6-13-14 – Tragic: D-Day’s 70th Anniversary overshadowed by Obama’s Taliban two-step

Posted by John Metzler

NEW YORK — A firestorm of criticism has erupted in the wake of the Obama administration’s politically ham-handed prisoner swap with the Afghan Taliban.

The initial good news about the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, in Taliban captivity for five years, soon soured after the terms of the deal were announced. We were taken!

Think about it. We trade one soldier (who may have actually deserted) for five high- ranking Taliban commanders; the Who’s Who of the Terror organization detained in Guantanamo, and this is okay?

D-Day-70th-300x214Why not swap Sgt. Bergdahl for five Taliban infantry fighters of which we hold hundreds in Afghanistan?

Instead we hear the administration’s smug and snarky rationalizations for the move, which was done in characteristic form, without consulting Congress. Rightly so there’s bipartisan backlash in Congress over the swap with the Taliban terrorist organization, not a formal state.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated that the decision to do a deal with the Taliban for Bergdahl’s release was “unanimous in the White House.” I’m sure it was.

But beyond the justified anger over the one-sided deal, the issues go much deeper.

First and foremost, by agreeing to this exchange, the USA is setting itself up for other kidnappings of Americans; not so much armed soldiers but especially vulnerable businessmen and wandering tourists in the Mideast who will be viewed as soft targets worthy of high stakes redemption.

Second, by allowing five Taliban kingpins, a few of which are war criminals, to be traded for an alleged U.S. Army deserter, the administration actually achieved a back channel victory; emptying Guantanamo of its most nefarious inmates without having to justify the move before Congress or the American people. It’s a done deal.

Whether Sgt. Bergdahl was a deserter as is alleged among many of his comrades in arms, is a matter for others to discuss and judge. I won’t.

But allow me to offer some points which have been overlooked in this media surge.

Third, in what should have been a signature week of both symbolism and substance for American diplomacy in Europe, the President’s faux pas prisoner swap totally changed the narrative, instead focusing not on commemoration but inside the beltway recriminations.

While the media, including even many on the left, have been rightfully focused over the latest outrage, the media swirl has largely overlooked two very important events; President Obama’s trip to Poland to both celebrate that country’s 25th anniversary in a rebirth in freedom from communism, and equally the 70th anniversary of the allied D-Day landings in Normandy in which American, British, and Canadian forces liberated France from the Nazi occupation.

The extraordinary symbolism of the President’s trip to Warsaw in which he recommitted the NATO alliance to the defense of its eastern members such as Poland and the Baltic states in the shadow of a Russian resurgence, his meetings with East European leaders, and the renewed partnership with France in commemorating the Allied D Day landings, were poignant political events which while covered, were dulled in impact and message and blurred in focus in the light of the Administration’s latest slip up.

Sadly, the President’s serious policy statements and commemorations in Europe were sidetracked by a sordid propaganda victory for the Taliban terrorists.

Just weeks ago, President Obama openly telegraphed his plans for the Afghan phase-out. We shall have full troop withdrawals by the end of 2014, and a possible residual forces agreement allowing 9,500 Americans to stay on in country as trainers as to shepherd some sort of peaceful Afghan future. The prisoner exchange was meant to nearly close the Afghan chapter. Mission Accomplished?

John J. Metzler is a U.N. correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He writes weekly for WorldTribune.com. He is the author of Transatlantic Divide ; USA/Euroland Rift (University Press, 2010).

 

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