You’ve got to hand it to American conservatives. They may not be rational, but at least they’re consistent. They can kick, scream and clamor for something with relentless fervor… until President Obama does it, in which case it becomes the epitome of evil and irresponsibility.
The recent release of the last known American prisoner of war, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, is no different. Conservatives who have been howling for five years that the president should stop dragging his feet and bring Bergdahl home no matter what the cost are now insisting that having done so, Obama has committed an impeachable offense. This despite the fact that the military has a very clear policy about never leaving a POW behind.
Read on to enjoy some fine examples of right-wing hypocrisy regarding Sgt. Bergdahl’s release: what they said before, and what they’re saying now.
Far-right website FreedomOutpost was all over the president for allowing Bergdahl to “rot” in Afghanistan — as well as aghast at Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for opposing a prisoner exchange. In October 2013, blogger John DeMayo had this to say:
Many in Congress including Senator John McCain oppose a prisoner exchange to bring Bowe Bergdahl home. Apparently, McCain feels a better deal can be struck with the Taliban. A deal that does not release dangerous terrorists out into the world community. Perhaps McCain forgets the deal he struck with his captors to secure his release.
The war in Afghanistan continues to wind down. For years, the United States has been releasing Afghan detainees from military prisons in Afganhistan. [sic] This has been going on periodically, every year, since Sgt. Bergdahl was captured. So why is Bergdahl not home today? My very real fear is — like so many others — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl may be left behind.
This is one of those occasions that I feel great shame for our country. Great shame. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is our son, America. He deserves better than a politically correct quote form [sic] the Secretary of Defense. He sure as hell deserves more attention than President Obama and his press gave to Trayvon Martin.
Ah, but when Bergdahl was finally released, did FreedomOutpost express its thanks and relief? Nope. Instead, noted Islamophobe Pamela Geller referred to the POW as an “AWOL traitor,” and spewed:
The policy of the United States government has always been we do not negotiate with terrorists. So why did the Obama administration release five of the worst GITMO jihadists – Taliban leadership – in exchange for an AWOL soldier – a traitor – who willingly walked away from his unit, raising the question of whether he could be charged with being absent without leave or desertion.
FreedomOutpost blogger Dave Garrison also chimed in, calling Bergdahl a “deserter” and accusing the president of “habitually bowing to Islam.”
Video: MOXNews.com YouTube
This website, which bills itself as “the leader in conservative media” and has Bible verses as part of its logo, was up in arms in August 2013 about the president wanting to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, but not taking action to bring Sgt. Bergdahl home. “Obama Releases Terrorists But Leaves POW Bowe Bergdahl Behind,” they screamed, and posted this battlecry from the soldier’s heartbroken father, Bob:
“I will not leave you on the battlefield. Your country will not leave you on the battlefield. You are not forgotten.”
—Bob Bergdahl, father of POW Bowe Bergdahl
But after Bergdahl was released, the tide turned over at LibertyAlliance. Now the POW was a “jihad convert” and his father—previously used as a prop by the site — was in league with President Obama and the Taliban to take over the White House. In a post titled “Did The U.S. Just Release 5 Jihadists And Get A Jihad Convert In Trade?” Rodney Lee Conover muses:
President Obama ordered the release of five Gitmo detainees in trade for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from his Taliban captors in Afghanistan. But on second look — did we get one jihad convert for the release of five jihadists? And did Barack Obama purposely allow Robert Bergdahl, the father of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, to sanctify and claim the White House for Islam?
Screenshot via LibertyAlliance website
No story about right-wing hypocrisy would be complete without some input from the Wicked Queen herself — the pageant-walkin’ reality TV performer from Wasilla, Sarah Palin.
Here she was in 2009, praying for the release of Sgt. (then Private) Bergdahl. In true Palin style, the statement has since been mysteriously scrubbed from the original website, but like most conservatives, she hasn’t quite grasped that the intertubes have a looooong memory. Take it away, Wayback Machine!
