Obama Defends Taliban Swap: ‘This Is Somebody’s Child’

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama justified his Taliban prisoner swap Thursday by playing up the emotional connection between kids and parents and saying that “we don’t condition whether or not we make that effort try to get them back.”

During a press conference in Brussels, Obama portrayed U.S. soldiers as pitiable “children” and “kids” sent off to war, not as troops who made the decision to join the military as adults.

“As commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, I am responsible for those kids, and I get letters from parents who say, ‘If you are in fact sending my child to war, make sure that child is being taken care of,'” he told reporters in Belgium.

“The American people understand that this is somebody’s child, and that we don’t condition whether or not we make that effort to try to get them back,” said Obama.

U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl volunteered for the Army as an adult, and graduated from infantry school at the age of 22. He walked away from his combat post at the age of 23, and — according to some of his former comrades — was sympathetic to local Taliban fighters trying to kill Americans. Normally, Democrats say people aged 18 are adult enough to drive, and that girls aged 13 are mature enough to have an abortion.

On Friday, Obama will visit the beaches in Normandy, where in 1944 American soldiers as young as 16 assaulted German machine-gun sites in pursuit of a noble goal — destroying Adolf Hitler’s national socialist rule. Prior to that landing, General Dwight Eisenhower wrote a resignation note in case of defeat, where he described the U.S. soldiers as respected “troops” — not as “children” — under the command of responsible leaders.

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. … The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do [and] if any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone,” said Eisenhower.

In the press conference, Obama offered empathy with Bergdahl’s parents.

“You have a couple of parents whose kid volunteered to fight in a distant land, whom they had not seen in five years, and were not sure they would see ever again,” he said, while explaining why he invited those parents to stand beside him as he announced the much-criticized swap.

The press event has become a P.R. nightmare, partly because the soldier’s father, thanked the Taliban’s spiritual leader — the Islamic god, Allah — for the deal while standing on the White House steps. The White House transcript excluded the comments, which have also been ignored by most media outlets.

The five Taliban leaders are now living in the Islamic theocracy in Qatar, and are reportedly raising funds to help fuel the Taliban’s continued war against the United States’ ally, the elected government of Afghanistan.

Obama said he would not “absolutely [offer] no apologies for making sure we get back a young man to his parents and [for helping] the American people understand that [Bergdahl] is somebody’s child, and that we don’t condition whether or not we make that effort try to get them back.”

Obama dismissed the criticism from legislators and voters about the merits of the prisoner trade, and continued to portray it as a family reunification tale. “I’m never surprised by controversies that are whipped up in Washington, right?” he told a reporter at the press conference. “That’s par for the course.”

Critics, however, say he accepted the return of a deserter in exchange for a very high price. That price included boosting the incentives for other groups to kidnap U.S. citizens, aiding the United States’ enemies, harming a U.S. ally and giving up some of the battlefield gains that U.S forces had died trying to achieve.

Obama also called Bergdahl a “prisoner of war,” effectively declaring the Taliban to be a legitimate government.

Under international law, people captured by non-legitimate governments are deemed to be kidnapped or to be hostages.

Since the terror trade, Obama insisted that he has a moral duty to bring U.S. prisoners back, regardless of the cost. The U.S. has “basic principle — we do not leave anyone wearing the American uniform behind,” he said.

“We saw an opportunity [to get him back] and we seized it, and I make no apologies for that,” he said.

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