The ‘Swift-Boating’ of Bowe Bergdahl
The supposed conspiracy is so vast, it includes Democrats and Afghan villagers.

Members of Bergdahl's platoon on Fox News's The Kelly File.


Rich Lowry

As the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap has curdled from presumed triumph to public-relations nightmare, the White House and its defenders have cast about for excuses to explain why the administration’s negotiating brilliance has gone unappreciated.

White House staffers told NBC’s Chuck Todd that they were taken aback at the “swift-boating” of Bergdahl by his former comrades. That’s a reference to the attacks on John Kerry when he was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee by the troops he served with in Vietnam.

Rightly understood, “swift-boating” shouldn’t be a pejorative — it’s what happens when men in uniform feel betrayed by a comrade and tell the public what they believe to be the truth about his service. But for Democrats and the media, swift-boating is about the most heinous thing that can happen to someone.

Bowe Bergdahl thus joins Kerry as a victim of a partisan smear campaign — except, unlike the secretary of state, Bergdahl doesn’t have any prestigious medals to throw away (or pretend to throw away) at an anti-war protest.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, tweeted, “Really sad to watch Obama haters attack this kid who CHOSE to fight to protect the rest of us, just to score political points.”

On CNN, Van Jones said that “the airwaves are being filled mysteriously with former solders just trashing the guy.” Ah, but it’s not so mysterious, after all. “It turns out,” Jones intoned, “that there are Republican operatives who are working behind the scenes to get some of those guys on television — this is an orchestrated smear campaign.”

He was alluding to former Republican official Richard Grenell putting a few of the troops together with journalists. Evidently, these guys should have waited until former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs offered to hook them up, and otherwise kept to themselves their silly stories about what they went through in Afghanistan after Bergdahl’s disappearance.

More than half a dozen of Bergdahl’s former comrades have said he deliberately walked off his base in 2009 after becoming disillusioned with the war, and that soldiers were killed looking for him.

Let’s stipulate that — given the fog of war — these accounts might exaggerate the harm done by Bergdahl’s disappearance. But there is no doubt that they are sincere, and the anger is real. What are the odds that Bergdahl happened to get assigned to a platoon full of highly politicized soldiers who waited years for the opportunity to use the circumstances of his capture as a cudgel against President Barack Obama?

As the pseudonymous blogger Allahpundit points out, if there were comrades who would vouch for Bergdahl, or who were witnesses to him being snatched while lagging behind on patrol (as Bergdahl maintained in a video after his capture), we would presumably have heard from them by now.

The conspiracy against Bergdahl is so vast that it encompasses Afghan villagers. Some of them told the Washington Post that they saw Bergdahl after he walked away from his base, heading for Taliban strongholds and ignoring their warnings that he was in danger.

None of this necessarily means that the trade for Bergdahl was wrong, or that we shouldn’t have wanted him back. But it makes the deal harder to defend, which is why the initial White House spin about Bergdahl was so positive — until the facts got in the way. In the space of about three days, he went from serving with “honor and distinction,” per National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s initial assurances on the Sunday shows, to “innocent until proven guilty,” per Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey’s comment about a potential court-martial.

The top Taliban officials released from Guantanamo Bay to get Bergdahl back were last seen hugging and kissing supporters in Qatar, where they are supposed to be watched for a year. Even the president admits that they could return to the fight. Huffy complaints about swift-boating and partisanship aren’t going to put to rest all the questions about this deal.

Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: [email protected]. © 2014 King Features Syndicate

