A plurality of Americans oppose the Obama administration’s prisoner swap that brought Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl back to the United States — and the opposition is even more amplified among veteran households.
Two new polls — the first to measure Americans’ reaction to the prisoner swap — find the majority of respondents disapproved of the exchange, in which the U.S. released five Taliban-affiliated prisoners who were held at Guantanamo Bay.
One poll, from the Pew Research Center, found 43% of respondents said the swap was the “wrong thing to do.” Among veteran households, that number jumped to 55%.
And in the other, from CBS News, 45% of respondents said they disapproved of the deal, compared with 37% who said they approved. A majority of Americans (56%) say the deal cost the U.S. too much, including 65% of veterans.
President Barack Obama and his administration have vehemently defended the decision to bring Bergdahl back to the U.S. after five years in captivity.
“It’s also important for us to recognise that the transition process of ending a war is going to involve, on occasion, releasing folks who we may not trust but we can’t convict,” Obama said in an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams last week in Normandy, France. “This is something that I would do again, and I will continue to do wherever I have an opportunity, if I have a member of our military who’s in captivity. We’re going try to get them out.”
But the administration has come under fire from lawmakers who have said the president’s decision to swap five prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba for Bergdahl did not follow the law. Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers have also questioned whether he willingly deserted his base in Afghanistan.
One thing on which a clear majority of Americans agree: The administration should have notified Congress in advance of its decision to make the swap. In the CBS poll, 72% said the Obama administration should have notified Congress — including 55% of Democrats. And in the Pew poll, 64% said the president should be “required” to inform Congress of his decision.
Here’s a chart from Pew that shows the difference between responses of veteran and non-veteran households:
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