MSBNC host Chris Matthews became the first on his network to express the slightest bit of skepticism over the Obama administration’s deal to trade Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five high-ranking Taliban officials from Guantanamo Bay, with Matthews repeatedly questioning the wisdom of trading an “AWOL” and possibly treasonous soldier for terrorist mass murderers.
Matthews opened his program Monday with a deeply suspicious look into Bergdahl’s statements and actions before he went inexplicably missing from his post in the summer of 2009.
In particular, the MSNBC host highlighted portions of a piece by late Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings, which revealed that Bergdahl repeatedly disparaged the U.S. military, said he was “ashamed to be an American” and talked of simply “walk[ing] off into the mountains of Pakistan.”
He also singled out as “cryptic” a statement by Bergdahl’s father claiming he was “proud of how much you wanted to help the Afghan people, and what [Bergdahl] was willing to do to go to that length.”
“Do you have any idea what he meant there?” Matthews asked The Daily Beast’s Kim Dozier. “Did he mean sort of leaving his post, leaving his rifle and uniform behind, heading off in the direction of Pakistan, being picked up by the Taliban? What did he mean ‘helping the Afghan people’ and that process? I don’t quite get that.”
“Is that the Afghan people they mean?” Matthews continued, questioning whether Bergdahl was in fact moving to join or work with the Taliban when he was captured.
Dozier let that question hang, but spoke forcefully for the prisoner swap. “In terms of why you rescue him, he was a U.S. soldier in uniform –”
“No he wasn’t in uniform, he left the uniform behind,” Matthews interrupted.
“He was a serving U.S. soldier –” Dozier tried again.
“But he left his post and he said — this is what I don’t understand,” Matthews continued. “Was he AWOL? And if not, why not? Why didn’t they declare him AWOL?”
Matthews also expressed profound skepticism over the idea that this trade might be a prelude to a peace deal with the Taliban, after Dozier said this could “possibly kick off reconciliation talks” with the Taliban.
“I just wonder what that could possibly — women have to now be covered up, their faces have to be covered up, no more movies over there, they blow up buddhas again,” he said, wondering what would happen if the Taliban gets power. “Are we going back to crazy Taliban behavior? . . . What kind of deal are we striking with these people?”
Liberal columnist and Marine Corps veteran Goldie Taylor was also grilled by Matthews. “Does this make sense?” he asked.
“I think it makes sense to me, because you know, in my mind, as a former Marine, we leave no man behind. We don’t qualify that –”
“But didn’t he leave his unit behind?” Matthews countered. “He left his uniform behind, he left his rifle behind and he told people if he didn’t like the mission he was headed to Pakistan. What was he doing?”