June 5th, 2014
08:46 AM ET
7 months ago

Bergdahl backlash surprises White House

Updated 10:35 a.m. ET, 6/5/2014

Brussels, Belgium (CNN) - White House officials expected controversy when the deal was announced to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five Taliban detainees from the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Despite the feel-good moment in the White House Rose Garden featuring President Obama and Bergdahl's beaming parents last Saturday, the five-for-one trade was sure to create an uproar, a White House official acknowledged.

What came as a surprise to White House aides, one official says, was the barrage of harsh personal attacks aimed at Bergdahl and even his family.

But Obama stressed Thursday he has no regrets about the decision.

"I make absolutely no apologies for making sure that we get back a young man to his parents and that the American people understand that this is somebody's child–and we don't condition whether or not we make the effort to try to get them back," he said at the end of the G7 summit in Belgium.

Critics of the prisoner exchange have suggested the U.S. received the short end of the deal, in part, because of the questions about the still murky events that led to Bergdahl's initial capture.

"It's very interesting to me that they would be willing to release five extraordinarily dangerous Taliban members in exchange for this soldier who apparently left his post. We don't know all the details," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in an interview on CNN's "Out Front."

Some of Bergdahl's fellow soldiers have accused him of desertion. But Obama administration officials have cautioned against drawing any final conclusions about how Bergdahl fell into Taliban hands. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty.

Senior Democratic leaders counter that Republicans are simply using Bergdahl as a political football to damage the President.

"Opponents of President Obama have seized upon the release of an American prisoner of war. That's what he was. Using a moment of celebration as a chance to play political games," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday.

Conservative opponents of the President have also taken aim at the former POW's father, Robert Bergdahl, noting the long beard on his face when he stood next to the President.

"The reason why I said that Robert Bergdahl looked like Muslim is that he looks like a Muslim," Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly said on his program.

Robert Bergdahl told Time magazine in 2012 that he grew the long beard and studied the Afghan language of Pashto to better understand his son's captors.

Critics of the exchange have also seized on the video released by the Taliban showing Bergdahl being handed over to U.S. forces as evidence that the POW was not in the declining health that administration officials had claimed as an urgent reason for his release.

On Wednesday, senators were given an opportunity to view the "proof of life" video that emerged last January and became the basis for the administration's concerns. A senior U.S. official said the administration is now reviewing whether that video will be made public, as some senators have suggested.

While acknowledging there are still questions to be answered about Bergdahl's capture, administration officials say the freed captive will need to recover from his ordeal before he can fully cooperate with an expected Pentagon investigation into his actions.

"I think we all owe him and his family, regardless of our feelings on this, a little bit of time, so he can get in better health, he can reunite with his family, and then we'll figure out what happened," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Wednesday. "I think we owe it to him to do that."


Filed under: Bowe Bergdahl • President Obama
soundoff (278 Responses)
  1. Ol' Yeller

    So let me get this straight... the righties on here who were crying and wailing for this Forgotten Warrior to be released and DEMANDING President Obama do something NOW and criticizing him at every turn for NOT doing anything.... are all the sudden wanting to impeach him for doing what they have been crying about for months? This soldiers status within his unit of his being said to have walked away and leaving his uniform and whatnot and saying he was going AWOL... this is not new. This has been known by anyone who bothered to even do a cursory study on this guy. This was known and still the righties wanted Obama to DO SOMETHING... ANYTHING to secure this poor soldier's release.

    So all you hypocrites need to can it or admit you really know nothing about this story and have just jumped aboard for another opportunity to insanely bang out useless drivel that serves no purpose other than for you to get your rocks off by attacking the black guy.
    Pathetic wastes of space, you are....
    Oh... you also need to confess you have no idea what the phrase 'Support our Troops' even means and while you are at it.... you can take those little magnetic ribbons off the back of of your SUV's and cram them right up your.....

    June 5, 2014 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    bobo
    Just do the investigation please! This guy was a deserter and 6 people died looking for him! Plus.... he may have worked WITH the Taliban!
    -----------–

    Not to worry. Whatever "deeds" this man (or any other man in his unit) did or didn't
    do, will - as is always the case - come out in the wash ( so to speak ).

    June 5, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  3. rs

    Donna

    Far left extremist "progressive" Democrats.... will defend terrorists, will defend deserters, will defend illegal country invaders, will defend criminals, will defend total incompetence, and yet will not defnd innocent babies from murder.
    _______________________________
    Pot meet kettle:
    Republicans defend fetuses; but deny children food assistance
    Republican love solders; but send them into useless wars, and refuse to fund an enlarges VA (needed because of their useless wars)
    Republicans love minorities; they just don't want them to vote, or gerrymander their votes into meaninglessness
    Republicans revere the elderly; but will take their Social Security and Medicare at the first opportunity.

