Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supports President Obama’s decision to free five Taliban members in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier colleagues say deserted his post and is directly responsible for loss of American life in Afghanistan.
At a forum in Denver, Colorado, Clinton responded to a question on the Bergdahl swap by describing the return of Bergdahl to safety as part of a “noble” tradition of ensuring that all American soldiers, regardless of what they have done on the battlefield, return home safely. “We do have a tradition – I ascribe to it, it’s a tradition that’s not only embedded in our military but in our country – and that is we try not to leave any of our soldiers on the field,” Clinton said, adding that “the idea that you really care for your own citizens and particularly those in uniform, I think is a very noble one.”
While Clinton noted that she understood the grievances of those who see five newly released Guantánamo Bay prisoners as a danger to soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Clinton said she did not “believe in second guessing people who have to make these hard choices.” The decision, she argued, was a “tough” one because “you don’t want to see these five prisoners go back to combat. There’s a lot that you don’t want to have happen. On the other hand, you also don’t want an American citizen, if you can avoid it, especially a soldier, to die in captivity.”
Clinton concluded cautiously, stating, “I think we have a long way to go before we really know how this is going to play out.”
Six American soldiers died in the search for Bowe Bergdahl during his five years in captivity, none of whom Clinton addressed in her comments. Nor did she address fears that negotiating with a terrorist group like the Taliban could embolden others to attempt similar captures. Clinton also did not speak to the concerns of the parents of those killed in the search for Bergdahl, who widely consider the soldier a deserter who directly caused the deaths of better men.
Clinton’s support for such a measure, which both rewards behavior that actively endangers American troops and gifts the world five freed jihadist operatives, should come as no surprise, given her judgment as secretary of state. Ignoring the warning signs of a growing terror threat and inadvertently heartening the cause of Islamist terrorists through diversions and miscalculations will forever be Clinton’s legacy as secretary of state–and, in many ways, that of President Obama.
“Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country,” writes Clinton of her signature event as secretary of state, the murder of a U.S. ambassador during the Benghazi attacks. In her new book, Hard Choices, which is on sale for $21.00, she repudiates those exploiting Benghazi. The hypocrisy need not be highlighted, nor is the boldness inherent in making money by claiming others are exploiting the tragedy the signature trait Clinton exhibited that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the many other victims of her negligence. Rather, it is the persistent willingness to dismiss threats when they arrive at her desk, against all signs that such threats are true dangers.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Benghazi noted that the Libyan Embassy asked for security reinforcements on more than one occasion. Those working there were on the ground and saw the threat, and they did their due diligence to warn the State Department. Their cries fell on deaf ears, permitting what could have been a preventable massacre.
American workers at the Libyan embassy were not the only ones dismissed in such a way; residents of northeastern Nigeria found the State Department unwilling to come to their aid, as well, in 2011, when they warned that a violent Islamist group known as Boko Haram was terrorizing villages and forcing Christian girls into slavery. It was not until November 2013 that John Kerry designated Boko Haram a terror group at all, and even under Kerry’s moderately more-cautious watch, Boko Haram has become an existential threat to the state of Nigeria. Simply put, Abubakar Shekau and the thugs he commands were dismissed, just as the Benghazi threat was dismissed, by a secretary of state constantly cultivating the air that she had better things to do and more dangerous threats to address–like climate change.
So it’s no surprise that Clinton does not see the looming threat posed by five Taliban members roaming the earth freely once again, but it does her no favors as a potential presidential candidate to keep adding evidence to the pile that she is all but geopolitically blind to the real threat facing this country. That Clinton’s attitude appears universally adopted by the Obama administration is to Bergdahl’s advantage and the fortune of the Taliban, but the United States as a world power will only be able to survive a fixed amount of such willful ignorance.