Opinion about Bowe Bergdahl

There’s a pretty easy joke to make about Bowe Bergdahl wishing he was back in the custody of the Taliban once he faces the American political media circus. This isn’t a joking matter…and I’m not laughing about any facet of this story. I’m not as much indignant about a potential deserter being released after five years, him being traded for five Taliban prisoners, or President Obama over-stepping his so-called legal authority as I’m incensed once again by reactionary Republicans looking to crucify, impatient Democrats looking to revolt, and the freaking news media for once again sensationalizing yet another story to epic proportions… especially the more-patriotic-than-thou Fox News machine, who cannot pass an opportunity to make Barack Obama look bad…last week, he was not doing enough for veterans; this week, how dare he free an American prisoner-of-war who had been in Taliban custody for five stinking years!

The release of the five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay has Republicans all in a lather. They’ve been looking for a reason to impeach Barack Obama, and this deal seems to have been served to the opposition party on a silver platter. He violated the law! He should have notified the do-nothing Congress, who would have likely stalled for all 30 days and then denied the transfer, probably long past the deadline where the Taliban would have considered allowing the release of Bergdahl. Nevermind that George W. Bush frequently employed Presidential powers to endorse holding suspects indefinitely, torturing those prisoners, and lying incessantly about a war that killed many Americans…Obama is the law-breaking President. Obama can’t be trusted without Congressional consent; though, he is allowed to authorize drone strikes that often kill innocents…he is allowed to assassinate Osama Bin Laden…he is allowed—and encouraged, even when he hesitates—to consider military force when countries like Russia overstep their bounds in Ukraine. It seems to me that Obama is legally allowed to discriminately kill without consent, but when he works to save a life without informing a Congress that denies him at every turn, that’s when he has broken the law. According to blood-thirsty Republicans, now is the Gotcha! moment. Time to impeach!

It’s a bit grim to paint this picture, but I’d like to ask Republicans to consider a tactic that is often used by American police and government authorities when it comes to the release of prisoners. Sometimes, likely recidivist prisoners are allowed to return to their criminal activities so that the authorities can track the criminals back to the larger organization, so that crime can be thwarted on a larger scale. I’m fairly confident that our government has developed some kind of tracking device that can be strongly detected by satellites, and the five prisoners from Guantanamo would surely be candidates for these high-tech, probably-surgically-implanted tracking devices. In a time when drone strikes have been used to destroy terrorist factions with more frequency, it is entirely possible that the threat of a strike prevents these five from resuming their terrorist activities. The five have likely been informed (i.e., threatened) about this possibility, and it is probable that the Taliban suspect this and would avoid these five under the likelihood of further drone strikes that kill so efficiently. But you know, we should make sure everybody is properly notified about these things before we enact them…no way that going through the proper channels would mess things up for a covert military operation!

Concerning Bergdahl, I cannot believe the quickness of the character assassination that has occurred for this young man. The members of his unit were waiting to pounce as soon as he was released, and the media was most ready to accommodate. He’s being blamed for the deaths of six American soldiers who were searching for him. This is problematic because it allows for Americans to pick-and-choose the rationale for every American soldiers’ death overseas. If we don’t approve of the character of the beneficiary of a military mission, then it opens the door to too much second-guessing and improper justice. The six soldiers who died were carrying out orders and were killed by enemy combatants. I understand the anger of the parents and Bergdahl’s unit members, and they have every right to communicate their anger in the way they have. If Bergdahl had deserted, then he should—and will—face a court-martial for his actions. He should not be abandoned to eternal captivity in a foreign land. It is not within the jurisdiction of the United States military to decide Bergdahl’s unworthiness as an American soldier to remain a captive of the Taliban without a trial, and it does not jive with the mission of our Army to pick-and-choose which soldiers are worthy of rescue.

Bergdahl is being skewered because of correspondence that indicates he has questioned his country’s motives. It might be distressing to Americans to learn that Bergdahl is not the only soldier to become disillusioned with his country, especially after sustained immersion within Afghanistan or Iraq. Many soldiers have uttered or recorded similar ideas because they have reason to doubt the merits of their actions in these foreign countries. I’m not sure if Americans realize this, but being a soldier takes a large mental toll on an individual, especially within the modern American wars of the last decade. Hell, I don’t know if many soldiers realize the impact war has on the individual psyche, whether their own or their fellow American combatant. There has been a rash of soldiers who have felt trapped in the service and wanted to escape somehow. Instead of deserting, many of these soldiers take their own lives (my youngest brother was one of these soldiers). Would it have been nobler for Bergdahl to have taken his life instead of deserting, if that was the case? Since the military and general American reaction has been to mutely ignore the multiple suicides of American soldiers, I suspect the answer to my question would be “yes.”

After five years of captivity, it should take at least a full year for Bergdahl to find some semblance of mental recovery from his ordeal. This will not be afforded to him. There will be a public outcry to hear from him, and I don’t think he will be prepared for the onslaught of media-generated objection against him. In a few ways, I am sympathetic to Bergdahl’s difficulties with serving his country. He said he is ashamed of America. I am ashamed of the Americans who will now confirm Bergdahl’s disillusionment when he returns to a country that was prepared to abandon him. Furthermore, I am most ashamed by the so-called Americans—those who presume more “American-ness” than others: Sean Hannity, Ted Cruz, Allen West, and the like—who will assuredly invoke Bowe Bergdahl’s name in their mission to banish Barack Obama and overtake our American government. I will freely admit my shame for America, since Republicans still qualify as half of the American political system, and Democrats aren’t exactly inspiring faith in the other half.

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Scott C. Guffey
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