POTUS, POW, & GOP
There has lately been some contention about Bowe Bergdahl, an American POW recently released in an exchange for Taliban detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay detention camp. By “contention” I mean a hurricane-like shitstorm, of course. I am still trying to sort out fact from fiction and so far I am having trouble figuring out if I should scratch my watch or wind my ass.
Back in June of 2012, an amazingly in-depth article by Michael Hastings about Bergdahl appeared in Rolling Stone. Hasting’s article covered most of problems in securing Bergdahl’s release, which included the facts that 1) Bergdahl was in a craptastic situation, 2) he was unhappy about all the crap, 3) he had walked off base before but had always returned, 4) his potential release was causing a pissing contest between the Obama Administration and the Republican members of Congress who accused Bergdahl of being a deserter and sure as fokk didn’t want a POW rescued in an election year.
On May 31, 2014 the Obama Administration exchanged the Guantanamo Bay detainees for Bergdahl without properly informing Congress 30 days in advance; which was against the law but the POTUS swears Bergdahl’s life was a stake and it had to roll that way. The GOP is howling for blood over it, and to make it look a little less like they are unhappy a POW has been returned home, they are attacking Bergdahl’s “worth”. The right wing blogosphere and media has exploded with accusations that Bergdahl was trying to join the Taliban. Now “security concerns” (AKA the worry that the chicken-hawks that like to wave guns but never had the guts to join the military themselves would show up and terrorize the town) has forced his hometown to cancel his welcoming celebration.
There is actually very little evidence against Bergdahl being a “bad” POW, of course. In fact, most of the accusations against Bergdahl are mysteriously uncorroborated by official military records. If Bergdahl was trying to “join” the Taliban or was in “sympathy” with them, then he really screwed the pooch, because that his Taliban captors abused the fokk outta him. I would think the military would have made a note or two of the fact Bergdahl was more likely AWOL than POW, no?
Moreover, some the people throwing rocks at Bergdahl live in houses made of glass and bullshit. It has come to light that Josh Korder, a guy who served with Bergdahl in Afghanistan and is someone claiming that Bergdahl was a deserter and 6 soldiers died because of Bergdahl’s actions, got himself an “other than honorable” discharge form the military. I call shenanigans. Meanwhile, Bergdahl was promoted in absentia to staff sergeant in June of 2011 (although “Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Associated Press this week that Bergdahl's promotion to staff sergeant is no longer automatic because the soldier is no longer missing in action and job performance is now taken into account”).
Let’s not forget that, regardless of the back-stage quarrels over Bergdahl, “prior to Bergdahl's release, Republican lawmakers were some of the sergeant's biggest advocates, and repeatedly pressed the administration to do something -- in fact, everything within its power -- to get him returned to the United States.” The flip-flop brigade includes Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). You can go here and here and here to witness the turncoat shenanigans yourownself.
Hypocrisy has never looked so obvious.
It is especially rich coming from McCain, since “the whole reason Senator McCain is even called Senator is due to his harrowing journey as an American POW during the Vietnam War. McCain, who was languishing in a Vietnamese torture camp after his plane went down during a bombing mission in 1967, was eventually released in 1973 per a prisoner exchange deal eked out by then President Nixon. Indeed, Nixon released violent north Vietnamese fighters in exchange for the safe return of then navy pilot John McCain.” It turns out allegations have repeatedly come back up that McCain collaborated with the Viet Cong. “A 1992 video featuring a Republican senator, Republican congressman and top Capitol Hill staffers who worked on Vietnam prisoner of war and missing in action issues say John McCain collaborated with North Vietnamese while a POW, and then covered up that involvement to the detriment of POW/MIA families seeking access to classified Pentagon records about their own family members.”
Golly, it must suck to be a POW and then come back to face improbable but improvable allegations, huh?
It doesn’t help matters that it will be quite a while before Bergdahl’s side of the story can be truly known because he has been seriously traumatized. “According to [an] official, who spoke on condition of not being identified, Bergdahl tried to escape at one point but got caught, and his captors then confined him in small enclosure described as a cage or box. At an American military hospital in Germany where he was taken after his handover near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, doctors said Friday he remained in stable condition and continued to improve, but wasn't ready to travel back to the United States.” His doctors are adamant that "There is no predetermined time line for Sgt. Bergdahl's recovery process … [and] The duration will continue to be based on the pace of his healing and reintegration process."
I really don’t know anything more than any other Joe Schmoe who reads the news, but what I can and will point out is that the Department of Defense military code of conduct and ethics assures military personnel that in the event they become a POW, “Just as you have a responsibility to your country under the Code of Conduct, the United States government has an equal responsibility -- to keep faith with you and stand by you as you fight for your country. If you are unfortunate enough to become a prisoner of war, you may rest assured that your government will care for your dependents and will never forget you. Furthermore, the government will use every practical means to contact, support and gain release for you and for all other prisoners of war.”
Therefore, it doesn’t matter what Bergdahl did or why; we promised him we’d bring him home. Thus, as Commander and Chief of the US Military the POTUS had a responsibility to uphold that promise.
The GOP hates it when Obama does something Presidential, even if that something is securing the release of a POW.