2With that clear statement, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed one of the overriding issues surrounding the release of Bergdahl by the Taliban.
But, the general’s statement has not, and will not, appease President Barack Obama’s critics who contend he gave up too much to bring the American soldier home.
The U.S. handed over five high-level militants detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the government of Qatar. The militants are prohibited from traveling outside Qatar for a year.
But Republicans, in particular, contend that the details surrounding Bergdahl’s separation from his unit in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan suggest that this country paid too high a price.
Indeed, former members of the unit have been vocal in their criticism of the Hailey, Idaho, resident, saying he walked away because he was disillusioned with the war and, thus, abandoned his colleagues and the Army. They also contend that he jeopardized the lives of other soldiers who went searching for him in enemy territory.
Though Bergdahl’s former colleagues have legitimate concerns, members of Congress and others who have pounced on the president are doing so for political gain.
What if Obama had decided not to make the deal and Bergdahl had died in captivity? These same critics would now be accusing him of not understanding his role as the commander in chief and not appreciating the ethos of the military that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dempsey, talked about.
Whatever the circumstances of Bergdahl’s separation from his unit, the fact remains that he was a prisoner of war and, therefore, was the responsibility of this nation.
That said, there are other issues surrounding the return of the sergeant the administration must address, foremost of which is the failure of the White House to notify Congress of the release of captives from Guantanamo.
The law requires a 60-day notice, but administration officials contend there wasn’t time because concerns about Bergdahl’s health and the sensitivity of the negotiations required quick action.
Congressional hearings are underway, and while Republicans and Democrats have taken the White House to task for not following the law, lawmakers have an obligation to avoid turning the proceedings into a political circus.
There are important constitutional and ethical questions that must be addressed — which will require members of Congress to demonstrate a level of thoughtful deliberation that has been sorely lacking on Capitol Hill.
The other issue that must be addressed has to do with Bergdahl’s duty as a soldier.
Gen. Dempsey has said the Army could still charge Bergdahl with desertion and other violations of his sworn oath as a soldier after an investigation is conducted.
Members of Congress should take care not to impede or undermine the Army’s investigation.