WASHINGTON : Secretary of State John Kerry says he has no patience for critics of President Barack Obama’s decision to trade Taliban prisoners for US soldier Bowe Bergdaul, saying the consequences of inaction would have been unconscionable.
“It would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what, to leave an American behind in the hands of people who would torture him, cut off his head, do any number of things,” Kerry said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” according to a transcript. “We would consciously choose to do that?”
Republican Senator John McCain — who had previously endorsed an arrangement to exchange Taliban prisoners of war in American custody for Bergdahl — has been one of the most vocal critics of the ultimate deal.
On the same CNN program, McCain defended his stance, saying he never approved of the five specific Taliban prisoners who were released under the exchange.
“I never signed off on those individuals,” McCain
said, although as Kessler notes, the five prisoners who were ultimately
released have always been at the heart of negotiations over any prisoner swap. Under traditional rules of war, the U.S. government would be required to release the five POWs at the end of the Afghanistan war.
Conservative pundits and Republican politicians have questioned the Obama-arranged deal, with many saying Bergdahl deserted his post before he was captured.
Kerry said that the military would sort out the specifics regarding Bergdahl’s 2009 departure from an Army base in Afghanistan in due course, but that it was simply not acceptable to leave an American in the hands of the Taliban as the war winds down. Obama is withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
“There’s plenty of time for people to sort through what happened, what didn’t happen,” Kerry said.
In a video posted Sunday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer it doesn’t matter if Bowe Bergdahl deserted his unit.
“If you look at what the factors were going into the decision, of
course there are competing interests and values. And one of our values
is we bring everybody home off the battlefield the best we can. It
doesn’t matter how they ended up in a prisoner of war situation,”
Clinton said, coming perilously close to her now infamous “what
difference does it make” line.
“It doesn’t matter?” asked a surprised Sawyer.
“It does not matter,” Clinton said. “We bring our people home.”
Clinton, it was pointed out, used the interview to pump her new book, “Hard Choices,” telling Sawyer the decision to swap five top Taliban
commanders for a soldier whose platoon mates say is a deserter was a
hard decision to make. Two of those swapped for Bergdahl are wanted by
the United Nations for war crimes.
“I think [exchanging Bergdahl for 5 Taliban] was a very hard choice,
which is why I think my book is so aptly named,” she said, when Sawyer
asked if Obama “made a deal with the Devil.”
Clinton is not the only one deploying the “what difference does it
make” defence regarding Bergdahl. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, used Clinton’s exact line to defend Obama’s failure to obey the
law in notifying Congress about the swap.
“It’s made a big deal over nothing. Is it Friday or Saturday? What difference does it make? What difference does it make?” he asked.
He also defended the prisoner swap as a way to get Bergdahl back.
Critics of the swap, however, say Obama has put more Americans at risk
and handed the Taliban a propaganda victory.
Clinton, ABC said, suggested that questions regarding Bergdahl’s
disappearance need to be answered, but said the administration was right
to focus on bringing him home.