Monday, June 9, 2014

Bergdahl: Hero or Traitor

Just a quick note about my last post.  I forgot to mention in my list of jobs that I delivered newspapers.  Since I engaged in this activity just a few years ago, and considering that I mentioned delivering papers in many of my posts, I was surprised to realize I had forgotten. 

Anyway, on to the present.  A few weeks ago, I posted a similarly titled blog concerning Cliven Bundy.  In the end I concluded that "Ultimately, Cliven Bundy is a confused person".  I added my concerns that in his defense, some family or friends may be harmed or killed, or that a member of the BLM, a federal officer doing his duty, may be harmed or killed.  Fortunately, when it became clear that Bundy was a racist, support for his cause vanished.  As of today, I believe he is still in violation of the law, but my expectations are that justice will be served, and the news coverage of this event will be buried in the papers and be merely a footnote on the national media scene.  You would think that the media would vet their "heroes" a bit more thoroughly.

Which brings us to news of the prisoner exchange involving Sgt Bowe Bergdahl. 

While many of the players and their reactions are predictable, there is some bipartisan support and condemnation of this trade.  On the one hand, there are very serious questions about how Bergdahl came to be a prisoner of war.  There are also serious questions about the value of his release as compared to the value of the five terrorists that were traded for him.  And, there are some hurt feelings on both sides of the aisle that Congress was not adequately briefed on the exchange.

On the other hand, there is the long established tradition of prisoner exchanges, especially as hostilities are winding down.  And, the military credo of never leaving a soldier in enemy hands, even to the point of further bloodshed. 

As is usually the case, there is no clear cut wrong or right in this situation.  Anyone you see on TV or hear on the radio that tries to convince you of the "obvious" evaluation, is biased either for or against the President.  Here is my take.

First, of course the President should have pursued talks with the Taliban to gain Bergdahl's release.  He is an American soldier, who volunteered to place himself in harm's way by joining the military to serve our country and protect our freedoms.  Regardless of how his opinion of this service may have changed, there is no doubt that we should make every effort to return him to American soil.  I can't imagine any parent who would not expect the same of our government.

Speaking of parents, one of the rather odious reactions to this exchange was the attempt at character assassination that took place on FOX TV.  (I even saw part of an attack against Bergdahl on FOX Business News).  Not being a soldier, I guess I can overlook his platoon mates who skewered him but then again, I wonder if there weren't times when they may have questioned their own commitment or been just plain scared.  Worse than this though, was the character attacks against Bergdahl's father.  He has been cast as an Islamic sympathizer because he learned the language of his son's captors and grew a beard.  These type of attacks are shameful!  I dare anyone who opines in such a way to look me in the eye and tell me they would stop at nothing to gain the release of their son or daughter after five years of captivity.   If learning a foreign language will someway give me a path to communicate with those holding my son, count me in.  If growing a beard so I could more easily get a spot on Duck Dynasty would do it, I am also in.  It is a shame that some Americans hate our president so much that they would question the love of a father to free his son from prison in a foreign land.  As the details of Bergdahl's captivity become available and it is revealed that he was the victim of both mental and physical torture, I hope there are some apologies offered by those on the far right whose attacks were not only un-American but un-Christian as well.

But, I digress.

Despite my adamant belief that Obama did the right thing, he did not handle it properly.  I have to conclude that he knew about the questions surrounding Bergdahl's disappearance, so it seems that either he believed that the American public would place recovery above all else, or he underestimated just how far the right would go to discredit his Presidency.  Either way, he should have been more transparent with the plan, and he should have held a more low-keyed announcement than the Rose Garden show that occurred last week.

This is just another in a series of poor decisions that Obama has made in terms of appearance.  Ultimately, while I hope he will be remembered for his accomplishments, the killing of Osama, the economic recovery, the historic healthcare law, the winding down of two wars overseas, the repeal of Don't Ask - Don't Tell, I fear he will also be remembered for his lack of gauging the effectiveness of those opposing his decisions to always seem a step ahead of him, forcing him into damage control, even when his motives and decisions are right.  If you are always battling uphill, it is impossible to get everything done. 

As for Sgt Bergdahl, he appears to be another confused person.  Perhaps he joined the military truly believing in the moral correctness of our war in Afghanistan, only to encounter evidence that contradicted his original belief.  Perhaps he just got scared.  Whatever he was thinking that night he wandered from camp, he was clearly not thinking straight.  I imagine he came to regret that decision over and over in the past five years, perhaps even came to the more rational conclusion that America is not always right, war is not always right, terrorists are not always wrong.  The world is not black and white but rife with shades of gray.  But that in the end, leaving his platoon was the wrong choice and that American ideals, when cached in love, life and liberty are as good as it gets in this complex world we inhabit.

Let's hope that his convalescence includes emotional and spiritual healing in addition to any physical ailments he may have attained, and that he emerges from this ordeal a more whole human being.  Perhaps in that scenario, those who chose to demonize him will also come to realize there own deficits and become better Americans, and better humans.


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