Online Opinion Outpost: June 10


The Online Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.

Bergdahl exchange

Frida Ghitis, CNN

When Obama approved the release of dangerous, top-value Guantánamo prisoners in exchange for (Bowe Bergdahl), an American soldier captured under mysterious circumstances, he negotiated a tangle of competing moral principles.

1) America holds two principles high on its moral agenda.

First, the U.S. does not leave any of its soldiers behind in the battlefield. Second, the U.S. does not negotiate with terrorists. But what happens when the two principles collide? 

2) Does the rule of “leave no one behind” apply to deserters? 

We don’t know much about how Bergdahl came to become a prisoner. But many of his comrades in the field say Bergdahl walked away from his post by choice.

3) Does the life of one man we know warrant losing the lives of many whom we don’t know?

The U.S. says 17%, perhaps as many as 29%, of those released from Guantánamo Bay have turned to terrorism.

4) If a person should be saved, what cost is too high? Is there a limit?

5) If a prisoner exchange is politically costly but morally correct, should a politician support it?

Obama must have known there would be political fallout. He made his decision.

None of these is an easy question. Each country answers them in the light of its own values and priorities. America would do well to examine them in a nonpolitical way, as a crafting of the nation’s beliefs and a guide for making moral choices in the future.

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

Bringing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl home was the right thing to do, and President Obama did it in a mostly reasonable way. Here are the issues the Bergdahl affair presents.

1. “We leave no soldier behind on the battlefield.” This is the commitment we make to the men and women who serve in the U.S. armed forces. The promise was made to Bergdahl, and the nation was honor-bound to respect it.

Was he a deserter? Quite possibly. Did he somehow take leave of his senses? That seems possible, too. These are questions for the military justice system to answer, and Bergdahl should be held accountable.

2. Reports that six U.S. servicemen died on missions searching for Bergdahl have been denied by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. My impression is that this may be a matter of semantics.

The nation’s hearts should go out to the families of any who died looking for Bergdahl. These men were bravely doing their job, as defined by their commanders: Bring home a U.S. soldier being held by the enemy.

3. Was the price of Bergdahl’s freedom too high? No, it wasn’t. The five Taliban commanders released in exchange should properly be described as one-time Taliban commanders. All have been held at Guantánamo since at least 2002. The war and the world have changed.

4. I said the way Obama did this was “mostly” reasonable. The president should and could have informed Congress that he was going ahead with a prisoner exchange that he knew would be controversial.

5. The optics of the deal’s announcement were unfortunate. The White House knew there were serious questions about how and why Bergdahl left his post.

New York Times Editorial Board

The last few days have made clearer than ever that there is no action the Obama administration can take — not even the release of a possibly troubled American soldier from captivity — that cannot be used for political purposes by his opponents.

Though we criticized the administration for ignoring the law in not informing Congress of the transfer of the Taliban detainees 30 days in advance, leave it to Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other hyperventilators to claim that continued release of prisoners from Guantánamo without prior notice is now considered an impeachable offense, a ludicrous leap.

(The) duck-and-cover response is the result of the outrageous demonization of Sergeant Bergdahl in the absence of actual facts. Republican operativeshave arranged for soldiers in his unit to tell reporters that he was a deserter who cost the lives of several soldiers searching for him. In fact, a review of casualty reports by Charlie Savage and Andrew Lehren of The Times showed there is no clear link between any military deaths and the search.

And a classified military report shows that Sergeant Bergdahl had walked away from assigned areas at least twice before and had returned, according to a report in The Times on Thursday. It describes him as a free-spirited young man who asked many questions but gave no indication of being a deserter, let alone the turncoat that Mr. Obama’s opponents are now trying to create.


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