Naturally, Lt. Col. Oliver North has plenty to say about the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
North, the former Reagan aide-turned-conservative commentator best-known for his central role in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, was on a mission Tuesday to hand down his indictment of the prisoner swap that secured Bergdahl’s rescue.
Speaking to former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) on his Newsmax program, North demanded to know if a ransom was paid to terrorists in order to execute the swap.
“Was there a ransom paid?” North said. “Did the government of the United States, either directly or indirectly, finance a terrorist organization?”
North went even further in an interview with Newsmax host Steve Malzberg.
He strongly disputed the characterization of Bergdahl as a “prisoner of war,” asserting that he was in fact a “hostage” of the Haqqani terrorist network, which is allied with the Taliban.
Moreover, North estimated that the ransom paid for Bergdahl must have been in the range of $5-$6 million, given that he had heard it was around $1 million at some point in the past. North didn’t provide any evidence that a ransom was paid in conjunction with Bergdahl’s release.
“Someone paid a ransom,” North said. “Whether the Qataries paid it, or some big oil sheik, or somebody used our petrodollars, but there was a ransom paid in cash for each one of them, my guess somewhere in the round numbers of $5 or 6 million to get Bergdahl freed. I know that the offer that was on the table before was close to a million.”
North had more to say on Tuesday night, joining his pal Sean Hannity on Fox News to suggest that Obama might believe “unilateral surrender is the way to end the war.” He once again demanded to know whether a ransom was paid to the Haqqanis.
“And if a ransom was paid, either at our behest or with American tax dollars, it means this government is causing to be funded a criminal enterprise that kills Americans, the Haqqanis,” North said.
He also expressed concern that “five Taliban kingpins” were released from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl and blasted the Obama administration for skirting the law that required him to notify Congress within 30 days of such a release.
North then tried to offer an historical perspective, reminding Hannity that he knows “a lot about hostage negotiations.” To that end, he said it’s wrong to suggest the United States never negotiates with the enemy.
“That’s the way it works,” North said. “The reality is, they never talk about it. Ronald Reagan didn’t and this guy shouldn’t have done it. It’s a disaster the way this has all come out.”
In fact, North’s own history makes these comments pretty rich. It was North who, along with other Reagan administration officials, helped engineer the illegal sale of arms to Iran in an effort to secure the release of American hostages and then illegally used the proceeds to finance rebels in Nicaragua. North and others were indicted on multiple charges in 1988, but his conviction was ultimately appealed and overturned.