National Security

The Illegal Bergdahl Swap and Incoherent Foreign Policy

The Obama administration isn't on the same page with itself when it comes to ISIL.

Aug. 22, 2014
Bergdahl

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a damning report Thursday regarding Barack Obama’s infamous prisoner swap – five Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl. As we argued at the time, the swap was a political charade that was detrimental to national security by setting a dangerous precedent, and it was pure dereliction of duty by the commander in chief. GAO now says it was illegal.

Obama violated the legal requirement that the Executive Branch give Congress 30 days’ notice on any negotiated release of a Gitmo prisoner. But he claimed his executive prerogative superseded the requirement and that his “signing statement” accompanying the 2013 Defense Authorization Act served as his bypass authority.

GAO disagrees with the president’s claim. Additionally, GAO said, “[B]ecause DOD used appropriated funds to carry out the transfer when no money was available for that purpose, DOD violated the Antideficiency Act. The Antideficiency Act prohibits federal agencies from incurring obligations exceeding an amount available in an appropriation.” The mission to complete the deal reportedly cost $988,400.

Naturally, the Obama administration still insists its actions were lawful. But this administration cares nothing for Rule of Law, opting instead to do whatever is politically expedient.

As an example of the bad precedent, take the case of James Foley. In addition to a $132 million ransom, ISIL reportedly sought a prisoner swap in that case as well, and they are collecting hostages for such deals with us and other countries.

Incredibly, the National Security Council responded to such a proposal, saying, “[The U.S.] does not grant concessions to hostage takers. … Doing so would only put more Americans at risk of being taken captive.” Yet the administration deviated from that common sense notion with the Bergdahl swap. Was Bergdahl’s life more valuable than Foley’s? If so, why?

Speaking of Foley’s murder by ISIL, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday the Justice Department would investigate. “Those who would perpetrate such acts need to understand something,” Holder said. “This Department of Justice, this Department of Defense, this nation – we have long memories and our reach is very wide. We will not forget what happened and people will be held accountable one way or the other.”

Evidently, Holder and his cohorts remember only what life was like before 9/11, when terrorism was treated solely as a criminal concern and not an act of war. But Holder is just taking a cue from his boss, who repeatedly boasted he “decimated” al-Qaida when all he did was quit fighting, allowing al-Qaida to regroup as ISIL. Now ISIL is stronger than ever.

In fact, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that ISIL is “beyond just a terrorist group” and “beyond anything that we’ve seen.” Why, then, is the Justice Department taking such a prominent role in responding to ISIL’s barbarous murders? Maybe it’s because the president still views them as the “JV team.”

Meanwhile, ISIL says it’s at war with the U.S., but State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf insisted Thursday that we’re not at war with ISIL. “This is not about ISIL versus the United States,” she said. “They are killing anyone who gets in their way: Sunnis, Shia Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, Iraqis, Syrians – anyone who gets in their way – and now an American. … They are at war with everybody they come into contact with.” So they’re not at war with the U.S. because they’re at war with everybody?

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said ISIL “will eventually have to be defeated,” which will almost certainly entail countering them in Syria as well as Iraq – “both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border.” Our own nonexistent border is also a problem, Dempsey warned – “because of open borders and immigration issues, [ISIL is] an immediate threat.”

But Obama asserted that ISIL will “ultimately fail” because it “has no place in the 21st century,” as if time itself will end the threat.

To summarize the positions of the Justice, Defense and State Departments, ISIL is a criminal enterprise posing a serious military threat that we must counter, though ISIL will fail because of history and we’re not at war with them anyway. And all that was said just Thursday.

Such baffling incoherence in White House policy is itself a clear threat to our national security. And that’s not to mention the erratic and detached behavior of the golfer in chief. The bottom line is that Obama’s foreign policy malfeasance is going to cost us dearly.

Finally, on a related note, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan did their first joint interview since 2012 Thursday critiquing Obama’s foreign policy. “I believe the president has made extraordinary errors with regards to the Middle East that contribute to the growth of ISIS and the danger that it represents to us and to the world,” Romney said. “And one of those things was not putting in place a status of forces agreement that would allow us to have troops in Iraq. The president has a foreign policy which has failed. … He underestimated the extent of the threat of terror in the world and specifically ISIS. And as a result now we find ourselves facing a very severe and horrific series of scenes on the world stage.”

The sight of the two together certainly drove home what our nation is sorely missing right now – presidential leadership.

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