Former POW McCain: Bergdahl Prisoner Swap A ‘Mistake’

AP

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, said Tuesday that the prisoner swap executed by the Obama administration to bring Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl home from captivity in Afghanistan was a “mistake.”

“This decision to bring Sgt. Bergdahl home — and we applaud that he is home — is ill-founded. It is a mistake,” McCain said during a Senate Republicans press conference on Veterans Affairs reform. “And it is putting the lives of American servicemen and women at risk and that, to me, is unacceptable to the American people.”

McCain objected to trading five Taliban detainees from the Guantanamo Bay facility for Bergdahl, calling them the “hardest and toughest of all” and “wanted war criminals.”

“These people have dedicated their lives to destroying us,” he later added.

That’s a shift from where McCain stood in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that aired in February, soon after the U.S. military obtained a proof-of-life video of Bergdahl. McCain told Cooper that originally, Bergdahl’s captors had demanded the transfer of five detainees just as a “confidence-building measure.” Once a prisoner swap was reportedly in the cards, however, the senator said he’d be “inclined to support such a thing.”

“I would support — obviously I’d have to know the details — but I would support ways of bringing him home,” he said at the time. “And if exchange was one of them, I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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