Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, announced Tuesday that the Army may still pursue an investigation into whether recently rescued Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl deserted, confirming that a number of questions surround his capture by the Taliban in mountains of Afghanistan in 2009. Depending on the results of the inquiry, charges may even be filed.
The events that led to the return of America’s only prisoner of war have spawned even more questions from critics of President Barack Obama, lawmakers, and the intelligence community, meaning Bergdahl’s return has been highly politicized and will likely become fodder for debate ahead of this year’s midterm elections. The criticism that has been dumped on the White House for releasing five high-ranking Taliban detainees from the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Bergdahl has put Obama on the defensive. The problem is that many — including former members of the soldier’s platoon — believe Bergdahl did not deserve special treatment, given the persistence of allegations that he deserted his combat post. The fact that the President did not notify Congress in advance, as required by law, has only added to the controversy.
“The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule, and that is: we don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind,” Obama told reporters in Warsaw, the first stop on his four-day European trip. Noting that Bergdahl had been in captivity for more than five years, the president explained that the released POW had not been “interrogated” regarding the specifics of his capture by the Taliban. “Regardless of circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American prisoner back,” he said. “Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that.” He also noted that the White House had been consulting with Congress “for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Sergeant Bergdahl.”
In other words, he was suggesting that lawmakers such as California Senator Dianne Feinstein should not be outraged that the White House took this opportunity to make the transfer.