Troublesome Prisoner Exchange - The Missourian: Opinion

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Troublesome Prisoner Exchange

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Posted: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 6:00 pm

Most Americans always are glad when a prisoner of war (POW) is freed and reunited with his family, but there are many troubling aspects of the one just made by the Obama administration.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed by the Taliban in exchange for five terrorists who had been held at Guantanamo. The sergeant, who had been promoted twice by the Army while held by the Taliban, was held for five years. His rank was private first class when the Taliban took him into custody.

The question that is being posed frequently about the exchange is whether other Americans will face kidnapping by the Taliban to win the release of other terrorists we are holding.

Sen. John McCain said the five terrorists who we exchanged “are the hardest of the hard core.” America had a reputation of not negotiating over hostages. That policy now has been reversed. Does that increase the likelihood that more Americans will be targets to be taken as hostages?

The five terrorists under the exchange agreement are supposed to stay in Qatar for a year. What kind of assurance do we have that they will live up to that agreement? After that they can resume their terrorist activities.

The administration did not inform Congress of its exchange plan, which under law the president was supposed to do, but officials said they were concerned about the sergeant’s health and that’s why they acted in haste. Also, the administration didn’t want the word to get out, which may have caused problems with the exchange. However, the argument that the president has wartime power to act in situations such as this holds some water.

Did President Barack Obama make political hay out of this by calling Bergdahl’s parents to the White House for the announcement of the exchange? The parents had been critical of the Obama administration earlier because not enough had been done to free their son.

Is the White House making a hero out of a soldier who may have been a deserter? There are reports that Bergdahl walked away from his post because emails he sent indicated he was disillusioned about America’s conduct in the war in Afghanistan, where he was stationed. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, when asked about this, said such matters “will be dealt with later.”

In the meantime, the sergeant is expected to be given a hero’s welcome when he arrives back to this country and to his hometown in Idaho. That doesn’t sit well with many Americans and especially with our troops everywhere since he appears to have gone AWOL (absent without leave) in 2009. According to reports, Bergdahl, 28, when released was able to walk and didn’t seem to be in very poor health although he had lost weight.

We are going to hear more about this exchange and the fallout from it.

/opinion

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