Talking Points

Bill O'Reilly: Yet another controversy in the White House

Talking Points 6/2


By Bill O'Reilly

It is truly amazing -- I have never seen this before. Almost every week there is another intense situation raising questions about presidential leadership. Last week it was the V.A. This week, a trade with the Taliban to get an American soldier released from captivity.

28-year-old Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan on June 30th, 2009. Apparently he slipped out of his camp and the terrorists grabbed him.

Over the weekend the President made a deal with the Taliban to have the Sergeant released immediately. In return, five top Taliban terrorists were held -- who were held in Guantanamo were flown to the Gulf station of Qatar where they will eventually repatriated back to Afghanistan. Taliban leadership has proclaimed the deal a huge victory.

So this is yet another troubling situation for the President. First of all, Mr. Obama signed a law late last year that says Congress must be given 30 days notice before any detainees at Guantanamo can be released or transferred.

But there's some wording in the law that gives the President some discretion. In this case the President says he had to act quickly because Sergeant Bergdahl's health was deteriorating in captivity.

Second, the Sergeant was captured under very mysterious circumstances. Colonel David Hunt will tell us about that in a moment. Third and this is the most important aspect of the story. By trading one American for five terrorists -- that might encourage Americans to be kidnapped all over the world. It has been U.S. policy not to bargain with terrorists but the President made an exception in Bergdahl's case. Reaction -- fast and furious.


MICHAEL LEITER, FORMER SENIOR CORRESPONDENT OFFICIAL: I do think that these five, who were really far on the far end of the spectrum of bad guys in Guantanamo, this is really problematic, for the long term, this is going to strengthen the Taliban. Our hand is obviously weakening there.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It is disturbing that these individuals would have the ability to reenter the fight and they are big, high level people, possibly responsible for the deaths of thousands.


O'REILLY: They are also war criminals, these men. Some Republicans are also calling for an investigation into Mr. Obama's conduct citing the new 30 day law. But the Obama administration says it did nothing wrong.


CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: First of all we didn't negotiate with terrorists. As I said and explained it before, Sergeant Bergdahl is a prisoner of war. That's a normal process in getting your prisoners back. In war, things -- things are always dangerous. And there are vulnerabilities as there are around the world.


O'REILLY: In addition to politics, there is the emotional part of this story: Sergeant Bergdahl's parents from Idaho met with President Obama at the White House on Saturday to support their son's release. Most parents would do that despite the intense political ramifications.

But it is Robert Bergdahl, the father, who is also engendering some controversy. He has learned to speak Pashto the language of the Taliban and looks like a Muslim. He is also somewhat sympathetic to Islam, actually thanking Allah right in front of the President. Mr. Bergdahl in addition had a message for his son who is now in Germany being treated by the U.S. military.


BERGDAHL: I'm proud of how much you wanted to help the Afghan people and what you were willing to do to go to that length. I will say it again, I am so proud of how far you were willing to go to help the Afghan people. And I think you have succeeded.


O'REILLY: So the story is very complicated. A number of reports today imply Sergeant Bergdahl may have deserted his unit in Afghanistan. And there is reportedly correspondents between him and his parents, saying how disillusioned he was with the Afghan war blaming America for much of the carnage over there. Again Colonel Hunt has the inside story coming up.

Talking Points believes there are valid points on both sides of the growing controversy. There is no question that President Obama's actions will make things more dangerous for Americans abroad, especially in the Middle East and Africa.

But what do you do when you can save an American soldier being held in captivity for five years? Do you walk away? Possibly consigning the soldier to his death? I believe the administration when it says had it to act quickly. A 30 day waiting period with thugs like the Taliban could have easily turned into a fracas, but in war, in war, hard decisions have to be made. And these five Taliban terrorists, war criminals will kill again. There is no question about that. They are extreme haters who will be welcomed back to the jihad with enthusiasm.

Secretary Hagel is wrong when he says this is a simple prisoner of war exchange. It is not. These are top Taliban leaders -- enemies who bring death and destruction to thousands. Therefore, if I had been president, I would not have made the deal.

But there is a caveat. President Obama wants to open avenues of negotiation with the Taliban. He wants a cease-fire in Afghanistan. And by opening communications over the Sergeant, the President sees an opportunity.

But if history is any indicator, the Taliban will never stop fighting, because they don't have anything else to do. They are armed, fed and paid by other jihadists. They sit there in the mountains of Pakistan, plotting death and the reinstitution of an Islamic state in Afghanistan. Why would they ever stop?

So once again America is in a nearly impossible situation with Sergeant Bergdahl caught in the middle of it. Let the debate begin.

And that's "The Memo."