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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave a heroic performance in front of the House Armed Ankle Biters Services Committee on Wednesday but coverage of it was crowded out by news of Eric Cantor’s defeat at the polls. Hagel deserves to be heard.

As much as the Republicans tried to make Hagel say what they wanted to hear, he was determined to say what they needed to hear.
The substance of the hearing centered on three grievances the Republicans tried to prosecute:
  1. The exchange of 5 Guantanamo detainees violated a statutory 30-day advance notice requirement which left Congress uninformed about the plan.
  2. The prisoner exchange established a dangerous precedent of negotiating with terrorists.
  3. The deal would increase the risks faced by the US military and civilians overseas.
 It only took Hagel about 3 minutes to dismiss all of the charges  and remind the committee members about the prior occasions when they had been briefed.
Hagel reviewed the timeline of events from 2011 forward:
  • Congress was briefed in November 2011 and January 2012 about talks conducted by the Obama administration with the Taliban about a detainee exchange involving the five Guantanamo detainees who were ultimately transferred after the release of Sgt. Bergdahl.
  • The talks were broken off by the Taliban in March 2012 and there were no further talks with them.
  • In September 2013, the Government of Qatar offered to serve as an intermediary, between the US and the captors who were holding Bergdahl.
  • A proof-of-life video showed Bergdahl in deteriorating condition but the mediation through Qatar was suspended by the other side.
  •     In May Qatar notified the US that a deal was possible immediately based on the terms offered in previous negotiations.
  • On May 12 intensified discussions with Qatar finalized an understanding about the mechanics of the exchange which the US wouldn’t do without the guarantees it wanted
  • It wasn’t known until the final hours before Bergdahl was released whether the plan would be carried out.

Hagel was thorough.
  • His documentation showed that the administration complied with the NDAA provisions that require a risk assessment and mitigation, as well as consideration of national security interests.
  • The commitment to recover all military personnel held captive was upheld.
  • The precedent of past wartime prisoner exchanges was continued.
  • The plan that was executed was consistent with the previous congressional briefings the administration provided in 2011 and 2012, reflecting its intent to conduct a transfer of this kind including the same 5 detainees.

Buck McKeon the Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, seemed to understand that he doesn’t even belong in the same room with Hagel. He waved his rulebook but he left the attacks to the barbarians in his party. They made it clear that they’ll continue to tell the story they want to tell and they may try to pass a resolution condemning the President. At times, Hagel’s face was priceless. when he spoke to set the story straight it was clear he wasn’t going to back down even a centimeter. Bravo.
Of the Democrats on the committee, Jackie Speier, who represents California’s 14 District followed Hagel’s example and she also said something that needed to be said.


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Comment Preferences

  •  So Congress was notified back in 2011 (12+ / 0-)

    that this swap was going to take place?

    And they have the gall to bring up the 30 day notice requirement?

    Blows that line of BS out of the water. We need to trumpet this far and wide, any time some fool brings up the talking point about lack of notification.

    •  Y'know those jackweasels pulled this kind of thing (13+ / 0-)

      before. They put language in that very same defense spending bill last year ordering military action in Syria to remove Assad. 10 weeks later when Obama started talking about doing it, they all cried out "He can't do that." I wrote about it here at the time.

      The Chairman lied at the hearing yesterday too but it's too obscure to matter to most people. He made a point of saying the 30-day notice was a bi-partisan deal worked out in reconciliation between the House and Senate versions. It's a normal routine process but it didn't happen last year.

      The shutdown in October led to delays and Congress was up against a hard deadline at the end of the year with no money to cover the expenses of 40,000 people we had in Afghanistan. Rather than reconcile, the House Armed Services Chairman pieced a final version together in a way I've never seen. He even put an intro at the beginning to explain why it was irregular.

      I have to laugh at these scoundrels.

