The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Bungling Bergdahl

Rich Galen

Thursday June 5, 2014


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  • I have spent a good deal of time considering how to approach this column.

  • We know about the "fog of war" when first reports of action are typically incorrect because of the confusion borne of people shooting at each other.

  • There is also the "fog of five years" when memories that might have been, contemporaneously, crystal clear have become fogged with retelling, hearing others retelling, or just plain forgetting certain parts and innocently filling in the blanks.

  • Finally, there is the Galen/Gore Gallop wherein if we tell a story long enough we think it actually happened, even if we made it up in the first place.

  • I don't know (and neither do you) what the arrangements are to keep track of those five Taliban leaders who are now in Qatar.

  • Are they living it up in a Ritz Carlton? Or are they in just slightly nicer prison cells from their accommodations in Cuba? Are the Qataris keeping tabs on them, or do we have to commit some number of security/intelligence operators to watch what they do?


    However, let me say this: If the price of a junior enlisted man is five senior Taliban organizers, what will the price be for snatching a sitting Ambassador? Wyoming?


  • I don't know (and neither to you) what was going through Bowe Bergdahl's mind when he strolled off the base in Afghanistan five years ago - if he strolled off the base in Afghanistan five years ago.

  • It is absolutely unclear to me (and to you) what the perimeter defenses were at that base, which is to say did Bergdahl have to wave bye-bye to someone as he walked out (if he walked out)?

  • I don't know (and neither do you) whether soldiers were injured or killed while actively searching for Bergdahl, or whether they became casualties in the course of other unit actions.

  • See what I mean?

  • Here's the part I am sure about: The Obama White House is politically so far back on its heels that it is damned near flat on its back.

  • Let's assume that there was a real issue about getting Bergdahl released because he was losing weight and might have been in danger of dying in captivity.

  • That would have been a serious blow to U.S. credibility and a major rallying cry for the bad guys.

  • Let's assume that someone in the State Department, the CIA, or the Pentagon went to someone at the White House and said, "We've got a deal to get this kid back."

  • And, let's assume that the best deal the Qataris could make on our behalf were those five Taliban.

  • It appears to me that whoever at the White House makes these kinds of decisions, said
    "Let's hit it hard.

    "Let's bring Bergdahl's parents to Washington and do a Rose Garden announcement announcing their kid is coming home after five years in captivity.

    "Let's allow the country to share a national moment of joy and relief in getting our lone POW back safe and sound.

    "This will be another 'We got Bin Laden' moment for the President."

  • In the words of the sainted Governor of Texas, "Oops."

  • It is impossible to believe that the President's people were in such a state of panic over the growing Veterans Affairs scandal that they grasped at this straw without anyone doing even the most basic background check to see what the possible blowback might be.

  • Blowback? This is a category five hurricane.

  • I don't believe President Obama traded those five Taliban for political purposes. I choose to believe he traded them because that was the only deal he could get.

  • But, I DO believe once the opportunity presented itself, the White House completely lost whatever professionalism they have left and talked themselves into turning the Bergdahl release into a major production.

  • By attempting to take what should have been a pretty positive story into a major victory for the President, the White House totally bungled Bergdahl.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring Page today: Links to the "fog of war" and to a timeline of the Bergdahl saga to date.

    Also a totally unrelated Mullfoto of a food truck in downtown DC.

    -- END --

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