President Obama made clear this morning that when it comes to rescuing American POWs, the nation's commitment is unconditional. "Regardless of the circumstances," he said
, in reference to a question about Bowe Bergdahl, "whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he's held in captivity. Period. Full stop."
Those comments, however, have not stopped questions about how Bergdahl was captured and whether he deserted his post. The New York Times reports
this morning on an account from "a former senior military officer briefed on the investigation into the private's disappearance," who claims Bergdahl "had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life."
The furious search for Sergeant Bergdahl, his critics say, led to the deaths of at least two soldiers and possibly six others in the area. Pentagon officials say those charges are unsubstantiated and are not supported by a review of a database of casualties in the Afghan war. "Yes, I'm angry," Joshua Cornelison, a former medic in Sergeant Bergdahl's platoon, said in an interview on Monday arranged by Republican strategists.
Though we don't yet have all the details, and some of the allegations may be "unsubstantiated," the emotional reaction from servicemembers is easy to understand. But it was those other eight words that also raised eyebrows: "an interview on Monday arranged by Republican strategists"?
What exactly is going on here? The release of an American POW from his Taliban captors in Afghanistan has become a political operation in which Republican strategists direct reporters to specific sources?
BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray and Kate Nocera reported
this morning on the behind-the-scenes effort.
A former Bush Administration official hired, then resigned, as Mitt Romney's foreign policy spokesman played a key role in publicizing critics of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the released prisoner of war. The involvement of Richard Grenell, who once served as a key aide to Bush-era U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton and later worked for Romney's 2012 campaign, comes as the Bergdahl release has turned into an increasingly vicious partisan issue.
The piece added that similar interviews were arranged with a variety of conservative media outlets, including The Weekly Standard, the Daily Mail, the Wall Street Journal, and Fox News.
One of Grenell's partner at Capitol Media Partners told BuzzFeed the firm is not being paid for these efforts.