Tonawanda News

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June 11, 2014

Ortt chimes in on soldier swap

Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt called on two local congressmen to investigate the recent release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive in Afghanistan for nearly five years by members of the Taliban. 

Ortt, who also served in Afghanistan, said he has asked Congressmen Brian Higgins and Chris Collins to launch a probe into the the soldier’s release in exchange for five Taliban prisoners, who were held at Guantanamo Bay without trial for more than a decade. 

Ortt stance follows a widely held conservative viewpoint that President Barack Obama violated the law when he agreed to release the prisoners, stating that the president should have informed Congress 30 days prior to the exchange.  

Both sides of the political aisle have criticized Obama for acting unilaterally on the swap, though the president has countered that it was necessary to bring home the American soldier. 

“I believe Congress has a responsibility and duty to the American public, to our veterans, and the families of those who fought and in some cases died honorably, to investigate this exchange, as well as the impacts it will certainly have on our national security and on the security of our military men and women still serving in harm’s way,” he said, in a statement released this week. 

Since his release last week Bergdahl has told military officials that he was tortured and held in a cage after attempting to escape his captors. Bergdahl is currently being observed at a U.S. military base in Germany.

Ortt, however, called Bergdahl a deserter and questioned his release for what he said were high level Taliban officials. 

“For those who think this doesn’t matter, or this is just politics, let me tell you: it does matter. It matters to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “It matters to the families of the men and women who died in Afghanistan and Iraq. It matters to the future security of Americans who now have a price on their head. This is just the latest misstep by a commander in chief who clearly doesn’t understand the U.S. military or how to properly use it. He traded five senior Taliban leaders, without the knowledge of Congress, who conspired with al-Qaida to kill innocent Americans on 9/11, for a soldier who left his post and by almost every account, deserted his unit.”

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