January 22, 2022


“There is no mystery, only inability to perceive the obvious”. This Chinese proverb comes to mind when one tries to objectively understand the questionable decision taken by President Obama, when he released five extremely dangerous Taliban leaders from Guantanamo in exchange for an American, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, that the enemy group held. Everyone should rejoice in the idea of a member of our armed forces returning home. It has been part of our military creed to leave no one behind, and as our commander in chief, the President assumes that duty. The facts surrounding his capture in Afghanistan have been a motive of much speculation.

bergdahl3By definition he was a deserter, for the simple reason that he left his station without orders. Possible explanations go from his being a collaborator to our enemies, to suffering from some type of mental breakdown, to his personal upbringing and life philosophy. Neither Bowe nor his parents can be described as a typical family. Strict believers of Calvinism, he was home schooled and thus missed the early interpersonal relationships acquired in academic institutions. His correspondences, statements, and behavior as a loner with his mates in the service that have been interpreted by many as proof of his disloyalty, can also be an expression of an ideologically confused young man.

He wanted to bond with the Afghans, learned their language, and left behind notes expressing his disillusion with the army, its mission, and the desire to start a new life. Whatever the etiology and his past conduct, his type of personality is one that is prone to manipulation. His parents’ behavior, appearance, and declarations are also, to say the least, in question. Both President Obama and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey stated that these doubts were to be answered at a later date and were irrelevant to the appropriateness of the exchange, and I agree. Throughout our history POW’s have been exchanged between nations. This recent action differs in the extent that the Taliban is not a nation, but a terrorist group, the unbalance of the subjects in question, and the potential for future blackmail and dangerous precedent for other servicemen. This is why questions have arisen from loyalist of both parties, Senator Mc Cain and Leon Panetta. Public statements by security advisor Susan Rice and from President Obama, have also made fodder for criticism. Ms Rice statements of Bergdahl being “captured in the battlefield” and “he served the United States with honor and distinction” are at best disingenuous. Obama’s reassurance that “we will be in a position to go after them if in fact they threaten our defenses” is more laughable than comforting. Last but not least, is the fact of the illegality of the action. None other than noted liberal constitutional expert and Georgetown law Professor Jonathan Turley, declared to CNN “Obama is a massive hypocrite in the manner that he broke the law”.

The same sentiment abounded in a bipartisan manner in both legislative chambers when the President ignored the 30 day stipulation in the law, about the release of prisoners from Guantanamo. The clear reason was that when the exchange idea was floated to them a few years back, it received tremendous negative feedback. Was the objective political to lessen the impact of the VA’s scandal or a maneuver to start the demise of the Guantanamo prison? We do not know, but within the growing perception of an indecisive and weak foreign policy, it behooves us to heed to the wise words of our forefather John Adams “it is weakness rather than wickedness which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power”.
Fernando J Milanes MD