    June 5, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  4. runny crapman

    Anthony

    Tom I, what is your point? Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty. It does not matter if the facts are astoundingly obvious. If we deny him his process because the facts are astoundingly obvious, then "innocent until proven guilty" is just an empty slogan.

    We have a system of justice in America. We have military courts for military personnel. Bergdahl is an American, and he deserves due process. We don't convict him in the court of public opinion, certainly not when a foreign-owned corporation is doing the prosecuting. Yes, I am talking about Fox News.
    ------------------------------
    The same due process given to the American citizens we killed in drone attacks?

    June 5, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    smith

    @Tom l-Thank you. To be fair to rs and sniffit there are many different routes the case could go. IMO, I see it being handled by his command but he could request a court martial or the Pentagon might drop it all together. During my time in the service I saw two cases of AWOL and both were handled in the command.
    ------------------------------------------
    Ahem. An AWOL soldier reflects badly in the immediate commanding officers, so of course they will try to handle it and serve discipline themselves. I do not know whether or not that violates any regulations, but it is irrelevant to the matter hand.

    Furthermore, you are overlooking the one major difference, the obvious difference, between your personal experience and the case of Bergdahl. The incidents that you saw probably did not result in the AWOL soldiers winding up captured by the enemy. I'm betting that they were brought back to base and disciplined.

    June 5, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. rs

    tom l

    rs is on fire today! Remember, either you're with us or you're with the terrori, errrrrrrrrr enemy combat, errrrrrr Talib, errrrrrrrrr enemy combatants – as if there really is a difference between any of those terms. Once again, rs can tell us who the real patriots are, just like a certain someone who used to live in the White House who used to tell us if we didn't agree with him we were with the terrorists.

    How is rs any different? He's not. He's just a partisan dude who must prove the democrats are superior to the repubs!
    ______________________
    This is a target rich environment today awash in Right disinformation and stunning hypocrisy. I am a partisan person- just like you. The difference? Facts! I'll gladly debate facts and ideas- unlike your snark. Grow up.

    June 5, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. rs

    Tom

    The Taliban connection contacts the WH: We are willing to exchange a captured American soldier for captured Taliban prisoners. The WH thinks through the possibilities...please make a selection.
    A. This is a political windfall – we get to present ourselves as always working on behalf of our soldiers.
    B. This will take the VA Hospital waiting lists and the deaths of two service members resulting from poor care at the Ft. Bragg hospital off the front page.
    C. If we don't advise the Congress we won't have to share the spotlight in what is sure to be a "standing ovation."
    D. All of the above
    _________________________
    Nice Fiction- the "contact" was the Qatari government, not the Taliban.

    June 5, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  8. rs

    Anthony

    Tom I, what is your point? Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty. It does not matter if the facts are astoundingly obvious. If we deny him his process because the facts are astoundingly obvious, then "innocent until proven guilty" is just an empty slogan.
    _______________________________
    Tom is playing his word games again. A couple of weeks back he was all worked up about the lack of due process when Americans fight on the side of Al Qaeda and wind up getting droned. I think this must mean he'd rather see terrorists rights be protected more than those of accused AWOL U.S. soldiers I guess.

    June 5, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  9. rs

    Tom l

    Are Sniffit and rs really trying to tell a soldier who fought on Iraq (smith) military protocol?
    ______________________________
    Smith may have fought in Iraq, that does not make him a lawyer- any more than you or me. I was just quoting what the nice Pentagon spokesman said on the news last night (although they aren't as knowledgeable as you, I am sure), and yes, I did look at the Unified Code of Military Justice. It is called RESEARCH. Try it sometime!

    June 5, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "They could have done this AFTER the war ended and all the troops were home."

    Your evidence?

    "So all you hypocrites need to can it or admit you really know nothing about this story"

    They know. They're just saying whatever it takes at any given moment in order to try to damage and destroy Obama and prevent him from having any "wins"....particularly in a mid-term year.

    June 5, 2014 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  11. Swedge70

    I've heard some people asking "What if he was turned?" Ever consider the other side? What if those five were turned? Would you be okay with releasing them if they had been turned and were now going to work for us? You can't just argue one side if you want to be taken credibly.

    June 5, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  12. Hillary Clinton: Butcher of Benghazi

    Obama letting 5 Taliban war criminals lose is ridiculous. These guys have more blood on their hands than Hillary Clinton. All of them as well as Hillary Clinton should be kept in Gitmo to protect us all.

