Sunday, June 01, 2014

Can't Help But Question Republican Motivation

The Obama Administration has secured the release from captivity of an American serviceman, and Republicans are not amused- or pleased.  The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty reports

Amid jubilation Saturday over the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity by the Taliban, senior Republicans on Capitol Hill said they were troubled by the means by which it was accomplished, which was a deal to release five Afghan detainees from the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Top Republicans on the Senate and House armed services committees went so far as to accuse President Obama of having broken the law, which requires the administration to notify Congress before any transfers from Guantanamo are carried out.

The GOP is not late to the game.  Twenty-four months ago, the late Michael Hastings found

"The Hill is giving State and the White House shit," says one senior administration source. "The political consequences­ are being used as leverage in the policy debate." According to White House sources, Marc Grossman, who replaced Richard Holbrooke as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was given a direct warning by the president's opponents in Congress about trading Bowe for five Taliban prisoners during an election year. "They keep telling me it's going to be Obama's Willie Horton moment," Grossman warned the White House. The threat was as ugly as it was clear: The president's political enemies were prepared to use the release of violent prisoners to paint Obama as a Dukakis-­like appeaser, just as Republicans did to the former Massachusetts governor during the 1988 campaign.

Two months later, Tom Hayden explained

Republican opposition to diplomatic compromise with the Taliban is blocking the release of a captured U.S soldier held since 2009 and broader negotiations aimed at a resolution of the decade-long war.

A recent German interview with a leading Afghan diplomatic mediator, Naquibullah Shorish, describes the stalled scenario for peace in some detail. The process, launched with Obama administration support in Qatar in 2010 under German mediation, was to begin with a prisoner exchange as a trial test for further talks. The American soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bigdahl, who was captured on June 30, 2009, was to be released in a swap for five Taliban detainees held in Guantanamo. The Taliban believed the exchange had US approval. But US Republican opposition made Congressional approval impossible, and the talks have floundered ever since.

In short, the US troop withdrawal clock is ticking towards its 2014 deadline while the hands of the diplomatic clock have stopped. Mitt Romney, goaded by his top foreign policy adviser John Bolton, has steadfastly opposed talks with the Taliban while remaining vague about his support for the 2014 drawdown.

Voter suppression is not the only tried-and-true trick up the GOP sleeve.  Whatever the stated rationale of Republicans for questioning the deal that led to the Sgt. Bergdahl's release (image below from New York Daily News), Republicans in the past have interfered, for partisan political advantage, with release of Americans held hostage. Wikipedia reminds us

In late 1979 a number of US hostages were captured in Iran during the Iranian Revolution. The Iran hostage crisis continued into 1980, and as the November 1980 presidential election approached, there were concerns in the Republican Party camp that a resolution of the crisis could constitute an "October surprise" which might give incumbent Jimmy Carter enough of an electoral boost to be re-elected.[3] Carter's rescue attempt was first written about in a Jack Anderson article in theWashington Post in the fall of 1980.[4] After the release of the hostages on January 20, 1981, mere minutes after Republican challenger Ronald Reagan's inauguration, some charged that the Reagan campaign had made a secret deal with the Iranian government whereby the Iranians would hold the hostages until after Reagan was elected and inaugurated.[5]

The issue of an "October Surprise" was brought up during an investigation by a House of Representatives Subcommittee into how the 1980 Reagan Campaign obtained debate briefing materials of then-President Carter. During the investigation (a.k.a. Debategate), the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee obtained access to Reagan Campaign documents and discovered numerous instances of documents and memorandum referencing a monitoring effort for any such October Surprise. The Subcommittee, chaired by former U.S. Rep. Donald Albosta (D–MI) issued a comprehensive report on May 17, 1984, describing each type of information that was detected and its possible source. There is a section in the report dedicated to the October Surprise issue.[6]

The allegations that the Reagan team subverted the US government's attempt to resolve the hostage crisis were generally regarded as an unsupported conspiracy theory until the Iran-Contra affair was exposed in 1986, which showed that the US government had made a secret deal with the Iranian government in 1985 to covertly supply Iran with arms, with the funds being used to support the Nicaraguan Contras. Investigations of the Iran-Contra affair, in which the Central Intelligence Agency played a central role, made the 1980 October Surprise allegations, in which Iran and the CIA also figured, seem less implausible, leading to more serious investigation of the claims...

Former C.I.A. director and Repub vice-presidential nominee George Herbert Walker Bush was at the center of the (unproven) allegations:

During investigations in the early 1990s Bush provided several alibis that fell apart, before maintaining that he was visiting a private residence in Washington. Bush refused to disclose the person visited, except to members of the House October Surprise Task Force on condition that they did not disclose the name or interview the person. This person ultimately proved to be Richard Anthony Moore(Ambassador to Ireland 1989-1992), but he had died by the time this was disclosed.[24] John Norman Maclean, who worked at the Chicago Tribune for 30 years, told a State Department official, on a date the official recalled as 18 October 1980, that Bush was flying to Paris for hostage negotiations. Maclean had been given the information by a source he described as "in a secondary position in Republican circles ... where he would have access to information of this kind", but never published the claim due to Republican denials.

If the value of property is determined by three things- location, location, and location- there are three goals of a political party- victory, victory, and victory.   If the result is subversion of American foreign policy, that's only collateral damage.

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