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Bowe Bergdahl deserter or hero

By Jim Killebrew

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[June 03, 2014]  We have been listening to and watching the story unfold about the last "prisoner of war" in Afghanistan being released. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was held by the Taliban for almost five years, seemingly as a prisoner and only being seen occasionally on videos provided by his captors. The price of his freedom was arranged by the President and his Administration which consisted of the release of five high-ranking Taliban leaders who had been incarcerated at the United States security prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In the past the US government thought these particular men were much too dangerous to release fearing they would return to combat positions in the Taliban and again make war on America through their planned terror attacks.

The official talking points relayed to the American public beginning with the President's press conference at the White House, along with Sgt. Bergdahl's parents, were that Sgt. Bergdahl was a prisoner of war and the Administration did all it could to secure his release from his captors since it is their policy to "leave no man behind." The inference from the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hegel, on the Sunday Morning talk shows was that Sgt. Bergdahl is being hailed as a "hero" since he endured the intensity of capture for such a long time. He insisted we focus on just the return of the sergeant and "sort out all the other loose ends" after he is back home with his family.

Those details the Secretary of Defense referred to is the rising voices of the choir of those who thought the President had broken the 200-year tradition and policy not to "negotiate" with terrorists. Additionally, some members of Congress cried foul because neither the President nor his Defense Secretary bothered to follow the law that required at least a 30-day notice to Congress when a prisoner was released from Guantanamo Bay.

Now, over the last 48 hours there has been a rising chorus of skeptics regarding the veracity of the entire release process and the reason why Sgt. Bergdahl had been captured in the first place. Voices have been raised by some of those claiming to have been there when the sergeant left his post and "walked away" even without his weapon. Apparently taking only some water, a compass and a knife, dressed in civilian clothes the sergeant wanted to do a "walk about" and simply left his post presumably in search of the Taliban. Others have stated since his release that the ensuing hunt for the sergeant cost the lives of at least five other military personnel, and perhaps provided valuable information to the Taliban forces in the area to enable them to enhance their own advantage to make war against the Americans there. The most common term that has been applied to the sergeant's actions on that day he left his post is the word, "deserter."

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Without drawing any kind of conclusions regarding this incident, we should let the issue proceed on and unfold with more evidence. It will be interesting to see how this event turns out. As usual, it is difficult to trust the Administration with this incident. Their credibility has been lost for a long time. If it turns out this guy really is a deserter and left his post intentionally to seek out the enemy to join them, and the President has turned loose five high-ranking Taliban for him, breaking the law at the same time, will the Congress do something about that?

If the charges posed by the opposition are proven to be true and the President has broken the law in this transaction he needs to be held accountable. Further, by breaking the practice not to negotiate with terrorists or kidnappers poses a real threat to Americans around the world. If the price of an American kidnapped prisoner is the release of confirmed terrorist prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, perhaps the President has discovered a way to make good his promise at the beginning of his Administration to close that prison. All the Taliban has to do is kidnap Americans knowing that this Administration will negotiate their trade by releasing the Taliban's comrades in arms from Guantanamo Bay.

This President has made his Administration the hallmark of setting precedents; usually the negative kind that will set off a chain reaction of unintended consequences.


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