    June 5, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  13. k fazchas

    Ok, I understand that a decision had to be made quickly to avoid losing a soldier to death. However, I believe that Congress should have been notified 30 days prior to the details of the exchange. Why have rules and laws in place if nobody is willing to follow them. Even if there had been a committee in place representing Congress as a whole would have been better than what happened. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there was a committee. People act as if this no big deal. This country of mine is out of control. Now somone wants to amend the first amendment. Someday we won't be on here commenting. Guess why?

    June 5, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  14. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    Why is the White House surprise? This president has been a vicitm of the most vicious “friendly fire” since day one. He can walk on water and perform great miracles and yet Republicans will attack him. With so many unrelented, personal and political attacks, people are beginning to wonder if maybe there is something good about him that Republicans do not want to us to see. Who would respect a party that applauded Oliver North’s antics but denies this president any room to breath?

    June 5, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Hillary Clinton: Butcher of Benghazi

    Obama letting 5 Taliban war criminals lose is ridiculous. These guys have more blood on their hands than Hillary Clinton. All of them as well as Hillary Clinton should be kept in Gitmo to protect us all.
    ----------------------------------------
    Ridiculous? What would you call the 200 "war criminals" that the Bush administration released from Gitmo? Many of them did return to the battlefield, some almost immediately.

    June 5, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  16. Marcus (from...?)

    'k fazchas – Ok, I understand that a decision had to be made quickly to avoid losing a soldier to death. However, I believe that Congress should have been notified 30 days prior to the details of the exchange.'

    You DO realize the paradox in your argument, do you?

    June 5, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  17. Marla

    Commented on inter webs best I've read yet.
    "Yet Obama seemed to know enough to invite Bergdahl's parents to the Rose Garden for a "high five" Mission Accomplished photo-op. Meanwhile a decorated marine is still sitting chained to his bunk in a Mexican prison for months now, and every liberal would rather accuse him of gun running when he says he made a wrong turn. Typical liberal double standard to me. Soldier in Afghanistan? "We need to wait for all the facts to come out. Just get him home whatever the cost" Marine in Mexican jail? "Let him rot he's a gun runner"."
    And since when does Pres Obama care if guns get into Mexico anyway?

    June 5, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  18. tom l

    Tom is playing his word games again. A couple of weeks back he was all worked up about the lack of due process when Americans fight on the side of Al Qaeda and wind up getting droned. I think this must mean he'd rather see terrorists rights be protected more than those of accused AWOL U.S. soldiers I guess.
    =======

    Hahahahha. Once again, completely mischaracterizing my words. Yes, I, unlike you, am extremely concerned about due process and never once said that Bergdahl didn't deserve that. I'm just saying that you're constant drumming of that will become a moot point when he does indeed have his "due process" as he appears to be guilty of these charges. That's not saying at all that he shouldn't have his day in court, or whatever military process it is that happens, but the evidence is overwhelming that he's guilty and the only reason you try and portray someone like me as saying I don't believe he deserves this process is because you are completely partisan.

    Now that I have stated emphatically that he deserves due process and am adamant about that, I can ask you why you are so concerned about Bergdahl getting his day in court yet you're totally cool with droning Americans before they have their due process (could it possibly be because Obama is the one who has ordered these drones, hmmmmmmmmmmm?). Because you are very clear about Bergdahl deserving due process but are hypocritically silent with regards to the drone victims. This is why you are a partisan because every viewpoint of yours, every comment is always about dems being great and repubs being horrible, awful people who hate everyone.

    As far as calling me a partisan, I just have to laugh. Is someone a partisan who opposed Bush when we went in to Iraq, felt that the approach to Afghanistan was foolhardy and going to lead to MORE terrorists, was against Medicare Part D because there was no funding, believe that deficits DO indeed matter, felt that Bush spent too much money and grew our govt, was against the Patriot Act, was against TARP, etc that then makes those exact same arguments against the next guy in office who has continued many of those policies and increased many of them such as the use of the Patriot Act, puts in another massive healthcare govt growth mechanism, puts the NSA on steroids, etc, etc etc? No, my friend, I am not a partisan to any party. I am a partisan to the American individual and against any massive govt growth.

    Please stop mischaracterizing what I say. It's annoying.

    June 5, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  19. smith

    @Anonymous-You would be 100% correct. The two cases I saw were on US soil. My assumption comes from the Pentagon statement that Bergdahl more than likely would not be punished. However, went he first left his FOB his status was AWOL and then changed to POW. That`s why I can see this be handled by his command with a kinda NJP decsion.