  •  I watched the Armed Services hearings yesterday (6+ / 0-)

    While there is no doubt that the Republicans were more strident I think it is disingenuous to suggest that only Republicans were critical of the administration's process and the specifics of the swap. There were many Democrats on the committee who were critical as well, particularly that the administration had failed to meet the 30 notice of the NDAA.

    I thought the Chairman did a very good job of keeping the hearing respectful and managed it very well. I agree with the diary author that Secretary Hagel did an excellent job defending the administration's decisions.  

    "let's talk about that" uid 92953

    by VClib on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:01:58 AM PDT

    •  The Democrats take good government seriously. (5+ / 0-)

      Partisan concerns aren't supposed to get in the way of the fact-finding that is the reason for a hearing. The Democrats, for the most part, did the job that was once considered the standard procedure.

      They're supposed to ask hard questions. It's expected, regardless of party. When the Democrats do it, it's not a newsworthy event in my opinion.

      If the Republicans asked one of their own hard questions like the Democrats do, it would be news. They play it strictly partisan. And no, Hagel doesn't count as a Republican for the purposes of this discussion. He's in Obama's cabinet.

      I can't believe you think you have an angle.  The focus of this piece isn't to say the Republicans asked hard questions but the Democrats didn't. How could I justify something like that. It isn't a Progressive thought process. It's something else.

      The focus is the fuss that has been made by Republicans who used their constituent's tragedy to score a point for their agenda. They don't care who or what is harmed in the bargain. I've been saying so for years now. They're a danger to themselves, to this country, and to the world.

      •  My point is that criticism of the swap (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is bipartisan, both in Congress, and the public. Suggesting that only Republicans didn't approve of the specifics of the swap, and the process, is disingenuous as this poll demonstrates:

        My personal view was that the President has a good case for why he made the decisions that he did, but that the process by which the events were communicated to the press, public and Congress were botched. A better PR strategy could have resulted in better support for the decisions.

        "let's talk about that" uid 92953

        by VClib on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:49:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your poll says Ds approve Rs don't on Ques 1 & 2 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Where is this bipartisan criticism of which you speak?
          From your poll:

          Views on Prisoner Exchange
          Reps - 22% approve
          Dems - 53% approve

          President’s Handling of Bergdahl Release
          Reps - 12% approve
          Dems - 61% approve

          Should President Obama have Notified Congress about Prisoner Exchange?
          Reps - 86% Yes
          Dems - 55% Yes

          You're welcome to believe anything you like.  The difference between us is clear. You think I'm ingenuous and I have enough courtesy to keep my opinion about you to myself.

          The Funny thing is you disrespect me because I'm not exactly like you in some ways. But you wouldn't like me if I was just like you, either.

          •  Mark - the polls don't suggest that 100% of Dems (0+ / 0-)

            approved of the swap. Sure, more Republicans are critical and that's true in Congress as well, but the criticism isn't all Republicans.

            As I noted before, and in diaries this past weekend, a much better outreach and PR effort by the administration could have made the poll numbers better.

            "let's talk about that" uid 92953

            by VClib on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 08:02:12 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The statistically impossible did not occur. Now (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              VClib, Dodgerdog1

              that we got that squared away I feel like we're really making some progress. We're a team.

              You know who I didn't see at that hearing? Rich Nugent, the House rep from Florida's 11th District. He was the one who got on the House floor every now and then to give a speech he called Leave Nobody Behind.

              This Sunday marks the fourth year since Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was reported missing in action in Afghanistan.

               It is on this sober occasion that veterans and concerned citizens across the United States will appeal to their government, asking those who have the means to find every unaccounted soldier, sailor, airman, marine, or guardsman and bring them home.

              That's how he started and he'd get to a real emotional part where he said Bowe was just like any one of his own 3 sons who serve in the military.

              I don't know what his connection is to Bowe and I was real surprised when I saw his name on the list of committee members. I was really looking forward to see what he'd say seeing how Bowe meant so much to him. He gave that speech in Congress more than once.

              Have you heard anything about why he wasn't at the hearing?

