By Brenda Robinson
As of last week, we do not know why Sqt. Bowe Bergdahl, five years ago, left his U.S. post in Afghanistan. Actually, we still don’t know if he left “on his own free will” or if he was taken off base by the Taliban or some other terrorist group. We don’t even know if, upon Bergdahl’s departure, he was or if he is now of sound mind and body. What we do know, however, the Republican congressional response is not personal, it’s just political. And, if a Republican president was in office, the Democrat congressional response would be the same. That’s a big problem.
Republican members of Congress have two basic complaints: President Barack Obama did not follow his own law (advising congressional committee members of the plan to exchange five Guantanamo alleged terrorists, who were being detained, for Bergdahl’s release) and that the president negotiated with terrorists.
According to two top Republicans, President Obama’s charge was to designate the defense secretary to notify congressional members of any transfers from Guantanamo 30 days in advance of such actions. The president’s response was the notification requirement was an unconstitutional infringement on his powers as commander in chief and he could therefore override such policy.
Seemingly, the non-notification of Congress may cease as a hot media item. However, the Obama administration will continue to struggle with justifying the exchange of 28-year-old Bergdahl for five militant Taliban members who some say were part of the group responsible for the 9/11 trade center attack. And, there is no precedent set for negotiating with entities other than a state, meaning an official government. In 1981, there was a prisoner of war exchange with Iraq following the Persian Gulf War. In 2010, the United States and Russia swapped four spies for four spies.
As long as it was politically expedient to support the exchange of prisoners for Bergdahl’s release, some Republicans condoned such a process. Senator John McCain of Arizona, in February, said he would support an exchange of prisoners for our American service people. McCain now said Obama made a mistake. Senator Jim Inhofe of Arizona initially supported such an exchange, but later, on Fox News, criticized Obama for “freeing people who killed Americans and were the brain power of the Taliban.”
We understand the game of politics is played all the time. However, this time there is too much at risk. Republicans and Democrats surely know it is a “new day” in terms of global conflict. Mighty military strength and high tech drone equipment is no longer the only methods by which countries can cause havoc on a nation. Terrorism is the new nuclear threat. Thus, for a government to say “we will never negotiate with terrorists is akin to saying, America will never borrow money from Japan because of their bombing Pearl Harbor.
Republicans and Democrats must be real. There would be a different sentiment from a congressman if the captive individual was the loved one of a particular congressperson. We must be careful with the word never. That whole crew in Washington would do well by listening to the lyrics of a recording by the late artist Luther Vandross. He sang, “Hearts get broken all the time, but this time it’s mine.” Just stop the nonsense, politicians. If your loved one was in the camp of terrorists, would you send a drone or your best negotiator?