Column: President Obama vs. George Washington on Prisoner Exchange
Editor's Note: This was sent to the publishing syndicate as a two-parter. We have combined both parts into this one column post.
I have four colossal disagreements with how President Barack Obama cut the deal for the prisoner swap of five senior Taliban leaders for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl; the former, the White House itself admits, could "absolutely" rejoin terrorist cells.
Sure, I have far more than four issues with how it all went down — for example, the absolute avoidance and disregard of constitutional submission and congressional consent. But this administration seems to have little regard for proper protocol with anything, so I'm going to focus here on a few different angles of argument.
No one is overlooking or minimizing the understandable elation of Bergdahl's family over his homecoming. But was there really no other military or negotiating option than to return five of the most hardened criminals and enemies of the U.S. to the battlefield, where at least six other soldiers gave their lives trying to rescue Bergdahl?
Our whole country — including those across the political spectrum, from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — is asking: Why, in the midst of war, would Obama release five of the greatest anti-American terrorists in exchange for Bergdahl, who, according to several of his own military colleagues and superiors, abandoned his post and platoon and likely even became sympathetic with the Taliban mission?
While in Poland, he said, "This is what happens at the end of wars."
But what about if the war hasn't ended, which is exactly where the U.S. is now? I don't know whether Obama has noticed recently, but military personnel are still fighting on the battlefield. For the president, the war is in the past tense, but the battle continues in the present.
Duke University political science professor Peter Feaver, who served as a National Security Council special adviser under George W. Bush, explained to The Washington Post: "The deal the president struck is a deal you strike when the war's over. The military, they're thinking about, 'We're still fighting this war.' For them the war's very much still on, and the question of will we win or not is up for grabs."
So this is the first of my four vehement objections to Obama's handling of the prisoner of war swap:
1) The war is not over; military personnel are still fighting.
My second objection is found in the president's further justification this past week: "This is what happens at the end of wars. That was true for George Washington; that was true for Abraham Lincoln; that was true for FDR; that's been true of every combat situation — that at some point, you make sure that you try to get your folks back. And that's the right thing to do."
But is that true? Did Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt engage in prisoner swapping in the same vein as Obama? (Some have come to the president's aid in saying so.)
Let's just examine George Washington's prisoner of war policy alone.
President Obama justifies his grounds for his prisoner exchange with the fact that Washington engaged in similar prisoner exchange with the British during the Revolutionary War. What Obama doesn't tell you, however, is that both the Brits and the colonists exchanged prisoners of war because both had "few facilities to accommodate large numbers of prisoners," according to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.
And as far as specifically buying back colonists from captivity at the price of handing over British soldiers — as Obama did with Taliban leaders — the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association explained exactly what Gen. Washington's policy was: He "made sure that no states holding military prisoners should trade a British soldier for an American citizen. Washington believed that this would have legitimized the British capture of more citizens, most of whom were largely defenseless."
Mr. President, did you want to read that policy again?
In regard to Obama's comparison with these stellar commanders in chief, I want to respond just as vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen responded to fellow candidate Dan Quayle during a 1988 debate after Quayle likened his political experience to that of John F. Kennedy: "I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
I've studied George Washington, and, Mr. President, you're no George... (Oh, you get the point!)
That's my second objection to the president's justification:
2) Barack Obama is no George Washington.
And this present prisoner swap — in the midst of a modern-day war on terror, in which our enemies use our planes as missiles and salivate over suitcase nukes — can by no means find its equal during the Revolutionary War or another war in which (however dangerous) muskets, single-shot rifles and cannonballs were used.
Next week, I will give my third and fourth reasons for disagreeing with how Obama cut the deal for Bergdahl.
Above all else, let's never forget the names of those who gave their lives in attempts to rescue Bergdahl or during closely related missions: 2nd Lt. Darryn Deen Andrews, Staff Sgt. Clayton Patrick Bowen, Pfc. Morris Lewis Walker, Staff Sgt. Kurt Robert Curtiss, Pfc. Matthew Michael Martinek and Staff Sgt. Michael Chance Murphrey.
[Begin Part 2]
Last week, I spoke about how President Barack Obama justified his prisoner swap of five senior Taliban leaders for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by saying former military leaders and presidents, including George Washington, have engaged in prisoner of war exchange, too.
Obama's exact words were: "This is what happens at the end of wars. That was true for George Washington; that was true for Abraham Lincoln; that was true for FDR; that's been true of every combat situation — that at some point, you make sure that you try to get your folks back. And that's the right thing to do."