    June 5, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  20. Anthony

    Crapman, we don't give process to people who are fighting us. Once they are captured, if they are Americans, then it is a different story.

    June 5, 2014 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    "You DO realize the paradox in your argument, do you?"

    No, he truly truly doesn't. We're talking about the GOP/Teatrolls here...people whose normal mode of thought, such as it is, is cognitive dissonance and who have absolutely no ability to recognize that every single word out of the GOP/Teatrolls' mouths is doublespeak/doublethink.

    June 5, 2014 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  22. smith

    @Ol`Yeller-So D, Feinstein and other Dems are racist too? They didn`t like the deal as well as the GOP. Are the soliders speaking out racist? The difference between 2009 and now is we didn`t have witnesses speaking about what happend. The Obama admin once again did this to themselves and once again it blew uo in their face. Why bypass congress? Why mislead the american public about Bergdahl`s conduct?

    June 5, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  23. tom l

    smith

    @Ol`Yeller-So D, Feinstein and other Dems are racist too? They didn`t like the deal as well as the GOP. Are the soliders speaking out racist? The difference between 2009 and now is we didn`t have witnesses speaking about what happend. The Obama admin once again did this to themselves and once again it blew uo in their face. Why bypass congress? Why mislead the american public about Bergdahl`s conduct?
    ======

    You forgot to mention Gates, Panetta and Hillary Clinton all were opposed to this deal. And I know for sure the reason that they opposed. It's obvious, right Sniffit? I mean, how much clearer could it be?

    June 5, 2014 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. Ol' Yeller

    "No, he truly truly doesn't. We're talking about the GOP/Teatrolls here...people whose normal mode of thought, such as it is, is cognitive dissonance and who have absolutely no ability to recognize that every single word out of the GOP/Teatrolls' mouths is doublespeak/doublethink."

    You can see a perfect example of it in the manifestos of tom I.... a man (boy... whatever day it is) whose principled stances go no further than the borders of the particular story he is commenting on or the Democrat he is attacking all the while pointing out how non partisan he is (how is that for irony). I chuckle each time I see him swing from one doofus statement to the next with complete and utter disregard to the fact he contradicts his own 'principled stance' from one sentence to the next. In the above diatiribe he rails on the importance of 'due process', yet pronounces him guilty in the next sentence and refers to the 'overwhelming evidence of his guilt' (presented I suppose by prosecutors hannity, o'really, and any number of republicant morons who over the last many moons have regaled in their criticisms of President Obama for not doing everything possible to save this Hero). Yet tom I (as sniffit pointed out) does not recognize this at all- cognitive dissonance.
    tom I loves to point out everyone else's lack of self awareness even as his daily posts on here reflect even to the most gullible reader his complete and total disregard for any actual facts, reasonable thought on his own part, or even an iota of intellectual honesty.
    I find it most amusing and look forward to his foolishness as I am an a connoisseur of right wing hypocrisy and confusion of which tom I has revealed himself to be a never ending supply of.
    I, for one, thank you tom I for entertaining me with your nonsensical and contradictory posts. (at least you don't just make blanket hateful remarks about Obama and leavie it at that... you work hard to twist yourself into knots of contradictions).
    This is not because I am partisan (I most certainly am), this is from the heart.... it must really be awesome to be you (I mean, from your perspective)

    June 5, 2014 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  25. Ol' Yeller

    smith

    @Ol`Yeller-So D, Feinstein and other Dems are racist too? They didn`t like the deal as well as the GOP. Are the soliders speaking out racist? The difference between 2009 and now is we didn`t have witnesses speaking about what happend. The Obama admin once again did this to themselves and once again it blew uo in their face. Why bypass congress? Why mislead the american public about Bergdahl`s conduct?

    re-read my post... these folks are not attacking the President and calling him foul names and criticizing him at each and every turn.. .they just disagree with the way he handled this. Fair enough.
    Not like you and your last sentence, "Why mislead the american public about Bergdahl`s conduct?" re read my post... no one is misleading the American public except for faux news and you and your ilk.... and you are doing it for a reason, whether you accept this or not.
    And tom I- neither were Gates, Panetta and Hillary Clinton... they just disagreed with the plan. It doesn't make them racist, but your insistence that no dog whistles exsist despite the fact this is a known, taught, and accepted term in all political science classes leads me to believe you would really like to avoid facing up to some demons of your own. Otherwise you would see it for what it is... denial is not just a river in Egypt.

    June 5, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
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