Cal Thomas: Was the price too high for release of soldier?

06/04/2014 12:00 AM

06/03/2014 5:33 PM

Euphoria over the Taliban’s release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was quickly tempered by media reports that Bergdahl had abandoned his post and that his father made comments opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bergdahl’s father tweeted, “I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child.”

Does that include those children killed while being used as human shields by the Taliban? Where is Bergdahl’s concern for women who die from “honor killings” and for girls who are denied an education?

The up-front cost of this “prisoner exchange” is the release of five terrorists from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. Future costs could be much higher. Not to mention the fact that news of the controversial exchange knocked reports on the Department of Veterans Affairs fiasco right off the front pages. Was this partly the administration’s intent?

Official U.S. policy has been that “we don’t negotiate with terrorists.” Except when we do. Sgt. Bergdahl, America’s only prisoner of war, was reportedly in failing health after more than five years in captivity, and negotiations to secure his release were urgent and laborious. But freeing five dangerous men to secure the release of one soldier could very well put this country in increased danger.

What should we have done? It depends upon the outcome one is seeking. If rescuing one man is paramount, then any price is worth it. But if that rescue leads to the deaths of others, as is likely, then the price is too high.

In a joint statement after President Obama’s announcement of the terrorists’ release, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon, R-Calif., and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke of “consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans.”

The five terrorists include two senior militant commanders alleged to have been implicated in murdering thousands of Shiites in Afghanistan. The five have been shipped to Qatar. Obama says the Qatari government has assured him they will be subjected to security restrictions and won’t be a threat to the United States. How does he know this? Even in a “moderate” Muslim state like Qatar, Islamic blood is thicker than the “water” of infidels.

The prisoner release is another in a growing list of executive actions that bypass Congress, which has imposed strict statutory restrictions on moving detainees out of Gitmo. These include a determination by the defense secretary that any transfers are in America’s national security interests, that procedures are in place to substantially mitigate any future threats by the terrorists and, most important, that Congress receive notification 30 days before any planned release. Congress received no such notice. Once again, Obama has circumvented the law.

The track record of previous terrorist prisoners released from Gitmo is not a reason for confidence. According to a recent U.S. intelligence report, 603 prisoners have been freed from Guantanamo; 100 of them are confirmed to have returned to terrorism, and another 74 former inmates are suspected of returning to terrorism.

Radical Islamists are serious about killing in pursuit of their extreme objectives. Releasing their soldiers can only embolden them to take more Americans hostage. The deal for Bergdahl may well turn out to have been a bargain with the devil.

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