Let’s break it down: Notorious international arms dealer traded for someone who bounces balls for a living, Marine left behind

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The following includes content which is editorial in nature and expresses the opinion of the writer. 

WASHINGTON, DC- Bringing American soldiers home from overseas is apparently not quite as important as bringing home someone who bounces balls for a living…and of course checks off some important boxes on the diversity checklist. Such is the case where once again Joe Biden has thumbed his nose at our military in the name of equity.

On Thursday, the Biden administration was able to secure the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner from a Russian prison. All the U.S. had to give up was a notorious international arms dealer who is reportedly responsible for the deaths of scores of people, including a number of Americans, the New York Post reports.

Griner was arrested about 10 months ago at a Moscow airport while in possession of cannabis oil and was sentenced to years in a Russian prison. She was exchanged as part of a deal that sent the arms dealer, Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” back home to Russia.

Biden announced the exchange at a White House press conference where he was joined by Griner’s other half, Cherelle. Biden and Cherelle Griner spoke to her over the phone, according to senior White House officials.

You may recall that Griner famously refused to stand for the national anthem prior to Phoenix Mercury games. It will be interesting to see if she’s had any second thoughts about her seeming hatred for the country who just gave up a notorious killer to secure her release.

“She’s on her way home, after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances,” Biden said.

No, he wasn’t talking about a January 6 trespasser being held in a Washington, DC gulag. He was talking about Griner being held in a Russian jail.

“Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones and she should have been there all along. This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release,” Biden said.

While holding out for Griner’s release, the administration ignored another U.S. citizen, former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been sitting in a Russian penal colony for years. Talks to secure his freedom are allegedly continuing, according to the Russian Interfax news agency as reported in Reuters.

“Whelan is currently in the penal colony,” Vladimir Zherebenkov was quoted as saying. “Discussions about his exchange are continuing at the level of the intelligence services, so everything is quite closed—but they are going on.”

One might think that a high-profile target such as Bout might have included more than just a basketball player in exchange, but the Biden administration apparently thinks a diversity release would play better with the woke base of the Democrat party.

According to Biden, he said his administration “will never give up” trying to secure Whelan’s release. Just like the hundreds of Americans still stranded in Afghanistan for over a year since the United States’ ill-fated exit from that country.

Whelan was convicted in 2020 of spying, after a trial held entirely behind closed doors. U.S. officials referred to the trial as “unfair and opaque.” Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in a maximum security penal colony. He has denied all the charges.

In the case of Griner and Bout, the tradeoff was signed off on by Biden. The trade took place in the United Arab Emirates and was brokered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UAE’s president Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.

A joint statement issued by Saudi-Emirati officials said, “The success of the mediation efforts was a reflection of the mutual and solid friendship between their two countries and the United States of America and the Russian Federation.”

In his remarks, Biden conveniently left out the role of the Saudis, however, did mention the UAE for gratitude “for helping us Facilitate Brittney’s return, because that’s where she landed.”

Meanwhile, White House mouthpiece Karine Jean-Pierre attempted to downplay the role of the autocratic Arab allies during Thursday’s press briefing and appeared to deliberately avoid mentioning the role of bin Salman, who allegedly ordered the 2018 attack that killed Washington Post columnists Jamal Khashoggi.

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“The only country that actually negotiated this deal was the United States and Russia,” Jean-Pierre said.

We might remind the astute press secretary that “country” is singular. Her command for the English language is on display daily for all to watch.

Bout was convicted in 2011 of conspiring to kill Americans, as well as a number of other charges involving the supply of weapons to the FARC narco-terrorist group based in Columbia. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Some journalists were confused as to why the administration would trade an international arms dealer and drug lord for a person who bounces basketballs for a living in a league nobody pays attention to. The official countered that “nothing can change the fact that Bout spent over 12 years behind bars.”

Yes, and now he is free to go about plying his trade of dealing arms on an international basis.

“There’s nothing to remove the stigma of a guilty conviction in the US, where I would emphasize, he received due process of law, access to counsel, and a whole host of other rights and protections that Brittney was appallingly denied in the sham proceedings she faced in Russia,” the official said.

That official clearly has not seen how those arrested in connection with January 6 are treated…not receiving “due process of law, access to counsel, and a whole host of other rights and protections…”

Aside from Whelan, another American, Marc Fogel, is currently being held in a Russian prison for similar charges to those faced by Griner—having a small amount of marijuana in his luggage.

Biden attempted to explain that the swap for Griner “was not a choice of which American to bring home.”

Some slammed Biden for securing the release of Griner while leaving Whelan and Fogel to twist in the wind. For example, former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason slammed the decision to free Griner while forgetting about Whelan.

“I’m telling you, more people feel that way than don’t,” he said, speaking of a tweet by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons, who also criticized the release.

“I can tell you that right now. I know that we’re all happy that Brittney’s home like we said earlier on. But when you think about the magnitude of what we traded to get back a WNBA professional athlete and left a Marine sitting there whose family has been trying for years to get him out there with nothing, nothing from the U.S. government,” the New York Post reported.

“I kinda feel like the Russians were basically using her to get this guy (Bout) out. It’s not an even swap—it’s not. We all know what happened to Brittney should have never happened. But man, we look so pathetic. And listening to our President talk about this is such a pathetic feeling. I want to be happy, but I can’t be.”

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump slammed Biden, calling the deal “one-sided” and “a stupid and unpatriotic embarrassment for the United States,” Forbes reported.

Kevin McCarthy (D-CA), poised to be the new Speaker of the House, also slammed the deal, calling it a “gift to Vladimir Putin” and saying it is “unconscionable” Whelan wasn’t also involved.

Republican Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), while welcoming Griner’s released also criticized the deal, with Scott calling it “weak & disgusting” for the U.S. to release Bout.

Graham meanwhile said, “It is a bitter pill to swallow that Mr. Whelan remains in custody while we release the ‘merchant of Death’ Viktor Bout back to Russia.”

Even the squishy Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) who is frequently on the opposite side of his Republican colleagues, slammed the deal, saying Biden showed “weakness” by failing to also secure Whelan’s release.


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