Meme Watch: Bowe Bergdahl
News of a deal to swap American soldier Bowe Bergdahl for five top Taliban commanders created a firestorm in social media, with criticism flying over the politics behind the deal, the ramifications for U.S. troops, and whether Bergdahl is a deserter. Here’s a sampling of Twitter missives (illustrated by NRO) and some Photoshop commentary.
“And he keeps digging: O: we ‘have consulted with Congress for quite some time’ Rogers: No Hill briefing since 2011” (Kate Obenshain, @kateobenshain)
“WH realizing, in hindsight, painting Bergdahl as a hero and the swap as unbridled good news were horrible errors.” (Mollie, @MZHemingway)
“Bowe Bergdahl just changed his Facebook status to ‘In A Relationship With The Taliban.’” (Scott Kutach, @scottkutach)
“Bergdahl's Dad a terrorist sympathizer? Bergdahl himself a terrorist collaborator? Obama frees 5 terrorists for this?” (Joe Walsh, @WalshFreedom)
“Your first clue that the Bergdahl things was a debacle is the fact that Susan Rice went on TV shows about it.” (RB, @RBPundit)
“Somewhere, Johnny Walker Lindh is saying, ‘Man, I got caught during the wrong administration.’” (Jim Geraghty, @jimgeraghty)
CLUELESS ON THE LEFT: “Am I correct that the American right-wing has spent the day arguing we should have left an American soldier behind?” (Chris Hayes of MSNBC, @chrislhayes)
CLUELESS ON THE LEFT, PART II: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: “What's the argument that these five Taliban guys are so dangerous? Are they ninjas? Do they have superpowers?” (Blake Hounshell of Politico, @blakehounshell)
CLUELESS ON THE LEFT: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: “GOP ’14 msg so far — attacking POW, attacking those getting health care, loving on Putin and running down economy. Inspired.” (David Plouffe, @davidplouffe)
“It is really incredible how this White House, this President, thought this whole #Bergdahl thing would be just a-okay with everyone.” (Katie Pavlich, @KatiePavlich)
“The fact Bowe Bergdahl was an unpatriotic deserter probably makes him the only soldier Barack Obama can relate to and emphasize with.” (John Hawkins, @johnhawkinsrwn)
“What did the president know about Sgt. Bergdahl and when did he know it?” (SNITFIT, @Snitfit)
“What did Hillary know, and when did she know it?” (Ed Morrissey, @EdMorrissey)
“Upcoming MSM Meme: ‘Asking Hillary about Bergdahl during her book tour is sexist, mean and sexist.’” (Kurt Schlichter, @KurtSchlichter)
CLUELESS IN THE SENATE: “Really sad to watch Obama haters attack this kid who CHOSE to fight to protect the rest of us, just to score political points.” (Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.), @ChrisMurphyCT)
“This Bergdahl trade is worse than that time @SenWarren got some beads for Manhattan.” (Cuffe, @CuffyMeh)
“You can't blame POTUS for saving the America-hating Bergdahl; he probably reminds Obama of his former pastor.” (Razor, @hale_razor)
“The only thing missing from this fiasco up to this point was a ben rhodes appearance” (Nino, @baldingschemer)
“WH expected ‘euphoria.’ They've gotten something very different. An epic miscalulation” (Guy Benson, @guypbenson)
“So was Bergdahl swap a politically motivated stunt to provide cover for VA scandal by showing Obama loves the troops or not?” (Matt Grossman, @MJGrossman)
“So, which is it? Do we trade terrorists for American defectors because they're US citizens, or do we drone them?” (Ben Shapiro, @benshapiro)
“Let's take this Bergdahl fustercluck to 11! Obama should name Bergdahl to replace Shinseki.” (Jonah Goldberg, @JonahNRO)
“I suppose there was no way to put Obama's Taliban Five on a secret waiting list until they died.” (John Hayward, @Doc_0)
“I can't be the only one that imeediately thought of Homeland when they heard the Bowe Bergdahl story…” (LongymanAVFC, @Longyman)
“Do we have any drones over Qatar? Asking for a friend.” (Jim Geraghty, @jimgeraghty)
“The Zero Dark Thirty sequel on the Bergdahl-Gitmo swap is gonna be good.” (Avik Roy, @Avik)
GRAPHIC MESSAGES: “Barack Obama’s Unfortunate New Movie” (MAD Magazine, @MADmagazine)
Some commenters sought to remind Americans of the soldiers who lost their lives searching for Bergdahl. (Image via
(Image via Facebook/OneNationUnderGodUSofA)
Let's Make a Deal! (Image via Facebook/OccupyThis2012)
Condemnations of Bergdahl flew fast and furious. (Image via Facebook/Breitbart One Silenced Millions Awakened)
"We feel the same way" (Franci Sanders, @LadySandersfarm)
Counting the costs of POTUS's swap. (Image via @FoxNews)
(Image via
"+2 draft picks and a player to be named. RT @ABCWorldNews: What the US gives up to gain the release of Bowe Bergdahl" (Andrew Kaczynski, @BuzzFeedAndrew)
(Image via Facebook/BreitbartOneSilencedMillionsAwakened)
"Questioned About Bergdahl Trade, Obama Declares 'We Leave No One Behind' Tell #Benghazi4 That!" (Red Nation Rising, @RedNationRising)
A matter of priorities, apparently. (Image via
Magic 8-Ball says "It seems unlikely." (Image via Facebook/BreitbartOneSilencedMillionsAwakened)
Developing... (Image via Facebook/BreitbartOneSilencedMillionsAwakened)
Updated: Jun. 05, 2014