Why the ongoing war in Afghanistan is the main issue here, not Bergdhal's capture or release.
The bizarre reactions to Bowe Bergdahl are growing rather annoying. We have seen two reactions, one of which has been generated by pure politics. Honestly, I will admit, I have my issues with the prisoner exchange as well, but, my angle is a little bit different than what we have been hearing in the conservative media.
For those not familiar with the case, Bowe Bergdahl was taken prisoner in 2009 by an Al Qaeda affiliate after leaving his post in Afghanistan. The Obama Administration claimed it was concerned about his health, and decided to accept a deal offered by the Taliban that exchanged Bowe Bergdahl for five high level Taliban prisoners that were being held at Guantanamo. The deal’s reaction has been anything but sane.
At first, everyone left-right-and-center praised the deal and welcomed Bergdahl home warmly. Then, literally within the day, a 180 degree flip. The Republican Party and conservatives obviously decided to turn Bergdhal’s release into a political issue.
Fellow Quiet Mike columnist Wendy Cooper wrote a piece on the insanity of the right’s reaction to the Bergdahl deal, in which she outlined the details of just how stupid this whole fake controversy is. Therefore, I will instead voice what I perceive to be the real issues with the Bowe Bergdahl exchange, and not cling to political attack lines for self-generated gain.
For one, let me just say that I really don’t like the idea of “prisoner” exchanges in war, at least not in a sympathetic sense. I understand the complexity of war, and that these things will take place and sometimes can be necessary. However, I know this will be controversial to many, I generally do not sympathize with idea of rescuing prisoners of war, or at least in the context of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Every war is different from each other, so obviously issues like prisoner exchanges depend upon the nature of the conflict. Wars like Vietnam, for example, were comprised mainly of draftees. Those Americans were forced to go and fight, so therefore perhaps I would garner a level of sympathy for a man who is forced to fight. Though, Afghanistan and Iraq are very different wars.
As cold and cynical as it sounds, men like Bowe Bergdahl volunteered to serve in the military. I understand that people make very valid arguments about economic conditions in relation to people who join military service. Though, in the end, it is the individual’s choice of whether or not to sign up and wear the uniform.
It is tragic that men have to volunteer themselves to fight and die for a cause that they cannot relate to, for a country that does not trust them. Yet, when these men are taken prisoner in this foreign land, for a war their leaders continue to wage, then honestly it is hard for me to feel completely sorry for them.
The War in Afghanistan, though beginning with initially good intentions, has evolved into another war for American Empire. While I would never desire to see men like Bowe Bergdahl get killed or taken prisoner, I also desire them not to be deployed in these foreign adventures in the first place. I understand war is a bloody mess. Maybe that’s why we shouldn’t start wars in the first place, and think about what we are doing before we do it.
Yes, I too am also concerned about the people that were traded for Bowe Bergdahl. It’s not because I think Bergdahl was a bad deal or anything like that. People are concerned that we are releasing people who have clear intention to continue the fight. To me, it only signals ever further that our military operations in Afghanistan are not ending any time soon. Now I understand the complexity of the matter, and realize a good argument can be made as to why Obama didn’t have a choice here. All I will say is, it is awfully convenient that high level detainess are being released on a deal, while men who have been declared innocent are still rotting in GITMO.
It reminds me of this anecdotal story I was told by a Vietnam Vet. Granted this is entirely his story, and he gave me no specific area where this occurred and a date. The vet described an event where he and his entire company had set up an ambush point near a river for a unit of North Vietnamese soldiers that were set to pass through. After everything was set up and everyone was ready, command HQ radioed in and ordered the ambush be halted. All troops were ordered to remain in place, and essentially watched as the enemy army just passed by right in front of them.
I asked him what he thought it was all about. He believed that it was to keep the war going. He explained that Vietnam (much like Afghanistan) was a war of attrition. The object was to dwindle down enemy manpower, knowing they could not replenish their forces the way we could. As he described the matter, “If there’s no enemy left to fight the war, how do you keep the war going?”
There is a clear difference between five prisoners and an entire regiment of enemy troops, yet the concept to still similar. We can’t continue to fight the wars and keep troops in the respective regions if there is no more enemy to fight. Military contractors have to get paid, and there’s no money to be made in peace.
Granted, this entire affair is being said through my personal lens. There are probably many things about this issue I don’t know, and I can’t pretend to know them. I can’t claim I know the Obama Administration’s true intention in the matter. I have my ideas, but these are by no means the facts of the matter. These are just observations I note, and they tend to look awfully convenient to the overall trends.
The Bowe Bergdahl issue is more than just a political hatchet job. While Republicans and conservatives ramble on about bad deals and such, the American people miss the greater issues at hand. The great problem is there will be more Bowe Bergdahls unless we do something to end these wars once and for all. Bowe Bergdahl is not necessarily a victim, but he also isn’t a deserter and a traitor as has been implied. Ending the war will end these tragedies. Only then should we bring him home.