The emerging picture of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was exchanged for five prisoners held at the U.S. prison in Guantánamo, indicates he’s no hero, no all-American G.I. Joe, and might even be a deserter.
But what no one disputes is that he was an American soldier held by the enemy, and that alone justifies the U.S. effort to bring him home.
That is what the armed forces do. It’s part of unwritten but fundamental code of solidarity in the uniformed services. No one is left behind, and no one should seek, or offer, apologies for bringing soldiers home.
The circumstances of this particular case make the prisoner exchange contentious. The initial sense of relief and joy over his return quickly vanished when it was disclosed that PFC Bergdahl — he was promoted to sergeant during his five-year absence, as per military protocol — apparently walked away from his post in Afghanistan voluntarily.
That is a serious violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, if it turns out to be true.
Before rushing to judgment, however, the murky details of the Bergdahl incident must be investigated.
Already, several early claims, such as the allegation that he went in search of the Taliban forces that turned into his captors, have been debunked or questioned.
In failing to inform Congress about their release beforehand, the Obama administration ignored the law, an action the president’s advisers have sought to justify by claiming that the Taliban had threatened to kill Sgt. Bergdahl if it became public.
This, too, should be part of any post-exchange investigation, providing it doesn’t turn into a political circus. Republicans in Congress have been so eager to turn any perceived weakness or misstep by the administration into a scandal that it’s hard to take them seriously when they once again cry wolf.
Whatever an investigation turns up, it does not alter the basic facts of Bergdahl’s detention, nor the fact that bringing a captured soldier back to his family was the correct decision.
Could President Obama have handled it better, perhaps without the big Rose Garden announcement? Yes.
Did he make the right call? Absolutely.
— Miami Herald,