Media criticism of the Obama administration for taking steps to secure the release of captured U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl ignores the fact that the military has committed to “use every practical means” to free prisoners of war.
Sgt. Bergdahl Is Freed By Taliban In Prisoner Exchange
Bergdahl Handed Over To American Special Operations After Prisoner Exchange. Bergdahl, who was captured by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan in June 2009, was released on May 31 in exchange for five Taliban detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. [The New York Times, 5/31/14]
Media Disparage Deal To Release Bergdahl
Fox Regular Donald Trump: “This Was A Terrible Deal We Made.” On the June 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Trump asserted that the U.S. made a “terrible deal to secure Bergdahl's release: ”This was a terrible deal we made, by the way. This was a terrible deal. Every soldier and every American is at risk right now." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/2/14]
Breitbart's Gorka: We Have Sent Message To “Jihadists”: “Capture An American And America Will Do Your Bidding.” On June 1, Breitbart.com National Security Affairs Editor Dr. Sebastian Gorka criticized the Obama administration for securing Bergdahl's release saying, “Now we have sent a message to all jihadists around the world: capture an American and America will do your bidding.” [Breitbart, 6/1/14]
Daily Caller: “Obama Submits to Taliban Demands.” The Daily Caller framed the Obama administration trade of Guantanamo Bay prisoners to secure Bergdahl's release by stating in a headline “Obama Submits to Taliban Demands.” [The Daily Caller, 6/1/14]
ABC News Contributor Bill Kristol: We Shouldn't Have Made Trade Because It's Possible Bergdahl Wasn't A “Real POW.” On the June 2 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, ABC News contributor and conservative pundit Bill Kristol slammed the deal that secured Bergdahl's release by citing the 'anger' expressed by other soldiers and stating, “it's one thing to trade terrorists for a real P.O.W., for someone who's taken on the battlefield fighting honorably for our country. It's different to trade five high ranking terrorist for someone who walked away”:
KRISTOL: Secondly, what about Bergdahl? Everyone's happy to see him back and all that. The fact is Susan Rice said on TV yesterday that he was taken in battle. Taken on the battlefield and he served the United States with honor and distinction. There's a lot of reporting that he wasn't taken in battle. He seems to have deserted or at least gone AWOL, he may have cooperated with the enemy. Soldiers died trying to find him. His own platoon and his own battalion seem to have come under a lot more attacks after he was taken. The degree of anger among soldiers on e-mail and listservs is unbelievable. And that needs to be taken seriously. That's not just people, those are the people who fought in the same company in some cases. And who feel like they sacrificed a lot to get this guy back who may have behaved vastly irresponsibly or worse. And we need to have honesty about that. There was a big army investigation. What did Susan Rice know what did President Obama know about the investigation about Bergdahl? It's one thing to trade terrorists for a real P.O.W., for someone who's taken on the battlefield fighting honorably for our country. It's different to trade five high ranking terrorist for someone who walked away. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 6/2/14]
The U.S. Military Has Committed To Gaining Release Of POWs
Military Code Of Conduct: U.S. Govt. “Will Use Any Practical Means To Contact, Support And Gain Release” Of POWs. A Department of Defense military code of conduct and ethics dating back to 1954 states that the U.S. government has an explicit obligation and responsibility to “stand by” POWs and that the government “will use every practical means to contact, support and gain release for you and for all other prisoners of war” (emphasis added):
As a member of the armed forces of the United States, you are protecting your nation. It is your duty to oppose all enemies of the United States in combat or, if a captive, in a prisoner of war compound. Your behavior is guided by the Code of Conduct, which has evolved from the heroic lives, experiences and deeds of Americans from the Revolutionary War to the Southeast Asian Conflict.
Just as you have a responsibility to your country under the Code of Conduct, the United States government has an equal responsibility -- to keep faith with you and stand by you as you fight for your country. If you are unfortunate enough to become a prisoner of war, you may rest assured that your government will care for your dependents and will never forget you. Furthermore, the government will use every practical means to contact, support and gain release for you and for all other prisoners of war. [American Civil Liberties Union, accessed 6/2/14]
U.S. National Security Adviser: “We Have A Sacred Obligation” To Bring Back POWs. On the June 1 edition of ABC's This Week, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice pointed out that the U. S government has a “sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our republic to do the must to bring back our men and women who are taken in battle.” Rice argued that the government has a responsibility to “do our utmost to bring our prisoners-of-war home”:
RICE: Sergeant Bergdahl wasn't simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war, captured on the battlefield. We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our republic to do the most to bring back our men and women who are taken in battle, and we did that in this instance. If for some reason we took a position now in the 21st century, when some of our adversaries may not be traditional state actors, that we would not do our utmost to bring our prisoners of war home, that would break faith with the American people and with the men and women in uniform, so regardless of who may be holding an American prisoner of war, we must do our best to bring him or her back. [ABC, This Week, 6/1/14]
Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel: Securing Release Was Necessary To Save Bergdahl's Life. On June 1, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel argued that the administration had to act quickly in securing Bergdahl's release once an “opening” with the Taliban was found, citing concerns about Bergdahl's health:
Believing that his health was deteriorating, the United States acted quickly to save his life after years of work to free him from being a prisoner of war, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday.
“It was our judgment that if we could find an opening and move very quickly with that opening, that we needed to get him out of there essentially to save his life,” Hagel said. “I know President Obama feels very strongly about that, I do as well.” [CNN.com, 6/1/14]