In his CNN report on soldiers’ reaction to the prisoner exchange that resulted in the release of Bowe Bergdahl from his time with the Taliban, Jake Tapper included Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s nonanswer to the question whether Bergdahl had walked away:
A reporter asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Sunday whether Bergdahl had left his post without permission or deserted — and, if so, whether he would be punished. Hagel didn’t answer directly. “Our first priority is assuring his well-being and his health and getting him reunited with his family,” he said. “Other circumstances that may develop and questions, those will be dealt with later.”
That nonanswer requires translation. I think we can take that gibberish as a definitive “yes.”
Hagel must have a pretty good idea of the underlying facts. James Rosen reports for Fox News that Bergdahl and his disappearance are the subject of “a major classified file.” Rosen adds that “many within the intelligence community harbor serious outstanding concerns not only that Bergdahl may have been a deserter but that he may have been an active collaborator with the enemy.”
Rosen’s source hadn’t seen the 2010 file. Citing unnamed American officials, Ken Dilanian and Deb Riechmann now report for the AP: “The Pentagon concluded in 2010 that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his unit, and after an initial flurry of searching the military curbed any high-risk rescue plans.” Our translation of Secretary Hagel’s nonanswer stands.
The soldiers who have spoken up also assert that Bergdahl walked away. We have the testimony of the soldiers quoted by Tapper. We have the testimony of Nathan Bradley Bethea. We have the testimony of the soldiers quoted by David Martosko in his Daily Mail article.
The New York Times fastens on Bergdahl’s 2009 walk-off in today’s story by Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper and Charlie Savage: “Bowe Bergdahl’s vanishing before capture angers his unit” (bonus video with White House photo op included).
The deal that resulted in Bergdahl’s release opens a Pandora’s box of Obama administration horrors. In the spirit of inquiry, with no intent of providing a comprehensive list, I tentatively offer the following.
Notwithstanding the substantial evidence to the contrary, we have the assertion by President Obama’s national security adviser that Bergdahl served with distinction and honor.
We have the denial by administration officials that the Taliban is a a terrorist organization.
We have lost soldiers as a result of Bergdahl’s conduct. We have the torment of the Bergdahl disgrace added to the grief of the families of those lost as a result of his conduct.
We have the five Taliban leaders released in exchange for Bergdahl. They will return to the battlefield and return to their duties.
We have the weird photo opportunity in the Rose Garden with President Obama celebrating Bergdahl’s return with Bergdahl’s parents.
We have the Taliban celebrating what realistically appears to be a great victory, and we have the disgrace of their enemy thrown in for good measure.