Hey. Hi. How are you? What, me? Anything new? Well, you know, nothing big. I mean, I did get cited by the big-time media for my
insightful deeply silly writing retweeting of ridiculous conservatives, if you’re into that sort of thing:
Majority.fm’s Matt Binder and LobeLog contributor Derek Davison noticed something funny: just before Bergdahl was released, conservatives on Twitter loved to blast Obama for not freeing Bergdahl. There was even a whole meme on conservative Twitter saying Bergdahl was “abandoned by this administration.”
So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice. And in all seriousness, much thanks to Matt Binder, who does this kind of thing regularly and very well, for acknowledging my small contribution, and to Zack Beauchamp for the mention.
Here’s the thing: nutpicking on Twitter is funny, but it is still nutpicking. Still, these Twitter cases are echoing, or (more likely) being echoed by, national Republican leadership, many of whom have been complaining that the Obama administration wasn’t doing enough to get Bergdahl out, some of whom even called on the administration to do everything it could to secure Bergdahl’s release, who are now loudly complaining about what the administration actually did. The transmogrification of Duncan Hunter’s position on Bergdahl is particularly jarring (maybe not as jarring as John McCain’s, but then you expect McCain to be on both sides of something like this); he’s gone from writing nasty letters to Fox News of all places, complaining that they were unfairly suggesting that Bergdahl was a deserter, to calling Bergdahl a deserter himself.
I get that wanting something in the abstract is different from approving of it after it’s actually been done for real, but when you say that everything should be done and then complain about what actually gets done, you’re a hypocrite. When you go in a matter of weeks or even days from “Obama is a criminal for leaving Bowe Bergdahl behind” to “Obama is a criminal for cutting a deal with the Taliban to free Bowe Bergdahl,” then you’re just using Bergdahl as a political club. When you go, again in some cases in a matter of days, from “Free hero POW Bowe Bergdahl” to “Bowe Bergdahl is a traitor deserter who should be shot,” then you’re just careening and people should probably slowly back away from you before bad things happen. Because literally nothing has changed between “then” and “now” for these folks apart from the fact that Bergdahl has actually been released. There was always going to have to be an exchange of prisoners to leverage Bergdahl’s release, unless you were of the opinion that we could drone strike him to freedom, or that we could be real nice to the Taliban and they would just be all, “Oh, gosh, you Americans aren’t so bad! Here, take this one American we found a couple of years ago! Merry Christmas!” And the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture, his alleged desertion, have been an open question for years now.
Rolling Stone and Kevin Drum both have some quick and dirty reality checks on the tidal wave of supposition coming from the right on the Bergdahl case, and the Afghan Analysts Network is doing fantastic in-depth reporting on the whole affair, but what continues to amaze me is the degree to which the media machine has ratcheted up the details of this story over the past week, without any additional facts to fuel it. Take the freed Taliban (please! BOOM!), for example. The five Taliban figures we traded for Bergdahl have, in the course of the past week, gone from “five Taliban figures” to “The Taliban 5,” or “The Taliban Dream Team,” or “Mullah Omar’s board of directors” (I wish I were making this stuff up), or “the hardest of hardcore,” who have “close ties to Osama bin Laden” (if that guy still has close ties to bin Laden, maybe we should just surrender). Has anything actually changed about these five guys, or about what we know about them, over the past week? No. Were any of these guys actually very high-ranking or radicalized or dangerous? It doesn’t appear that they were.
There’s also Bergdahl to consider. As I said above, it’s been public knowledge for years now that Bergdahl had probably abandoned his unit before he was captured. In my humble opinion, that changes nothing; you still get the guy back and then deal with him in your own military justice system. Yet in one week, in the eyes of the American right (and apparently CNN, see below) Bergdahl has gone from suffering POW to deserter and, now, to traitor, without a single new piece of information on which to base that wild shift.
Well, unless you consider “secret documents prepared on the basis of a purported eyewitness account” to which only Fox News has access to be “information.” But, you know, his dad has a long beard and talked funny terrorist talk in the Rose Garden, so all the pieces are falling into place. We’ve also been told that his capture led directly to at least 6 combat deaths during search missions, which, if true, actually makes the case for bringing him back (and making sure those lives weren’t lost for nothing) stronger, but it turns out that might not be quite accurate either. This whole thing is, in a very real sense, Benghazi 2.0, but not in the way Fox News means it.
I don’t know what lessons you draw from this insane, shameful week in American politics, apart from reinforcing the fact that those politics are fundamentally broken, and that this country is still suffering debilitating PTSD when it comes to terrorism. I kind of hope the roller coaster stops now.