On the EDge: Let the courts decide Bergdahl’s fate

OPINION – First, let us set something straight. Neither you nor I know the circumstances that led to the capture and subsequent imprisonment of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by a group affiliated with the Taliban.

There are stories on both sides of the issue that have been blown out of proportion for political purposes and are not rooted in truth.

We don’t know, for example, that Bergdahl was a deserter; we don’t know if, indeed, the unit he was attached to was poorly managed to the point of endangering the soldiers who were members of it; we don’t know if he was captured while relieving himself; we don’t know if he went AWOL, only to be subsequently captured by this group.

At this point, it really doesn’t matter what we think. Bergdahl is in custody of the U.S. Army, receiving treatment at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a U.S. military hospital in Germany, after spending five years in captivity. When he is released, he will receive further treatment at a military hospital in Texas before being reunited with family.

Meanwhile, military investigators will determine what transpired and if Bergdahl should be charged with any crimes against the U.S. Army, which is how it should be.

What we also know is that Bergdahl is the last U.S. military member held captive by the Taliban or groups associated with it.

There is, however, considerable hypocrisy and out-and-out lying that has surrounded this entire event.

Liberals have marked it as a show of resolve and strength in behalf of the administration, while dodging the thorny issue of why the detainee base at Guantanamo Bay is still in operation after campaign promises to close it.

Conservatives, from John McCain to Allen West, who originally called President Obama weak for not negotiating Bergdahl’s release, are now condemning him for exchanging five Taliban members who were being held at Guantanamo Bay to secure his freedom.

In fact, in February McCain, who had full knowledge of the negotiations, supported the idea. Now, however, since fellow conservatives have tried to use the exchange for political advantage, he has changed his story, toeing the party line to put the President in the ugliest light possible.

The result, of course, is that the court of public opinion has already tried and convicted Bergdahl, thanks to the conservative propaganda machine headed up by FOX News, which has embarrassed itself beyond the norm with its outrageous reporting on this story using specious sources, rumor, and innuendo to build its case.

If you are like me, you have followed this in the news or on the multitude of websites that have published cyber-tomes about it, trying to influence public opinion either in favor of or against what transpired. The comments attached to these pieces have been telling, however, as one side looks at it as a reason to impeach the President and the other uses it to prop up his image.

What I have found most interesting, however, is the fact that those who identify themselves as current or former members of the military have pretty much expressed the “no one left behind” philosophy, with the proviso that now it is up to the military investigators to decide what to do next.

Look, we are not naive enough to believe that everybody who has ever donned the uniform has done so honorably. There’s simply too much evidence to the contrary. The heroism and good works of the overwhelming majority have been scarred by those who have tarnished the military reputation.

But, as far as Bergdahl is concerned, this is a matter of military justice, which is quite different than civilian justice, and not a matter for the people’s court.

The security of those rights is why the military is supposedly sent into harm’s way.

We cannot allow politics to interfere with the wheels of justice, otherwise we would have hangings on the Capitol steps every four years, and we cannot give in to mob mentality and jeopardize the entire framework upon which our freedoms are built.

I understand that the courts, whether civilian or military, don’t always make the correct or popular decision, that sometimes justice and the law are at opposing ends, but nothing is foolproof, nothing is perfect.

Already, Bergdahl’s family is receiving death threats, all because some politicians decided to politicize this incident, which is shameful.

The more I read about this, the more certain I am that none of us are in a position to either defend or condemn Bergdahl. We simply have not had a good filter for the truth here, which is what justice is supposed to be based on instead of political positioning.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem too many are interested in finding the truth these days.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.


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  • Daniel June 10, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Ed, the calls for Impeachment steams from the President breaking the law in authorizing the trade without consent from Congress. You are talking about letting Justice prevail and not politicizing the whole incident, calling out hypocrites, when in your own article you fail to even mention that fact that the President also acted unlawfully, and condemning those who want Justice served on the President as well. Or do the laws of the United States not apply to the President in your mind?

    • Ed Kociela June 10, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      Here is where many go wrong. The release of the Guantanamo Bay detainees did not require Congressional approval, just Congressional notification, which did take place because Sen. John McCain commented on the exchange in February. The following, as a matter of fact, is from a FOX News broadcast: “Officials stated publicly after the swap that they had previously told Congress about such a potential deal and that they had to act swiftly because Bergdahl’s health was in imminent danger. And congressional staffers said privately late last week that administration officials told them in a close-door meeting they were compelled to secrecy because Taliban negotiators vowed to kill Bergdahl if the deal was made public.”

  • Brian June 10, 2014 at 10:16 am

    All of the members of his unit that have spoken out said he deserted his post, and asked some very strange questions before doing so. In retrospect the questions all point squarely to desertion. His leaving was premeditated. He certainly was not “captured while relieving himself”, since his station was inside the wire and they had perfectly fine facilities in which to relieve themselves. It’s not like he was out in the woods in the dark pacing back and forth and got snatched while no one was looking. But the real treason is for a commander-in-chief to give him a heroes welcome, for political purposes, with only his parents in the rose garden, while throwing the rest of the military under the bus and calling them liars for saying anything that went against the narrative. It’s disgusting. If anyone should have been in the rose garden it should have been the families of the soldiers who served with distinction and lost their lives looking for Bergdahl. Instead they were shown the bottom of a bus by their “commander in chief”. It must be truly awful serving in the military right now. No wonder suicides of active servicemen are literally off the charts.

