A former chairman of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth defended Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers from a White House charge that they are unfairly “swiftboating” the former Taliban captive by coming forward to criticize him. Bergdahl’s questionable conduct, he suggests, is analogous to that of Secretary of State John Kerry, whom the group famously opposed in the 2004 presidential election.
“Those guys had friends who died in Afghanistan like we had friends who died in Vietnam, and to allow this kind of thing to occur really does tarnish the whole memory of all those people who gave their lives,” former co-chairman John O’Neill told National Review Online. “To allow a guy like this to be posed as a hero, like Kerry self-posing as a hero, is really an affront to everybody who died there, and that’s why those guys in his platoon have come forward and that’s why we came forward 40 years ago and ten years ago.”
The White House critique of Bergdahl was reported by NBC’s Chuck Todd. “They did not expect this backlash on Bergdahl himself,” Todd said on the Today Show. “I’ve had a few aides describe it to me as ‘we didn’t know that they were going to “swift boat” Bergdahl.’ . . . Obviously, they had no idea that there would be no member of Sergeant Bergdahl’s unit that would go public and praise him or support him.”
Bergdahl’s team leader and other members of the military have denounced his service in the press, alleging that he deserted and voluntarily sought out the Taliban. “Following his disappearance, IEDs started going off directly under the trucks,” former Army sergeant Evan Buetow told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “They were getting perfect hits every time. Their ambushes were very calculated, very methodical, like they knew what we were going to do.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, like the rest of the Obama team, initially touted Bergdahl’s release as “a powerful reminder of the enduring, sacred commitment our nation makes to all those who serve in uniform.” As Buetow and others have discussed the circumstances of Bergdahl’s departure, though, the Army has backed away from the celebratory language.
“Now that Sergeant Bergdahl is back and under our control, first and foremost we must ensure his health is taken care of and he is properly reintegrated,” Army chief of staff Raymond Odierno said Wednesday. “At the appropriate time, we will conduct a thorough, transparent, and complete review of the circumstances surrounding his capture.”
O’Neill said that it’s “crazy” to suggest that the “leave no man behind” principle justifies President Obama in exchanging five Taliban leaders for Bergdahl.
“Were we supposed to go to England to rescue Benedict Arnold?” he asked, referring to the Revolutionary War traitor. “All I can think is that the government must believe people are incredibly stupid in order to say something like that. They haven’t fooled the military at all – they’re outraged by it.”
— Joel Gerkhe is a political reporter for National Review Online.