All of a sudden the American public has become aware that there is a war going on in Afghanistan. Why? Because the Obama administration traded five Guantanamo prisoners for one American soldier (Bowe Bergdahl) who’d been held captive for five years.
The American public has had little or no interest in this war for 12½ years now except to cluck disapprovingly that it “seems” such a waste. And indeed it is. Now Congress is up in arms because President Barack Obama neglected to inform it about the prisoner exchange. Never mind that Congress had no authority to approve such a deal — only the right to be informed 30 days in advance. Additionally, new information discloses that this prisoner exchange has been in the works for over a year now, with the participants involved clearly named; thus this is not “new and surprising” to either the press or Congress.
Fox News has jumped in as expected, with the continuing hope that it can get some traction on damaging the president. Benghazi, the IRS flap and the VA issue are getting tiresome, and insufficient for the damage hoped for.
The American public is questioning the deal because on the surface it seems too weighted in favor of the Taliban. Their previous involvement has been limited to little stickers on their car: “Support our Troops.” Now they are suddenly aroused.
A need for closure
But this war has to be ended, and closure has to be effected. And that includes the return of our only American soldier in captivity — regardless of the details of his capture, not to forget he is still an American citizen. We do not easily abandon any of us.
As for the five Guantanamo prisoners, they have been held captive for 12 years — and never even given a trial. In fact the whole efficacy, legality and administration of Guantanamo has been in question for over a decade now, and simply imprisoning a couple hundred alleged terrorists without even a military-tribunal trial is antithetical to our system of justice. If they have indeed committed offenses against our country, try them. Establish their guilt, and punish them accordingly.
Unfortunately, most Americans really do not care about “justice” for these people — but that is not what our country is all about. The reality is, we have already released dozens of those prisoners over the years for various reasons, mostly because their alleged crimes were never established. Some were held for years and eventually found to be not guilty of any crime, or in some cases the wrong person was imprisoned.
Col. Morris Davis (Ret.), the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo for two years, calls the prison a travesty and the so-called justice system employed there inadequate; he, incidentally, supports the prisoner swap.
The Taliban will remain long after we leave
Were the five who were released in this exchange bad guys and dangerous? Probably, but now it appears that of the five, four were actually not serious Taliban fighters. But the reality of Afghanistan — as it was in Vietnam, Iraq and other similar ventures — is that the Taliban will be there long after we leave; and with the corruption and ineffectiveness of the Karzai regime (even if replaced), the Taliban will likely take over.
So what were we to do? Stay there forever? And will adding five “bad guys” to the mix going to change anything? Absolutely not.
The whole flap about Bergdahl is nothing more than a sideshow — an opportunity for the congressional hawks to score some points, and an opportunity for Fox News to damage the president (again). However, for the American public, it could be a legitimate opportunity to begin a cogent discussion about what this war was really all about.
In late 2001 it was about striking the government that harbored Al-Qaida. But later it was about a tiny percentage of our population called back to duty tour after tour; billions in wasted treasure; no clear goals, thus no possibility of any sort of “victory”; and propping up a corrupt government in an obscure Asian country that will likely be in chaos after we leave, just as it was in 2001 after the Russians left.
What is really needed now is for us to get out of Afghanistan as Obama promised he would; deal with Bergdahl appropriately after we get the true facts of his capture; revisit the whole issue of Guantanamo’s value; and most important, have the politicians, Fox News and the other critics quit posturing and start talking about things that matter.
Myles Spicer, formerly of Minnetonka, lives in Palm Desert, Calif. He spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.
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