say that I’m shocked that he wasn’t, and it’s not like the team had a clean get in and get out, either. They lost a helicopter. We didn’t lose anybody ourselves. I’m going to count that as a win, regardless of your question.

        “I don’t trust any one person’s judgement on these things and you shouldn’t either.”

        And yet, every four years we cast our ballots to see who becomes the most powerful man/person on the planet. That position, President, is exactly that. As long as that person has smart enough people around him, with diverse thinking (both hawks and doves), an ability to listen to what he is being told, and has the best interests of the country at heart (not the donors), then the president is going to do the best job that he can do. And it’s been that way for 200+ years, although if we only want to go back to when we became a super power, that would only be 70 years ago. That’s why presidential elections most certainly do matter.

        It is what it is. You may not like it.

        And the day that we don’t elect the most powerful man/person on this planet is indeed going to be when the US has fallen into decline. A matter of when, not if.

        “At what price we don’t know yet and while we’re betting I bet Obama doesn’t fully know either.”

        Well, we’ve certainly been paying the price for the two concurrent wars that Bush (II) decided to start. And Bush certainly did not have a clue as to the cost of those decisions. Putin doesn’t know what the full price of his taking over Crimea is going to be yet, either. That seems to be a running thread through most risky political decisions.

        “That’s my fear in this.”

        Again, that’s above my pay grade on what to think. Are there going to be repercussions? Internally with Congress certainly. But that’s simply political capital, and it’s not like there is much he can hope to do with what political capital that he has left. Other than that, it’s hard to tell. Maybe one of those people will do something horrible to us later. Or maybe we get him in a drone kill in a year or two. Or less, for that matter.

        “Separation of powers is there to make sure no one branch runs the whole show,”

        It depends on what you mean by “whole show”. Technically, what the separation of powers is about is that it is up to Congress to make laws, pass taxes, and pass budgets. It is then the President’s duty to implement the laws, collect those taxes, and spend the money allocated by those budgets. And then the SCOTUS is there to make the final decision on the constitutionality of said laws, taxes and budgets. There are other things that Congress does, such as ratify treaties, confirm appointees and declare war. If those happen, it is up to the President’s administration to execute the treaty, employ the appointees and wage war.

        This is why that administrative branch of the US is so much bigger than Congress and all of it’s aids and workers, and all of the Court’s aids and workers, combined.

        The President can’t declare a new tax. That is strictly Congress’ job to do so. The President may be able to modify a tax, if Congress has given him explicit permission to in the law, but a new tax is simply out of the President’s power. And so it is with Congress as well. They declare, but they can’t wage war.

        As my sixth grade civics teacher (I hated the class, but I certainly did seem to retain a bunch from it) says, as Command in Chief, the President can order aircraft carriers where ever he wants. KEEPING them there might be a problem if Congress decides to cut funding for those aircraft carries, and they run out of funds to keep them on the water where ever they are, but it is still within the President’s right to move troops around as he sees fit. BECAUSE he is the Commander in Chief. There is no one above him. John Boehner or Harry Reid is not above Obama just because they are the top dogs of the House or the Senate, nor is John Roberts because he is Chief Justice. Obama, and Obama alone occupies that spot right now. And yes, it is his, and his staff’s, decision to do and deal with what happens.

  • Is this a treaty that the Senate must OK? I don’t think it is. We are exchanging prisoners, that is it. This isn’t a treaty about arms or peace or trade or anything else. As to the other side, are we dealing with a government, let alone anyone that we would truly want to give credence to being a government, legal or otherwise? No, we aren’t. There is the question of Qatar, but I suspect that is a matter of Qatar being the middle man. So I don’t see Congress having a vote in it. I don’t see any matter than can be put in front of the court at this time for their approval, and really, it’s only one court that could possibly have a say, and that’s the SCOTUS, and they aren’t about to stick their noses into this business, not unless forced to.

    So if the Congress can’t do anything and the courts can’t do anything, who are we left with? The President and his administration. There is no other part of government that has the power to do this.

    So, you’re saying that the president has the right to deal with any entity he sees fits without telling anyone he’s going to do it in exchange for things he doesn’t have to explain?

    If if you think this is right you can scarcely believe such a thing is legal.

    But hang on, then there is this…

    I honestly don’t know. The answer to that question is above my pay grade and requires knowledge that I know I will never have. I can’t say that I am surprised, but the orders were fairly clear cut on the matter, take bin Laden alive if you can. But it didn’t happen. I can’t say that I’m shocked that he wasn’t, and it’s not like the team had a clean get in and get out, either. They lost a helicopter. We didn’t lose anybody ourselves. I’m going to count that as a win, regardless of your question.