But of course, Sarah being Sarah, she couldn’t stand being out of the spotlight — or missing a chance to bash the president she did so much to help elect. Showing her ignorance of what actually happens to a prisoner of war, she denounced Bergdahl and screeched, “No, Mr. President, a soldier expressing horrid anti-American beliefs — even boldly putting them in writing and unabashedly firing off his messages while in uniform, just three days before he left his unit on foot — is not ‘honorable service’” (clearly referring to a claim in the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post that the soldier emailed his parents to say he was “ashamed to be an American”). Bergdahl—who was twice promoted while in captivity—is reportedly scheduled to receive a third promotion, to staff sergeant.
“You blew it again, Barack Obama,” said the woman whose political and military knowledge can be described as scant at best, “by negotiating away any leverage against the bad guys as these bad guys — Osama bin Laden’s partners in evil crime — joyfully celebrate their ‘win’ in the deal you sealed.”
Screenshot: Wayback Machine
PJ (Formerly Pajamas) Media
The conservative media outlet proudly put up a petition in January 2014, demanding that the Obama administration “take action to secure the release, or rescue, or Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, using all means available, including force.”
The article by Bridget Johnson even included—with no sign of opposition—a reference to a prisoner exchange:
White House press secretary Jay Carney hasn’t mentioned Bergdahl’s case publicly since a June briefing, after the Taliban offered to trade Bergdahl for five of its members held at Guantanamo Bay.
However, after Bergdahl was freed, the website claimed that he’d been known as a deserter since 2010 (then why the 2014 petition?), and we shouldn’t have negotiated for his release:
It’s impossible to believe that senior administration officials including the president did not know all about Bergdahl’s record and the high probability that he deserted. The Pentagon concluded as much in a 2010 investigation of his 2009 disappearance. That wasn’t in any of the briefings that Obama skips out on? It’s impossible to believe that the administration, at the top levels, was not aware that the searches for Bergdahl had cost as many as 14 American troops their lives. It’s impossible to believe that no one in the administration thought to consider that breaking at least a couple of laws in all this might turn out to be controversial. It’s impossible to believe that they did not think sending five hardcore terrorists back into the wild would be questioned. They even lied about Bergdahl’s health, knowing that the Taliban had recorded the swap and were likely to release the video. Why all the lies, one after the other?
And the same Ms. Johnson who pushed the petition trumpeted a quote from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), expressing horror at the very idea of the prisoner exchange PJ Media was so in favor of only a few short months ago:
…It’s totally irrational to me as to what the president could have been thinking when he made the decision to release these five individuals and albeit, you know, you’re a parent, I’m a parent, I’m happy this young man is going to be reunited with his parents in Idaho, but this was a bad deal and it’s a deal that, unfortunately, impacts the national security interests of every single American and it’s truly a bad idea.
H/T and screenshot: Little Green Footballs
And then, there’s the granddaddy of ’em all, Arizona senator John McCain.
A former prisoner of war himself, McCain was asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in February 2014 if he would be in favor of a prisoner exchange in the Bergdahl case—reminding the senator that in 2012, he had opposed the idea. McCain responded:
Well, at that time the proposal was that they would release — Taliban, some of them really hardcore, particularly five really hardcore Taliban leaders, as a confidence-building measure. Now this idea is for an exchange of prisoners for our American fighting man. I would be inclined to support such a thing depending on a lot of the details…Obviously I’d have to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home and if exchange was one of them I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider.
Yet when questioned by CNN’s Chris Cuomo after Bergdahl’s release, McCain had a very different take:
The problem that I have, and many others have, is what we paid for that release, and that is, releasing five of the most hardened, anti-American killers, brutal killers, who are, by the way, are also wanted by the international criminal court for their incredible brutality, and the fact that within a very short time, if the past proves true, they’ll be back in the battlefield putting the lives of Americans in danger in the future…we were never told there would be an exchange here of Sergeant Bergdahl for five Taliban. We told they were considering, and we steadfastly, both Republican and Democrats, rejected the notion that they were going to release some of these Taliban in exchange for, “confidence-building measures” so that negotiations could continue…
My problem is, what we did in exchange, which could put the lives of American servicemen and women in grave danger in the future, unless you believe that this conflict is over and that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have stop wanting to destroy America and repeat of 9/11, then, fine. But they’ve not, and they’re not, and they are growing, despite what the administration says.
Perhaps the senator should go back and read his account of his own time in captivity… then recall what the U.S. did in exchange for his freedom.
H/T and video: Media Matters for America.