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Americans Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists

June 9, 2014
Weekly Columns

With recent events and remembering D-Day 70 years ago, we are grateful for the men and women who courageously volunteer their service in our military to preserve and defend freedom. Whether serving on our own soil or directly in harm’s way overseas, the lives of our military are irreplaceable. 

For more than a decade now, our service members have answered the call of duty by fighting in the Global War on Terror. As we painfully recall, this mission was assumed after the tragedy on September 11, when planes that were hijacked by terrorists crashed into the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. Terrorists also killed passengers who diverted Flight 93 into a field in Pennsylvania. After that fateful day for America, thousands of our brave service men and women deployed overseas, to countries where the presence of al-Qaeda was well-known or to nations which were believed to threaten U.S. security. 

In our efforts to fight a dangerous foe, we have seen days of loss and heartbreak but also days of victory and celebration. Unfortunately, the recent prisoner exchange undertaken by the Administration, without the consultation with Congress, has jeopardized our nation’s security and has set a dangerous precedent. 

On May 31, the Administration announced publicly that the Taliban would release Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier previously stationed in Afghanistan before he was held captive by al-Qaeda connected terrorists. After nearly five years as a prisoner, his release should have been cause for celebration. And certainly we all understand the relief felt by Bergdahl’s family. However, the condition of his return involved the release of five senior Taliban leaders detained at Guantanamo Bay. That release set the dangerous precedent of swapping dangerous terrorists for American prisoners. 

Moreover, since the announcement of the prisoner exchange, many have expressed concerns about the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance. These concerns include claims of his desertion from fellow soldiers and his disillusionment with the American military mission in Afghanistan. The allegations must not be taken lightly, especially since lives may have been lost in an effort to rescue him from imprisonment. The more we learn the more perplexing, complex and disturbing the story. Clearly, it must be investigated by the proper authorities.  

Regardless of the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance, the circumstances surrounding his release will have lasting and serious repercussions on America’s national security. Because of the manner in which the release of Bergdahl was achieved, the safety of other Americans has been compromised. 

Equally concerning, the recent action by the Administration has violated a cardinal rule of American diplomacy. The United States does not negotiate with terrorists nor do we bargain for hostages. By doing so, we have now provided the incentive for terrorists to capture more of our soldiers. 

Moreover, the president did not notify Congress of his intention to engage in this exchange. This directly violates current law requiring 30 day advance notification and threat assessment of such transfers from Guantanamo. Because the president acted alone, rather than consulting Congress, he has put our nation and world in greater danger. 

By ignoring Congress, the president has ignited a domestic debate that will confuse our friends, embolden our enemies and divide our country. That could have been avoided had the president followed the law and consulted with Congress before he engaged in this ill-advised prisoner exchange.