From that statement alone, I revealed how Obama's made grievous errors in judgment by concluding that 1) the war is over and 2) he was engaging in a prisoner exchange like George Washington — to take just a single example among his list of stellar leaders.
What Obama didn't tell you regarding Washington and prisoner exchange during the Revolutionary War is that both countries — England and the U.S. — exchanged prisoners of war because both had "few facilities to accommodate large numbers of prisoners," according to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, whose mission it is "to preserve, restore, and manage the estate of George Washington to the highest standards and to educate visitors and people throughout the world about the life and legacies of George Washington."
As far as buying Americans back from captivity at the price of enemy combatants, Obama needs to follow the example of Gen. Washington, who "made sure that no states holding military prisoners should trade a British soldier for an American citizen. Washington believed that this would have legitimized the British capture of more citizens, most of whom were largely defenseless."
Though no one is minimizing the understandable elation of Bergdahl's family over his release, George Washington would not have traded for him, because he didn't believe in trading prisoners of war until after the war was in fact over, treaties were signed and hostilities ceased, lest he risk the capture of further American people for ransom.
Here are my two additional grievances with Obama's prisoner of war exchange:
3) As the commander in chief, George Washington wouldn't have completely undermined the very heart and soul of the military as Obama did with his prisoner exchange, especially in light of how it is a cardinal sin in military culture to abandon one's post and platoon during war.
A little over a week ago, The Washington Post reported, "Ralph Peters, a retired lieutenant colonel and intelligence officer, wrote in National Review that a 'fundamental culture clash' exists between the president's team and those in the armed forces, as reflected by (national security adviser Susan) Rice's remarks on Bergdahl's honor."
"Both President Obama and Ms. Rice seem to think that the crime of desertion in wartime is kind of like skipping class," Peters wrote. "They have no idea of how great a sin desertion in the face of the enemy is to those in our military. The only worse sin is to side actively with the enemy and kill your brothers in arms. This is not sleeping in on Monday morning and ducking Gender Studies 101."
Maybe a key here as to why Obama could so easily discard military code and culture is he really doesn't regard America's battleground in the world as a war on terror in the first place.
Remember the 2009 explanative memo from the White House to Pentagon staff members via the Defense Department that said that "this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror.' Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation'"?
Of course, while the White House plays with semantics, our courageous U.S. military personnel are continuing to fight and die on the battlefield. While the war diminishes in Obama's fairy tale mind, he just gifted the real war on terror and the Taliban with their greatest boost in years.
4) George Washington would not have emboldened America's greatest enemies around the world and put at greater risk not only U.S. military personnel but also American citizens by increasing their captivity value in the eyes of our enemies.
And what are the odds that Obama had another political ulterior motive for prisoner exchange — namely, the turning of the American mind and media from his Veterans Affairs battlefield? For his "never waste a crisis"-saturated administration, is this hypothesis really a stretch?
On June 5, veteran newsman and CEO of WorldNetDaily Joseph Farah wrote in a column titled "What Motivates Obama?": "Is it possible that part of the calculated political motivation underlying Obama's decision was just that — getting the VA out of the nation's headlines? At first glance, it seems counter-intuitive: Can you escape one scandal by creating another? The answer is, of course. It's called the old 'wag the dog' strategy."
The bottom line, as President Obama recently said to cadets at the United States Military Academy, is that "for the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America, at home and abroad, remains terrorism."
Yet his actions as commander in chief say just the opposite. Indeed, last June, he said America needed to draw down its war footing and bring it to an end.
The truth is that Obama is too conciliatory a leader to be the commander in chief of the greatest military force in human history. He says terrorism is the "most direct threat to America" to cadets yet calls the war on terror an overseas contingency operation.
He doesn't even know how to announce victory. He confessed to ABC News in 2009, "I'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur."
So how does one add up the following Obama conclusions? 1) The war, which is not really a war at all, is over, so much so that we're exchanging the release of final prisoners of war. 2) Victory won't be announced, yet the end of combat missions and the withdrawal of American troops have been.
There can be only one conclusion, at least in Obama's mind: America has lost the war on terror, particularly in the Middle East.
Facts unfortunately point to the tragic event that Sgt. Bergdahl went AWOL on his post and platoon. But even worse, facts point to the catastrophic event that President Obama just went AWOL as our commander in chief.
And George Washington is rolling in his grave.
Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.