Susan Rice: 'Honorable Thing' for Bergdahl to Volunteer to Serve Country

Friday, 06 Jun 2014 12:43 PM

By Wanda Carruthers

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National Security Adviser Susan Rice expanded upon her comments from Sunday where she told ABC's "This Week" that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had "served the United States with honor and distinction" in Afghanistan.

Rice told CNN Friday she meant it was "a very honorable thing" for  Bergdahl to volunteer to serve his country.

"I realize there's been a lot of discussion and controversy around this. But, what I was referring to is the fact that this was a young man who volunteered to serve his country in uniform at a time of war," Rice told CNN's "Newsroom."

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Following the May 31 announcement that Bergdahl, held captive by the Taliban for five years, would be released in a prisoner exchange, reports surfaced that indicated he had deserted his post before he was captured.

Rice said that Bergdahl was "a young man whose circumstances we are still going to learn about," but stressed that he was "as all Americans, innocent until proven guilty."

"I think what we need to care most about is his health and well-being and recovery," she told CNN. "There'll be an opportunity, and the military has committed to review the circumstances of his capture. If there is a consequence that results from that, that will be delivered.

"In the meantime, let's remember this is a young man who volunteered to serve his country. He was taken as a prisoner of war. He suffered in captivity. He's now trying to begin the process of recovery. Let's let that happen," she said.

On Sunday talk shows following the 2012 bombing of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Rice blamed the attack on a spontaneous response to an anti-Muslim YouTube video. She maintained that she was "up front with the American people" during those interviews, and was relaying the best-known information at the time.

"I provided the best information that the U.S. government had at the time," Rice said on CNN. "Parts of it turned out to be wrong. I regret that the information I was provided was wrong, and that I delivered [it] to the American people."

"That doesn't make me a liar," Rice said. "That makes me a public servant trying to say what we knew at the time. And, when I gave that information, I caveated it and noted that it was what we knew then and there, but it could well change."

During Friday's D-Day activities, President Barack Obama briefly encountered Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rice said the president was "absolutely not" letting Putin off the hook for his takeover of Crimea and aggression into Ukraine.

"The international community, led by the United States, has been absolutely clear — that Russia's behavior has been contrary to international law, as the president said repeatedly," Rice told CNN. "We have rallied the countries of the world to impose costly sanctions on Russia for its actions."

During the president's trip, Rice said he had worked with G-7 leaders to form a "mutual understanding of what our shared posture will be and has been" towards Russia.

Concerning unrest in Syria, Rice said Friday the administration was "concerned and heartbroken by the suffering" in that country. Syria is embroiled in a civil war, with more than 140,000 people reportedly killed and 1 million citizens seeking refuge in neighboring countries.

Rice emphasized the United States was the "single largest contributor of humanitarian assistance, providing over $1.7 billion" to Syria. She said America was committed to remaining "very much engaged, both in trying to support the Syrian people and trying to support the Syrian opposition."

On the larger issue of the president's foreign policy, Rice said Obama was "deeply, deeply committed to America playing its unique role of leadership in the world, a role that no other country can match."

"There is no other country on the planet with our military might, our economy, our diversity, our resources, our growing energy independence and our alliances," she said.

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