              •  Mark - I do think one can be joyous about (0+ / 0-)

                the return of Sgt. Bergdahl and also very critical of the specifics of this particular swap, although many think you can't be happy to see a US soldier returned and not approve the swap.

                I have no information regarding Rep Nugent, but maybe he is one of those people struggling with the issue of embracing Sgt Bergdahl's return, but opposing the specifics of the swap and decided the best course of action was to say nothing.

                "let's talk about that" uid 92953

                by VClib on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 09:15:42 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Some Democratic politicians (4+ / 0-)

        also tend to look out for themselves politically first, party and country second. I promise you that if there wasn't controversy ginned up by Republicans about this release, those same Democrats wouldn't be voicing those concerns.

        •  There are millions and millions of Ds and Rs and (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          trumpeter, Dodgerdog1

          it would just about statistically impossible to have them line up perfectly on opposite sides of an issue. If 10 Ds cross over can we use the word 'bipartisan?' 10,000 crossovers? How about just 1. They might use the word bipartisan if one member votes with the opposition.

          Why do people want to see bipartisan agreement? It's like a mirage in the desert. Everyone knows that the parties are very polarized and irreconcilable in this bitter era.

          I watched the hearing and I saw at least 3 instances when inter-party friction flared up.
          1) there was a protest directed at a Republican for being too prosecutorial. If you listened closely he grumbled something under his breath, like I know you are but what am I.
          2) A Republican who was a bit harsh with Hagel was reminded that he used to be a Republican.
          3) Speier's comment went far with her worry about Bowe's safety. If you listened closely who was she criticizing? Republicans? Democrats? Both? She said 'colleagues.' She was very warm in her greeting to Hagel.

          Sometimes bipartisan is just a cover for how awful Republicans are. But it's more than that. it's an attempt to blur the differences between the parties to convince voters that it makes no difference whether a D or R wins.

          It makes a very big difference. Anyone can click my name and read my diaries to see I have differences with the Democratic Party.

          I also have sense. Who expects to get everything they want and exactly what they want, and then throws out the baby with the bath water if they don't.

  •  Hagel is not much of a diplomat (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Lippman, Dodgerdog1

    While that is a bit of a liability in some of his duties, it's a gold-plated asset in this case.

    If Obama is smart, he will let Chuck be Chuck on this task and make it top priority.

    No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

    by koNko on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 08:35:04 AM PDT

  •  Excellent blog and completely agree with you on (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Lippman, zitherhamster

    all points. And watched the entire hearing online. Just wrote a scathing email to Con. Jeff Miller (FL) and his despicable questions on why Bergdahl could not be moved to American hospital. The disrespect shown to Hagel by the Republicans was disgraceful and most of the Dems were not much better(herding cats is difficult). Both sides were so damned concerned about the 30 day notification to Congress....God knows they are so self-important and would never leak issues....... that they missed the whole purpose and timely importance of the mission. Hagel did an extremely respectful job considering he had to answer the same questions over and over again. Can see how the Tea Partiers could not understand the mission  or the credo "Do not leave any man behind" because they are ignorant, certainly have never even served in any branch of service and must pander to their equally "ill-informed" base. Yet again the Democrats are on the wrong side of this issue, Manchin is case in point.  And does not matter if it were 5 or 100 detainees for 1 these Congressmen actually believe that this exchange was not assessed, reviewed, and intricately planned nine ways to Sunday and especially the "disposition" of those 5 detainees.    

    •  Thank you for these words. It's good to know when (0+ / 0-)

      a reader gets it and goes the distance to contact a rep like you did.

      Hagel did what I would have done. He put his point across loud and clear.

      If anyone wants to argue it out, ask them who they'd rather have in charge of operations if they were being held prisoner. Tell them you'll take Hagel. They can have Miller or Austin Scott. Expect a long wait while he looks for an article in the Constitution that lets the President break the law. I would definitely want Hagel over any of those clowns.

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