    This is where the slope gets slippery because in this case I agree with you. You might want to point out that I’m complaining about trading POWs, if that was what they were doing, but I think invading another country to kill one man is cool.

    I do count that as a win.

    And yet, every four years we cast our ballots to see who becomes the most powerful man/person on the planet. That position, President, is exactly that. As long as that person has smart enough people around him, with diverse thinking (both hawks and doves), an ability to listen to what he is being told, and has the best interests of the country at heart (not the donors), then the president is going to do the best job that he can do. And it’s been that way for 200+ years, although if we only want to go back to when we became a super power, that would only be 70 years ago. That’s why presidential elections most certainly do matter.

    It is what it is. You may not like it.

    And the day that we don’t elect the most powerful man/person on this planet is indeed going to be when the US has fallen into decline. A matter of when, not if.

    This has been argued since Jefferson was president. People freaked when he bought half a continent but that turned out okay. But this is hardly the Louisiana Purchase and I’m not sure what we’ve bought.

    I still have issues with this issue.


    Well, we’ve certainly been paying the price for the two concurrent wars that Bush (II) decided to start. And Bush certainly did not have a clue as to the cost of those decisions. Putin doesn’t know what the full price of his taking over Crimea is going to be yet, either. That seems to be a running thread through most risky political decisions.

    Thanks, not that I needed the help.

    The rest of your argument is pretty much hashing over what you and I have already hashed over. You believe this was an executive decision, and in this you are right if we look at that neither SCOTUS or Congress does have the authority to make such a deal. But then again, it might be that no on legally has such power and we ought not to do it, legally.

    That goes back to that guy with a bullet in his head.

    I don’t give a shit if that was legal or not.

    Maybe that’s what has to happen to make something happen, sometimes.

    I do do much hope that I am wrong on this but I don’t think I am.

    • Bryan Price

      So, you’re saying that the president has the right to deal with any entity he sees fits without telling anyone he’s going to do it in exchange for things he doesn’t have to explain?

      As long as it does not require any of the powers that the other two, Congress, and the SCOTUS, yes. I have yet to hear anyone claim that he has used the powers of Congress or the SCOTUS. Do you really think that Obama, or any president, has to pass an act of Congress to pick up the phone and call Putin? I don’t. It is under his, Obama’s, power to release any federally detained prisoner as he sees fit. That is a fact. You may have issues with that, but that is the way our Constitution works. It is 100% legal. I don’t need a lawyer to tell me that.

      I’ll tell you a little story about my home state of Ohio. Governor Rhodes called for a ride, and got a new Highway Patrol officer acting as his chauffeur. Riding patrol cars was nothing new back then to move the governor around. He told the patrolman to get him to the clubhouse. The patrolman, being new, thought that he needed to get permission from somebody for something that wasn’t truly state business. The trouble was, the highest authority was now sitting in the back of his car. He took the governor to the clubhouse, and I suspect that the officer learned quite a deal during that trip. Was it legal? Technically, no. Was there anything the patrolman could have done differently? Not a damn thing.

      The difference between the prisoner exchange and the anecdote is that there really isn’t even a question about the legality. Congress can try and get a piece of Obama, but they know they aren’t going to get it.

      I’m not sure what we’ve bought.

      We bought Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom, for one thing. What else, I can’t claim to have even a flake of a crystal ball. Had we NOT done this, we most likely would have bought his death. Anything else is hard to gauge, even if the released prisoners somehow do damage to the US or citizens of the US, it might not make a matter in how successful they are, because I’m sure that there are others that have already taken their place, even before they were released. Everybody is replaceable if you want to pay the price.

      You have doubts. The trouble here is that there is nothing that I can say, or anybody else for that matter, that can reduce them. The deed is done. Worrying about what else might happen, or not, isn’t productive. For anybody. But I’m sure that armchair quarterbacks will certainly have their say, regardless of what actually happens.

      it might be that no on legally has such power and we ought not to do it, legally.

      What law do you think has been broken? Gut feelings, especially from individuals, aren’t laws that people can consult to see if other people have crossed over a line or not. My understanding of the Constitution, without any input from my gut, says that Obama did nothing illegal, that yes, this was a legal exercise of his powers under the Constitution and laws of this country. In this case, it truly WAS in the job description. If you know or think you know what law was violated, then state it. As to the unintended consequences, there are always unintended consequences, from every action and every INaction.

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