THE PRISONER EXCHANGE: He Did What?!

Longtime readers know that, of all the adventures I have had in my life, I rank my three years of military service at near the top, especially my time as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne. That time changed my life. I was discharged back into the real world, still young, but way more mature and responsible than before the Army. My brief time in the service does not make me a military expert, but I do have my opinions. Case in point: The prisoner exchange this week that resulted in Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release from captivity as the only American prisoner of war in Afghanistan.

I remember what I thought when I heard the national news about Bergdahl’s capture back in 2009. How could that happen? What could the situation have been that would have given the enemy an opportunity to capture an American soldier? Well, subsequent news reports provided that answer– Bergdahl was a deserter! He simply left his post and walked off of his base. But regardless, our military has a tradition that we do not leave soldiers on the battlefield. So, during the five years that Bergdahl was in captivity, his fellow soldiers continued to look for him with the goal of freeing him from captivity. And six of them died in that effort.

Recently, with the war winding down in Afghanistan, the Obama administration apparently had an opportunity to do a prisoner exchange to bring Bergdahl home. But what the Taliban wanted was outrageous– the release of five of the most dangerous terrorists in the world from the prison at Guantanimo Bay in Cuba. No matter. The Obama administration agreed– even though the President has admitted in public statements that at least some of these terrorists are likely to be a threat to Americans in the future. But if that turns out to be the case, Obama said, they will be tracked down and dealt with. Yeah, right. Recall that Obama also said that the terrorists who killed four Americans in Benghazi would be tracked down and dealt with.

Many in Congress on both sides of the aisle are publicly wondering what the hell Obama was thinking. Yes, we should always try to bring all of our soldiers back from the battlefield. But aren’t there some limits? In this case, how many more American lives should be at risk to bring one disgraced soldier home? That does not mean that efforts should not have continued to free Bergdahl. But the deal that Obama made was a bad deal. And once again, the Obama administration seems to have been totally clueless as to how the American people would view the Bergdahl exchange.

Of all people, Security Advisor Susan Rice was sent out to the Sunday talk shows to proclaim that Bergdahl is a hero who had served with “honor and distinction” and that expedited action was required to make this exchange because Bergdahl’s health was failing. Both of those assertions now appear to be false. Recall that Susan Rice was the same spokesperson they sent to the Sunday shows to tell us with a straight face that the attack in Benghazi was a response to a anti-Muslem video! In addition, Obama hosted a celebratory event at the White House with Bergdahl’s parents, apparently thinking that Bergdahl’s return would be seen as a great victory for his administration.

Now, he seems to be surprised that the American people are saying, “You did what?!” In fact, it appears that this may be another embarrassing “you can keep your insurance, you can keep your doctor” pinocchio moment for Obama. While it is good that Bergdahl has been freed from captivity, the reality is that he is likely to be court martialed and will spend years in prison. Desertion is one of the most serious crimes a soldier can commit. The Army will not, cannot ignore what Bergdahl did.

Prisoner Exchange

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Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D

Dennis Reeves Cooper founded Key West The Newspaper in 1994 and was editor and publisher until he retired in 2012.