Judgment First, Then Facts

Copyright © by Len Holman, 6/9/14


  U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has been released from Taliban captivity and returned to U.S. custody after more than five years as a POW.  A cause for celebration?  A time of happiness and relief?  Yes, for his parents.  No, for just about everyone else.  There seems to be two opposing themes for America here:  1) We never leave one of our fighting men or women behind, and 2) we don’t bargain with terrorists.  The rap against Bergdahl is that he seems to have just walked away from his post, no explanations, no notes, no forensics (hey, in real life the easy, solve-a-crime-in-an-hour- because-of-all- the-clues-CSI stuff is not that easy to find in the real world). 

  The deal for his release has been in the works for several years, complete with consultations with members of Congress, who now are outraged and shocked, shocked, that five “hard core” Taliban members were sent to Qatar under some very expansive definition of house arrest (Qatar is just a camel’s spit from all the really cool terror HQs in the region).  Senator McCain, who admitted to Anderson Cooper that he would probably go for a prisoner swap, now is apoplectic that such a swap has taken place.  And he’s not the only one: run off the names of the headliners of the Party of Nope and you’ll hear the same thing—that Bergdahl is a deserter, a traitor and that (I guess by a logical extension of this kind of thinking) he shouldn’t have been traded for anyone in Gitmo.  We have done business with terrorists (remember Iran-Contra?  And THAT involved weapons). 

  The rush to condemnation of Bergdahl and Obama is quick and fierce enough to register a 4 on the scale we use to measure tornados.  Oliver North wrote “I know a ransom of $5-6 million was paid to free Bergdahl.”  How Ollie knows this goes unexplained, but the paying of ransom is a time-honored exercise and, by itself, is not automatically a cause for abandoning a soldier. There is also the charge, as yet unproven, and for which there is presently no firm foundation, that at least one, and maybe several, soldiers lost their lives looking for him. Remember, this was in 2009, in a part of Afghanistan where sneaky terror-types were constantly firing on U.S. soldiers and their outposts, and reports of lives lost may have been in connection to regular patrols unconnected to Bergdahl.  This story carries an emotional punch, if true, since a mom or dad can ask, “Is this wandering traitor worth the life of my son?” 

  There is the outcry from Congress that Obama broke the law by not informing them—but of course he did, as this deal has been making the rounds for a while.  What seems to piss off our legislators is that the President did what he said he wanted to do.  He claims Bergdahl was in ill health, and now there is the revelation that the soldier’s life was threatened if word of the impending exchange were to leak out.  Not that Obama doesn’t trust congress or staffers or anyone to “accidentally” spill the hummus, but still, keeping all the details more or less secret couldn’t hurt.  The President issued a signing statement, which isn’t law, but gives him an out of sorts, citing “exigent circumstances” if things went south, and south they went as the claim was made that Bergdahl’s health was not good, and that there was an opening from the Taliban to get the deal done.  The 17-minute video of Bergdahl being taken by Special Forces people to a waiting Blackhawk is being cited as a propaganda coup for the Taliban.  It purports to show them on somewhat equal footing with the U.S., being treated with respect, etc.  This video will be shown all over the Arab world and beyond, and will be a great recruiting tool—not, apparently, that they need it. 

  So just watch a little news or read some, and you will see that, while the man is still in a hospital in Germany, opinions are setting just as fast as strawberry Jell-o in the freezer.  What is happening is what always seems to happen in this democracy:  condemnation or opprobrium, with no facts actually needed.  Meanwhile, the planned celebration for Bergdahl’s return to his hometown in rural Hailey, Idaho has been canceled, with the FBI reporting that his family has received death threats, while the jaundiced eyes of the chattering classes squint disapprovingly at the family and anyone else who speaks with even a hint of fondness or approval of Bergdahl.  I’m sure his mom and dad are so-o-o proud of America.  And that rule about not dealing with terrorists?  Yeah, just a rule.  Not a Divine Mandate or a law of physics, even Nixon going to China and having drinks with Mao and the lads. Just a rule which is man-made, and amenable to being bent in a bent world.  So let’s wait for some hard info and try to tune out the hired-gun commentators who have agendas.  Let’s wait for Bergdahl to speak, THEN we can make some kind of rational decision on what comes next.


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