Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, still in recovery, has become a political football to be kicked around by just about everyone, including Hillary Clinton—who is using Bergdahl’s release to distinguish herself, just ever so slightly, from President Obama. In her book, whose release this week will dominate the airways and news media, and in an interview tonight with Diane Sawyer, Clinton finesses the fact that she originally opposed making a deal with the Taliban for Bergdahl, a decision she portrays as one of the “hard choices” she had to make. Though now she’s defending Obama over the Bergdahl decision, she stressed to ABC’s Sawyer that there were “competing interests and values” involved in the decision. It’s a waffle typical of Clinton, who tries simultaneously to pander to hawks while placating the liberal base of the Democratic party.
Here’s the bottom line: if Bergdahl did desert, or leave his post without permission, then bully for him. If only more American troops had deserted that war, or refused to serve, or simply stopped enlisting in the “volunteer army.” Perhaps Bergdahl was simply shell-shocked, or suffering from PTSD. Perhaps he had just had enough. Perhaps he did indeed intend to seek out the Taliban in his own version of peace talks. Perhaps he, himself, can’t really explain why did it, although—as reported here last week—the evidence reported two years ago in Rolling Stone suggests that he had thoroughly been alienated by the war and by the conduct of American forces. If any of that is true, than the Republicans ought not wish to out Bergdahl on trial. Because he, and his lawyers, could turn such a trial into a broader inquiry into the insanity of a war that has lasted thirteen years, and which appears will continue through 2016 at least.
The say-anything conservatives and Republicans—many of whom slammed Obama for years for not doing more to get Bergdahl released, only to say now, like Charles Krauthammer, that Bergdahl is a deserter and a traitor—aren’t daunted by the fact that Bergdahl has described his years in captivity in stark terms. After twice trying to escape, he was put in a cage, and tortured. But that hasn’t stopped Senator Saxby Chambliss, the Georgia Republican, from saying that he doesn’t necessarily believe Bergdahl’s account:
I think there are going to be a lot of things that Bergdahl tells the Army and the medical folks that he’s talking to now that is going to be very difficult to validate.… That’s not to say they’re not absolutely true, but we weren’t there.… We have nobody who was on the inside. So we don’t know exactly what happened in his life over the last several years, except we do know he was captured and he’s been in the Taliban’s hands.