FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
The Stray Voltage of Bowe Bergdahl
On May 31, 2014, Barack Obama ambled into the Rose Garden to announce that an American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, had been ransomed from the Taliban in exchange for five high-ranking Taliban captives:
Sergeant Bergdahl has missed birthdays and holidays and the simple moments with family and friends, which all of us take for granted. But while Bowe was gone he was never forgotten. His parents thought about him and prayed for him every single day, as did his sister, Sky, who prayed for his safe return.
He wasn’t forgotten by his community in Idaho, or the military, which rallied to support the Bergdahls through thick and thin. And he wasn’t forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.
As Commander-in-Chief, I am proud of the servicemembers who recovered Sergeant Bergdahl and brought him safely out of harm’s way. As usual, they performed with extraordinary courage and professionalism, and they have made their nation proud.
Right now, our top priority is making sure that Bowe gets the care and support that he needs and that he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible.
Much to the dismay of the administration which had called Bergdahl a “hero” and said he had “served with honor and distinction” his former comrades soon let it be known that the administration’s narrative was, as was to be expected, unrelated to the actual truth. Instead of a prisoner of war, it became clear that Bergdahl had voluntarily abandoned his post and sought out the Taliban. And because of his actions at least five and as many as fourteen US military personnel were killed. Rather than caution, the White House went on the attack. They accused the soldiers in Bergdahl’s platoon of “swiftboating” him (“swiftboating” apparently means telling the truth contrary to a specious Democrat hero narrative):
White House aides are accusing soldiers who served with Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are “swift boating” him following his release over the weekend after five years in captivity.
NBC News’ Chuck Todd reported Monday that the White House did not expect this sort of vitriolic backlash exchanging five high-level Taliban members held at Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl, who left his Army post in 2009 in Afghanistan and was subsequently taken captive.
“They did not expect this backlash on Bergdahl himself,” Todd reported on NBC’s “Today.” I’ve had a few aides describe it to me as we didn’t know that they were going to ‘swift boat’ Bergdahl. And that’s a reference to that political fight back in 2004 over John Kerry’s military service.”
Marie Harf, the State Department spokeswoman, declared their version of events to be unreliable. And the mouthbreathing left jumped to attention and attacked:
Am I correct that the American right-wing has spent the day arguing we should have left an American soldier behind?
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) June 2, 2014
Brandon Friedman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, (that’s right, the administration had the chief media flack for an organization that builds slums and hands out housing vouchers on the attack) generated a now infamous series of near libelous tweets:
As it turned out, Bergdahl’s comrades were right and the White House was revealed for the smug liars that they are. On March 25 of this year, an investigating officer determined that there was sufficient evidence to charge Bergdahl with desertion or the much more serious charge of misbehavior before the enemy. This week the Army decided to charge Bergdahl with the more serious charge, one that could bring a life sentence.
Military prosecutors have reached into a section of military law seldom used since World War II in the politically fraught case against Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier held prisoner for years by the Taliban after leaving his post in Afghanistan.Observers wondered for months if Bergdahl would be charged with desertion after the deal brokered by the U.S. to bring him home. He was — but he was also charged with misbehavior before the enemy, a much rarer offense that carries a stiffer potential penalty in this case.
“I’ve never seen it charged,” Walter Huffman, a retired major general who served as the Army’s top lawyer, said of the misbehavior charge. “It’s not something you find in common everyday practice in the military.”
Bergdahl could face a life sentence if convicted of the charge, which accuses him of endangering fellow soldiers when he “left without authority; and wrongfully caused search and recovery operations.”
Given that the Army went with this charge even though it gives the big middle finger to the White House indicates that the true facts in Bergdahl’s case are probably much worse than even his former platoon members know. Undoubtedly there are signal intercepts and prisoner interrogations which paint a much more sinister picture of Bergdahl’s activities on behalf of the Taliban.
Why then, did the White House do this when they were in possession of all the information that the Army investigators used to charge Bergdahl with something perilously akin to actual, literal treason? I’m inclined to thing Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist is onto something. We should look at the Bergdahl Rose Garden announcement as a variety of the David Plouffe’s Stray Voltage theory.
This is the White House theory of “Stray Voltage.” It is the brainchild of former White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe, whose methods loom large long after his departure. The theory goes like this: Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or marginalized ideas in the public consciousness. This happens, Plouffe theorizes, even when—and sometimes especially when—the White House appears defensive, besieged, or off-guard.
According to Hemingway, the high profile ceremony, which the White House knew to be controversial, diverted media attention from other matters and set off, as we can see, a round of media coverage of administration butt-boys attacking anyone who doubted that Bergdahl was Audie Murphy reincarnated.
Get people to stop talking about the festering Veterans Administration scandal. The swap occurred weeks after CNN first reported that dozens of U.S. veterans had died while waiting for health care at hospitals and that the Veterans Affairs managers had concocted a scheme to hide this problem…
Put Congress on the defensive. Analysts such as George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley say there’s no question that Obama broke a federal law that requires him to give Congress a 30-day warning of Guantanamo prisoner releases. Perhaps the White House thought the Bergdahl release would be greeted so happily that Congress would fear pushing back.
Divert attention from the Gitmo terrorists. As has been reported extensively, the Pentagon and intelligence communities fought the release of the high-ranking Taliban for many years. They were all “found to be high risks to return to the fight against Americans” and “clearly bad dudes,” likely to return to the fight against the U.S.
Grease the skids for closing Gitmo. Obama has long promised to shutter Gitmo. It’s a promise he’s failed to keep in part because many of the men held there are very bad. The options for release are limited. In order to close Gitmo, Gitmo has to be emptied of prisoners. Emptying a prison of guys like the Taliban Dream Team is a very difficult public relations operation. You almost need to have a POW to trade them for or something. A high-profile transfer with much emphasis on the American soldier brought home is one way to help accomplish that.
And it largely succeeded. Attention was diverted. There was no inquiry into the Taliban release. Guantanamo and the fate of the terrorists there never became an issue. And no one is blaming Obama for puffing up the Bergdahl release for political gain.