What’s the life of an American soldier worth?
That’s the question that’s begging to be answered in the wake of the prisoner exchange that led to the release over the weekend of five members of the Taliban from the Guantanamo Bay prison, in exchange for captive Army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
There’s evidence that suggests that Bergdahl deserted from his post, was disillusioned with the war effort in Afghanistan and that other soldiers were killed in the hunt for him.
Republican politicians and conservative commentators are giddy at the opportunity to second-guess President Barack Obama’s decision to move forward with the exchange, and many are openly arguing that the life of this American soldier wasn’t worth the price we paid to get him home.
Sen. John McCain has suggested that if the released Taliban “re-enter the fight, then it’s going to put Americans at risk,” according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Never mind that a recent study by the RAND Corp. has shown that the current hotbed of jihadi terrorist groups is Syria’s civil war — a war in which the U.S. has taken a stance of indifference from the start.
The everlasting War on Terror doesn’t hinge on these five Taliban — a far greater danger to American lives is Obama’s plan to pull our forces out of Afghanistan when the war there isn’t finished. The Bergdahl case might make for good political theatre, for both sides, but to suggest that this exchange will prove pivotal for our prospects in the Middle East is ludicrous.
The only way we’re ever going to know with any certainty what happened the night Bergdahl disappeared from his base is to hear about it from Bergdahl himself. If he deserted, the full force of military justice should fall upon his neck.
But it’s unacceptable for the U.S. to let one of its own rot in a Pakistani safehouse (Pakistan is our ally, remember?), without knowing for certain the truth about the circumstances of his disappearance.
Michael Gebelein is managing editor of Lincoln Times-News.