The father of the U.S. soldier released in a prisoner swap with the Taliban in Afghanistan on Saturday ended a White House news conference praising Allah with the most frequently used phrase in the Quran and questions continue to build over the wisdom – and legality – of the trade.
Appearing with President Obama in a brief Rose Garden event, Robert Bergdahl, the father of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, recited “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahm,” according to the Daily Caller. In English, that means, “In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Compassionate.”
When he finished reciting, the president hugged him.
Bergdahl’s words echoed the Taliban’s official reaction to the prisoner swap. In a statement, the group that has been at war with the United States since 2001 announced that five of its members who had been held at the American prison at Guantanamo Bay prison had been released, “due to the benevolence of Allah Almighty and the sacrifices of the heroic and courageous Mujahadin of the Islamic Emirate.”
Bergdahl’s use of a Muslim prayer and the Taliban’s portrayal of it as a clear victory for their movement – Taliban leader Mullah Omar on Sunday called the release from Gitmo a “big win” in the Pakistani news outlet Dawn.com – is sure to increase the controversy around Obama’s prisoner swap, helped by a tweet posted to Berdahl’s Twitter account last week vowing to work for the release of the rest of the prisoners at the prison. (That tweet has been deleted.)
Already, top Republicans have said Obama broke the law by releasing five terrorists from Guantanamo Bay without notifying Congress. The president is required by law to give Congress 30 days’ notice before transferring any prisoner out of Gitmo..
“Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. McKeon, R-Calif., and the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., wrote in a statement,according to Fox News.
The Washington Post on Sunday quoted a “senior administration official” admitting as much, but pretending it didn’t matter.
“Due to a near-term opportunity to save Sergeant Bergdahl’s life, we moved as quickly as possible,” the official said, according to the Post. “The administration determined that given these unique and exigent circumstances, such a transfer should go forward notwithstanding the notice requirement.”
The law, in short, is what the White House says it is, “bismillah.”
Bergdahl’s statement didn’t go unnoticed on Twitter.
Why did Sgt. Bergdahl’s father feel the need to speak in Arabic at a Press Conference in the Rose Garden? http://t.co/wGvCA8hx4S
— Eric Stengel (@EricStengel1) June 1, 2014
— OceanShoresPatriot® (@osPatriot) June 1, 2014
And the questions continue to build.