My View: Bergdahl Affair – No good deed goes unpunished
President Obama has to be coming to the conclusion that no good deed goes unpunished. He is standing by his policy of never leaving a uniformed troop of ours behind on the battle field. Howls of protests erupted, some silly,some unfactual, some substantive. Senators (including Sen. John McCain) in February who had criticized the President for not extricating Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with such an exchange, reversed themselves. Most passed themselves off as jurors and hangmen before a court martial judged whether he was a deserter. Others virtually changed the terms of eligibility for retrieval, implying it only applies to those we do not suspect as being deserters.
When the POW/MIA movement began, there were suspicions raised that maybe there were some left in Vietnam who did not want to return. Regardless, the black and white flag became symbols of leaving no one behind, dead or alive. That policy institutionalized also meant that even a lowly PFC POW had high value as a bargaining chip to be kept alive so long as a bargain was possible.
A legal definition: a deserter is one who goes AWOL for more than 30 days with the intent of not returning. Sgt. Bergdahl was quickly grabbed by the Taliban. A court process, not politicians, is appropriate to judge intent or ability to return.
Assume for argument’s sake, Bergdahl was a mixed-up kid who did desert his unit and he was not sick at all. Was his deteriorating health just a pretext for Obama to claim he had to ignore the 30-day notice to Congress? Some by just looking at videos have provided their own mental health diagnoses (“looks drugged to me”) or his physical shape (“he’s walking, isn’t he”) as silly proof he was really not sick.
The deal had been in the works for nearly two years and Congress knew about it. Most had opposed it, but with end of war looming, the window for action was closing. Clearly, Bergdahl’s life was in jeopardy now. If the deal had collapsed, his value to the captors became a negative as U.S. ops continued the hunt, and he would be killed. The captors had recently threatened it.
Obama was also clobbered with charges the deal was bad , that Bergdahl was not worth five dangerous Taliban leaders, even though there were no plans put them on trial. That position is subject to speculation. Are the aging Taliban too old to fight effectively? Could the Qataris really keep the released detainees from the battlefield for a year? Was this a token olive branch to give the newly elected Afghan government a chance to bury the hatchet with the Taliban, a move which the US had urged outgoing Pres. Hamid Karzai to make for years and he had refused?
We have a policy of never negotiating with terrorists, claimed critic Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), inaccurately . We have done it since Pres. Jimmy Carter’s days. Besides, the Afghan Taliban, with whom we negotiated via Qatar, is not formally on a terrorist list, though some offshoots are.
This affair highlights an unsettled issue. Usually at a war’s end there is a prisoner exchange. What about the detainees in Guantanamo then?
For more commentary, credit to sources tapped, visit http://www.mufticforumblog.blogspot.com
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