The Veterans of Foreign Wars is demanding President Obama personally seek the release of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi from a Mexican jail where he has been held since March 31 for entering the country with several firearms.
VFW National Commander William Thien wrote in an open letter on Friday that if Obama can break U.S. policy on talking with terrorists to secure the freedom of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl then he should be able to call Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and ask for Tahmooressi's release.
"We understand that the U.S. State Department and our embassy in Mexico are working this, but that's too much political bureaucracy," Thien says in his letter. "The VFW urges you to show the same sense of urgency toward Tahmooressi as you did to secure the release of Bergdahl. A personal call from you to Mexican President Nieto can make this happen."
Thien said he first asked the president to intervene in a letter he sent to the White House on Tuesday, June 3.
In his letter Friday, Thien points out in that while Tahmooressi "languishes in a Mexican jail ... Bergdahl, a former Taliban captive who disappeared under questionable circumstances, recuperates in a U.S. Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany."
A petition on the White House website calling for Obama to intervene has garnered nearly 123,000 signatures. To date, there has been no response from the White House to either the petition or Thien's letter.
Obama on Friday was in France where he and other European leaders marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
Tahmooressi was arrested in Mexico after border police there stopped his truck and found three weapons – a .45 caliber pistol, a 12-guage shotgun and a 5.56-caliber rifle. The Marine reportedly told authorities he had entered Mexico by mistake after taking a wrong turn near the border with San Diego, Calif.
Alejandro Gonzalez Guilbot, head of Mexican customs, said the pistol was found in the door pocket below the driver's side window and the other weapons also within reach of the driver. The paper said Tahmooressi previously described the 5.56-caliber rifle as an AR-15.
Tahmooressi has said he was handcuffed and taken to prison, and that he was beaten after he tried to escape. He said guards hit him so many times in face that he felt his jaw fall out of place, Fox News reported.
Tahmooressi, who served two tours in Afghanistan, reportedly suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.
Since the U.S. brought Bergdahl out of Afghanistan last week in exchange for five Taliban captives being held at Guantanamo Obama has been widely criticized by many veterans as well as lawmakers from both parties in Congress.
"We have a Marine down in Mexico for a couple months. You only hear drips and drabs on that. And you have this guy, Bergdahl, whose status is questionable as best," said Air Force Master Sgt. Dennis Mills.
Bergdahl allegedly deserted his unit in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban five years ago. The Defense Department said it will investigate the claims and bring charges if they are warranted.
The White House and senior Pentagon officials say it was important to get Bergdahl back, regardless of the circumstances of his disappearance, because the U.S. does not leave troops behind in conflict.
-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.