Obama on Bergdahl Swap: I Make No Apologies

“We do not leave anybody wearing the American uniform behind,” the president said at a press conference Thursday morning.

National Journal
Add to Briefcase
Marina Koren
June 5, 2014, 6:34 a.m.

An Amer­ic­an sol­dier’s re­lease from Taliban cap­tiv­ity first drew cel­eb­ra­tion, then cri­ti­cism, and now, a lot of con­fu­sion.

The White House, however, knows where it stands.

“We do not leave any­body wear­ing the Amer­ic­an uni­form be­hind. We had a pris­on­er of war whose health had de­teri­or­ated, and we were deeply con­cerned about, and we saw an op­por­tun­ity, and we seized it,” Pres­id­ent Obama said Thursday dur­ing a press con­fer­ence from the G-7 sum­mit in Brus­sels. “And I make no apo­lo­gies for that.”

The pub­lic is still learn­ing the de­tails of the Guantanamo Bay pris­on­er swap that brought Army Sgt. Bowe Ber­g­dahl in­to U.S. mil­it­ary hands after five years in Afgh­anistan. And no one — not even those who knew him — seems able to de­cide wheth­er Ber­g­dahl’s al­leged ac­tions be­fore he was kid­napped mat­ter in the con­text of his re­turn.

“I be­lieve that he totally deser­ted — not only his fel­low sol­diers — but his lead­er­ship that wanted the best for him and for our coun­try,” Justin Ger­leve, Ber­g­dahl’s former squad lead­er, told CNN on Wed­nes­day. But Ger­leve be­lieves the sol­dier should have been res­cued. “My opin­ion is yes; no Amer­ic­an needs to be left be­hind.”

In Wash­ing­ton, out­rage is brew­ing as Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­an law­makers won­der why Con­gress was not con­sul­ted 30 days in ad­vance about the de­cision to free Ber­g­dahl in ex­change for five Taliban op­er­at­ives.

“We had dis­cussed with Con­gress the pos­sib­il­ity that something like this might oc­cur, but be­cause of the nature of the folks that we were deal­ing with and the fra­gile nature of these ne­go­ti­ations, we felt it was im­port­ant to go ahead and do what we did,” Obama said Thursday. “And we’re now ex­plain­ing to Con­gress the de­tails of how we moved for­ward.”

Con­gress looks pre­pared to hear them, but some are more in­ter­ested in the pres­id­ent’s role in the situ­ation. “There’s too much em­phas­is on Ber­g­dahl. That is not that im­port­ant,” Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber James In­hofe said Wed­nes­day after a clas­si­fied White House brief­ing on the swap. “What is im­port­ant is what the pres­id­ent did.”


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.