What the Bowe Bergdahl saga demonstrates beyond question – to anyone who still nurtured any doubt – is that the Republican right will junk just about any basic American value to satisfy its hatred of Barack Obama. Fair play, due process, respect for families and the military: To most if not all so-called conservatives, none of these fundamentals matters nearly so much as the urge to undermine the nation’s first black president. Which is another reason, among many, why they no longer deserve the honorific “conservative.”
In the matter of Bergdahl, a military officer held by the enemy in Afghanistan and released in a trade of prisoners, the right-wing fakers who call themselves conservative are trashing ideals that they routinely claim to hold sacred.
The American military code of conduct has long assured all service personnel that if captured by the enemy, “you may rest assured that your government…will use every practical means to contact, support and gain release for you and for all other prisoners of war.” Leaving aside the moral imperative that is the foundation of this policy, which predates the current military code by centuries, it is a simple military necessity. Support the troops? The morale of our fighting men and women would be severely damaged if they came to believe that the U.S. government would not do everything in its power to bring them home from captivity – regardless of any questions about their conduct. (Arizona senator John McCain, who has written forthrightly of his shame about his own conduct as a Vietnam POW, surely should be able to explain why.)
Our national commitment to rescue American captives extends beyond those in uniform to any citizen who has been kidnapped or seized by a hostile force. That was certainly the excuse when the president most revered by the right – Ronald Reagan – handed over advanced weapons to a terrorist regime in the Iran-contra deal. It is a commonplace observation that if a Democratic president had committed the same offenses, he and his cohort would have been denounced for treason, and perhaps rightly so. Yet while the Republicans want to impeach Obama for releasing five Taliban geezers, they would still stamp Reagan’s image on coins and bills, raise monuments to his memory, and emblazon his name on every edifice in the country.
Prominent voices on the right now insist that Bergdahl was unworthy of rescue, because his capture allegedly occurred after he deserted his post. None of the loudest wingnuts registered this complaint until after the White House secured his release; indeed, many of them were agitating for the Obama administration to save Bergdahl until this week. Today they declare with equal volume and fervor that he is a “traitor” who should have been left to rot with his Taliban captors.
So much for the American principles of due process and presumption of innocence – which happen to be among the very ideals that are supposed to differentiate us from our enemies. Libertarians and conservatives always fiercely claim to uphold due process, especially when one of their ilk is in the dock. But for some curious reason, those principles don’t always apply when a Democrat is president. Thankfully, in the view of the Commander-in-Chief and the U.S. Army, which maintains jurisdiction and custody over Bergdahl, due process apparently remains in force, which must be why he was promoted to sergeant while a prisoner of war.
Copyright 2014 The National Memo