New Castle News

Editorials

June 12, 2014

Our Opinion: Freeing of Bergdahl leaves questions unanswered

NEW CASTLE — Any time an American soldier held by the enemy is freed, it ought to be cause for celebration.

But in the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, released by his Taliban captors in Afghanistan after a prisoner swap, the reaction is decidedly muted.

The reasons involve events that led to Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban in the first place. To put it simply, there is evidence he deserted his post. It’s unclear why.

There is also the matter of five Taliban members released from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl. Objections have been raised over the swap, with the implication being that too much was given up by the Obama administration in exchange for a soldier who may have been less than loyal to his country.

In today’s venomous atmosphere in Washington, just about any move the administration makes is going to receive loud condemnation from congressional Republicans. So it can be difficult to distinguish between legitimate concern over policy decisions and pointless political noise.

But the Bergdahl deal prompts broader questions of its own accord. So far, the administration has fallen short of providing good answers.

Some of the criticisms regarding the Bergdahl matter fail to impress. For instance, the fact the administration didn’t inform Congress 30 days ahead of transferring prisoners from Guantanamo — as the law apparently demands — is not a real issue. Any administration dealing with delicate matters needs discretion and flexibility.

Giving Congress a 30-day notice in such a case is akin to taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times.

As for the outrage over the notion America is negotiating with terrorists, spare us. This isn’t the first time such negotiations have taken place and it won’t be the last time. We’re talking about the real world here.

But on the matter of whether freeing Bergdahl was worth what America gave up is far murkier. And President Obama didn’t help matters with the initial handling of information related to the soldier’s release. It was treated as a relatively straightforward freeing of an American, when Bergdahl’s background appears to be far more complicated.

Still, even if Bergdahl deserted, America had an obligation to get him back. What happens to him now, however, is likely to involve something other than a hero’s welcome home.

Regarding the Taliban given up for Bergdahl, critics imply these are dangerous individuals who will now prepare to do harm to America. Perhaps, but it’s reasonable to ask how they are any different from hundreds of other Taliban out in the field. There is absolutely no indication any of the five is a terrorist mastermind capable of striking inside the United States.

In short, the Bergdahl case is troubling. Americans need to know more about it.

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