The Obama administration’s extraordinary effort to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has some wondering why the president can’t make a simple phone call on behalf of a former Marine being held in a Mexican prison after mistakenly driving across the border with registered guns.
Obama announced Saturday in a dramatic Rose Garden news conference that five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay would be exchanged for Bergdahl, a 28-year-old infantryman held captive for five years by the terrorist group. The swap angered many in the military and on Capitol Hill, because it went against long-standing policy of not bargaining with terrorists.
“He wasn't forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind,” Obama said.
Although Tahmooressi is not a prisoner of war, he served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, and now suffers post-traumatic stress disorder, according to his mother, Jill Tahmooressi. Friends who have visited him in prison say he has been tortured and threatened with rape and death, and they question whether the administration is doing enough to help him.
“This Administration went to unprecedented lengths for Bowe Bergdhal by making a lopsided deal with an untrustworthy partner, even when there other options still on the table that neither involved the Taliban nor prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. “Meanwhile, as far the Administration went for Bergdahl, Andrew Tahmooressi is still stuck in a Mexican jail for making a wrong turn and the only thing grabbing the president’s attention so far is an online petition that forces him to respond."
Mark Podlaski, who served with Tahmooressi in Afghanistan, told Fox News in a phone interview if President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry "can give up five Taliban leaders for a 'traitor' why can't they make a phone call to Mexico to free a Marine who served honorably?
"I've never been this upset with my government.
"Tahmooressi gave his mind and body two times -- referring to his two tours of duty in Afghanistan -- for this country."
Sam Vranicar, who also served with Tahmooressi in Afghanistan and convinced him to go to California to receive treatment for post traumatic stress disorder, echoed his comrades.
"It's absurd how we can negotiate with terrorists in Afghanistan to get back a deserter soldier, but we can't negotiate with an ally in Mexico to bring home a loyal and honorable combat veteran," Vranicar said. "All the monies spent on preventing and fighting terrorism, many of the lives lost, have been in vain because of this 'deal' Obama made."
Jill Tahmooressi declined to comment on any comparison between her son's plight and that of Bergdahl, saying only that she was sure his family is grateful for his return
Hunter, a former Marine, was echoed by a former colleague in the House who served in the Army.
“To hear Obama state that “no American should be left behind” — has he forgotten about Benghazi and Marine SGT Tahmooressi?” blogged former Congressman and retired Col. Allen West.
On Monday, a Fox News journalist asked State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki why the administration would strike a precedent-shattering deal with the Taliban, yet can’t win Tahmooressi’s freedom from an ally and neighbor.
“I understand the desire to make comparisons, but we wouldn’t compare them,” Psaki said. “This is – was a Marine (sic) who was taken while in combat, and you’re talking about a situation of an individual who the Mexican authorities are accusing of violating the law.”