  • Doug June 10, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Ed, I am not a fan of Fox News, but it is interesting you seem to attack them as the big source for erroneous information when in fact the President held a news conference to tell the world he secured the release of a hero. Then it was up to Susan Rice to further the message as hero who served with distinction. Basically the Obama Administration took the first shot as we were just learning of the deal and they have been trying to cover themselves ever since. You are correct that politics should not come into play over this and that goes for the current administration also.

  • my opinion is simply that June 10, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Bowe was nieve and sheltered most of his life. I won’t go into detail, but I really think that when he wandered off away from his post, whether it was to find a way to go home because this wasn’t what the recruiter promised him. Or because he thought that he was a decent guy and meant know harm he should be safe going for a walk in hostile country without getting killed or kidnapped. Either way one year of military training wasnt going to erase 20+ years of a que sera sera way of life he had previously led. He was probably an easy captive, but one they had to take care of. I am sure after they captured him they realized his only value was for prisoner negotiations. He may have known current military plans, but as far as being a prisoner with endless intelligence that would help them trample the US, he just wasn’t THAT guy. Which is another reason why it wasnt a huge push to use all resources necessary to get him back. This mentality was also a contribution to why so many lost their lives trying to get him back. The military didn’t use the resources they could have during these rescue operations which contributed in the 6 deaths and other injuries sustained by soldiers. I and I feel that the reason Bowe’s dad has a relationship with the Taliban, is because when he couldnt get any info through our own government (which is a good thing) he was like any other parent out there and found alternate ways to get info. Which meant talking directly to the enemy. This whole situation just screams “wrong place at the wrong time” or “stupid is as stupid does” Its a nieve home sick kid who got himself into something he really knew nothing about. It wasnt what he was told itnwas going to be and he just wanted out. It doesnt make him a bad guy, it just makes him a kind of ” not all there guy” that didnt realize what a huge impact his selfish decision would have on the rest of the world. I have a hard time faulting him. He reminds me of a little child.

    • Gladheishome June 19, 2014 at 2:59 am

      You make a lot of sense…and i think your evaluation of Bergdahl is on point. His parents remind me of hippies. He was probably raised to believe in the common good of man. How did someone like him ever get over there to begin with…ya gotta wonder.

  • zzzz June 10, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Ed. ellipsis …*

  • S Steed June 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

    This story is the epitome of what the media’s main function is: provide drama with no evidence, split the popular opinion so people attack one another, and generally provide a distraction so people don’t get board enough to look into what is really happening.

  • Kats June 10, 2014 at 11:35 am

    The accounts are true. My husband was also there from Ft Rich at the time. Listen to the people that are speaking up, this man needs to be held accountable for his actions.

  • NH June 10, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    This story is more about Obama trading wicked prisoners than about a POW. Big mistake!!!

  • Susan June 10, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    The only unbiased reporting might be PBS. The internet newspapers are the least reliable and most biased.

    • Brian June 11, 2014 at 8:58 am

      PBS? Government-funded? Check. Progressive-run? Check. Global warming alarmists? Check. They masquerade as unbiased, but there is definitely an agenda there.

      • OBAMAS A COMMIN' TO TAKE THE GUNS June 11, 2014 at 12:54 pm

        The only credible news is foxnews. All the rest is liberal communist propaganda.

      • Chris June 11, 2014 at 3:41 pm

        Brian? An uninformed Utard who loves checklists? Check.

  • J June 12, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    I am interested to know which former military members you spoke to, since every military member I know is outraged that this trade happened. He walked away from his post, plain and simple. You are right that we don’t know why yet or what happened to him after that. But he walked away. Introducing the idea that he was possibly captured while ‘relieving himself’ shows that you know nothing about how those posts or the military itself operates. It doesn’t work that way. The evidence is there to show that he willfully walked away, knowing full well the consequences. I’ll wait to make my judgement about the rest of it, but let’s stop pretending that he’s an innocent victim.

  • Gladheishome June 19, 2014 at 2:55 am

    Bergdahl is one of our own and needed to come home. We don’t cut and run, leaving our servicemen to die in small metal cages, held in a pitch black room for 5 years. He attempted to escape, which convinces me that he was not ‘one of them’. Like him or not, he is an American. He is one of ours. Now that he is back, a military court can handle the adjudication. My father came home from Viet Nam disillusioned and broken. He committed suicide when I was 12 and he was 48…the same age I am now. So much life lost…we need to find a better way to treat these damaged men. By the way, ‘Gitmo’ is run by 2,200 Americans, who your tax $$ have been paying for about 15 years now. The medium security ‘detention center’ houses 149 men, 80 of which are cleared to leave but have no where to go where they can be ‘watched’, so they are still there as honorees. Out of the 69 others, few are considered dangerous. My point…they’ve been there for 13 years without being charged with a crime, without legal representation, without a way out. We have done as much to these men (photo evidenced) as was done to Bergdahl. It’s time to send these men…at least most of them….back to their lives. The war that proved there were NEVER weapons of mass destruction is over. Now it’s just about saving face and paying bills…and treating our wounded, on each side. Ughhhhhhhhhhhh ps….Google The NPR Radio interview with Rosedahl (?) who is a reporter from the Miami Herald and has been living in Guatanamo Bay for over 10 years. She says the McDonalds there is pretty cool!

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