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Sgt. Bergdahl Ė the Problem is?

Shannon Bohrer

(8/2014) On May 31, 2014 Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been a prisoner of war, was released by the Taliban. The release was brokered by the U.S. Government and the government of Qatar. As a condition of his release, the U.S. Government released Five Taliban prisoners that were being held at Guantanamo Bay. Almost immediately, politicians and the experts told us why this should not have happened. And almost to a person, they said they were also glad that Bergdahl was released.

The experts told us that according to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014, if a prisoner is transferred from Guantanamo Bay, Congress is required to be notified 30 days in advance. So, according to the experts, the President broke the law. Conversely, the President said the prisoner trade was brokered at the last minute and needed to be carried out immediately. As the President said in a signed statement, the "unique and exigent circumstances" that existed justified his position. Which means there was not sufficient time to make the notifications as required by law?

The five Taliban prisoners were known as the "Taliban Five." They included the Taliban army chief of staff, a former Taliban interior minister, a Taliban deputy minister of intelligence and two other senior Taliban leaders. Sounds like an established bureaucratic list of government positions, the most common complaint about the five being that these individuals will return to the battlefield. The five were transported from Cuba to Qatar, where they will be required to stay for one year, and if they donít?

The experts have also told us that Sgt. Bergdahl was not captured in battle, but deserted his post and after leaving and/or deserting his post - he was captured. While the investigation into this matter has just started, there have been numerous former soldiers that believe this to be true. Added to this element is the claim that other soldiers were killed in action while searching for Sgt. Bergdahl.

While much of this information may have been known before the trade, very little was in the public media prior to the trade. As Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said "The questions about this particular soldier's conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity." Our system of justice says that one is innocent until proven guilty. While the Army has started its investigation into this matter, it seems that many Americans have already come to their own conclusions. Even the home coming events that were to be held in Idaho have been cancelled, reportedly because of threats of violence against the Bergdahl family.

Of the many experts that have commented, a few have put forth a slightly different perspective. A former military lawyer was being asked questions about the Taliban five when he basically said they were eventually going to be released. The eventual release would occur when we leave Afghanistan. Since the Taliban five are prisoners of war, when the war ends the prisoners go home! And since the war is winding down, it may happen soon. When the expert was questioned about this, he further explained that segments of the Taliban are in discussions with the government. So if and when, the war is over and we are at peace, all POWs will be released. So according to this logic, we at least got something for the Taliban five, that we may not have gotten in the future. This expert also said that the U.S. Government cannot charge the Taliban five with any crimes because they do not have any evidence against them, NO EVIDENCE? Apparently the five were not taken and/or captured in battle, but they were taken because of their positions in the Taliban.

When another expert, a retired CIA personage, was questioned about this, his opinion was similar. The U.S. Government will be releasing all of the POWís at Guantanamo, at least the ones that will not or cannot be charged with a crime. This expert added that the Taliban five have never been connected with the waging of war against the U.S. He also gave his opinion that they are old and will not return to the battlefield. These two experts seemed to have different perspectives than most of the other experts, at least regarding the Taliban Five.

If the investigation shows that Sgt. Bergdahl deserted then he should be punished. With the information that has been in the press, it is highly probable that he will be found guilty. The Bergdahl case seems similar to the wars that have divided our nation and should give us pause for thought. Do we sometimes pre-judge too fast without thinking? If the government did not negotiate for his release, what would the critics say? If the government was offered the release and they did not accept it, what would the critics say? If the government took the stance that since he just walked off from his post we should just leave him in enemy hands, what would that say? Would that not be pre-judging and/or jumping to the conclusion that he was guilty and therefore his punishment would to be in the hands of our enemy?

I think we do pre-judge too fast sometimes and that includes going to war for what seems like very honorable principles. Then later we find ourselves facing enemies that at one time were our friends. We also find that supporting one side can have unintended and unknown consequences. I donít know why we make fast judgments, maybe we want to be right and we feel that making a quick decision is the right thing to do. The problem is that sometimes one side is not totally right and one side is not totally wrong. Sometimes the problems we pre-judge donít offer a correct answer when examining the long term consequences.

As the problems in the middle-east have demonstrated, everything is interrelated and whenever the balance of power is disrupted, it is very difficult to predict what will happen. Military interventions seem to relate to short term goals but often create unintended long term problems. At one time we supported the Mujahideen warlords in their fight with the Russians. After the Russians left, we declared victory in a proxy war and we left. Afghanistan was in a state of shambles, no government, services and no social order. A civil war occurred and the newly created Taliban, created from the Mujahideen, was the biggest winner. Prior to 1989, the Taliban did not exist. There are "experts" that believe we should have stayed and other "experts" that would proffer that if we did stay, it could be worse today.

The Bergdahl issue - thatís the easy problem, if we donít move too fast.

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer