Question on Bergdahl

continued from yesterday

Has anybody checked what the Bergdahls’ kitchen counters are made of?

Meanwhile, neocons are very concerned that prisoners of war might start being called “prisoners of war” instead of the much more Orwellian politically useful designation of “detainees,” or possibly “unpersons.” To which I can only say, hey, if you want a war on terror, then you don’t get to pretend it’s not a war whenever it becomes convenient to do so.

The Obama administration deserves criticism here as well, to be sure. On a purely political level, you don’t send Susan Rice, who must be getting tired of having to go on the Sunday shows and transmit badly thought-out talking points, on TV to say that Bergdahl was “captured on the battlefield” or that he “served..with honor and distinction” when it’s far from clear that either of those statements is accurate. The Rose Garden ceremony was probably a mistake as well. What’s not a mistake, and the reason why you don’t really need to turn Bergdahl into Audie Murphy in order to wring some silly political victory out of this whole thing, is because there’s no ambiguity about the principle of getting your POWs back. Fundamental to the basic contract between a soldier (and that soldier’s family) and the nation he or she is serving is the idea that, if something terrible happens, the nation isn’t just going to shrug its shoulders and say “eh, what can you do?” and leave that soldier in enemy hands or lying dead on foreign soil. That’s really all you need to say about this deal, though explaining to people that POW exchanges are a routine part of winding down a war (and we are winding down in Afghanistan) might not hurt.

More troubling is Obama’s use of signing statements to do end-arounds on laws passed by Congress, specifically in this case on a law requiring Congressional notification before any Gitmo unpersons can be released and have their personhood restored to them. It makes Obama a hypocrite, given that he was so critical of Bush’s use of these things, but does it go beyond that? What’s the remedy for Republicans who want to punish Obama for doing this? They could try restricting signing statements, something Arlen Specter tried and failed to do in 2006, and, hey, vaya con dios if they want to attempt this because I think that would be awesome. What else can they do? Can they sue Obama, and what would they be trying to accomplish? Getting the Taliban to reverse the deal? Impeachment? Is there a coherent argument why Obama should be sued or impeached for doing something that his predecessor did far more frequently?

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