Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Bergdahl Prisoner Exchange

Prima facie, I'm not wild about it.

Isn't this a bad precedent to set? Especially if the guy turns out to have been a deserter?

The GOP is spewing froth, but we can divide through by that; it means nothing. Other than: the Obama administration did something...

But even a stopped clock etc. etc.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

POW exchanges are pretty common. Or they used to be, until the Bush administration decided that all the prisoners taken in the war were not POWs... And that's why I think Obama did this: not to get back a maybe deserter, but to practically normalize the status of Taliban prisoners as POWs. Expect the administration to relay upon the customary (not Bush tortured) laws of war to justify its power to make this exchange. This gets at the issue two ways: it gives the President power to get around an obstructionist congress (which bizarrely just wants the Guantanimo prisoners in limbo forever) by asserting inherent conduct-of-war powers in regard to the prisoners' disposition, and it brings the prisoners under the protection of the customary laws, since their status as POWs drives the president's right to exchnage them. Also, the headcount of Guantanimo is reduced by 5. So yeah, I'm all for it, even if the guy we got back goes on some kind of I-hate-America speaking tour.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Jesus that's so obviously right.

I simply wasn't thinking of this guy as a POW, but, rather--tacitly, anyway--as a kind of kidnapping victim.


Opinion (tentative though it was): changed.

Thanks, A.

1:07 PM  
Blogger tehr0x0r said...

What I'm not thrilled about is the guy going free now that we have him back.

Annon's points are well taken, and on that ground, I like it, lets normalize this crap so that we actually have rules about how we treat the guys we take in. BUT... other troops lost their lives and were injured looking for this guy. As silly as it might look to do do an exchange to get the guy, just to put him on trial for going AWOL, I think that is what we should do. Might be to much military influence on this one for me, as I have several close friends who are vets and are pushing for this course of action, but it seems to me that if you go AWOL, you should be charged with doing so, even if you have an odd story to go with.

Dunno, not a fully formed thought on my part, and I could be convinced otherwise, but its my initial position.

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

During and since WWII, the US gov't has shown very little appetite for prosecuting deserters. (As I recall, only one person was executed for desertion by the US throughout the European war, despite there being so many American deserters that they were forming organized gangs in French cities.) The belief seems to be that desertion is a symptom of problems with the command, rather than mere cowardice on the part of the deserter, and that deserters who are captured by enemy forces have pretty much punished themselves.

For example: Charles Jenkins drunkenly defected to North Korea in the mid-60's to avoid Vietnam, and ended up spending 40 years there. When the Japanese got him released to Japan (he was married to one of the Japanese people abducted off the streets by DPRK agents in the 70s), the US gov't made no move for extradition or prosecution. He actually turned himself in at a US army base in Japan, where he was finally court martialed. The result was a dishonorable discharge and token 30 days in the base stockade.

I can't think of any reason to treat Bergdahl worse than Jenkins, especially since Jenkins confessed and participated in DPRK propaganda, where Bergdahl has not admitted to anything and did not apparently work against the US while in captivity. Really, the only reason I can see for thinking this case is different is if you don't think of the Taliban as not being a real enemy, but terrorists whom we never negotiate with, &c., &c., &c. So, again, treating this guy in accord with the policies applied elsewhere is crucial to getting the so-call War on Terror crammed back into the normal box.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Aa said...

Bergdahl has never been formally charged with anything. He was actually promoted while a prisoner. So he is not officially a deserter, a traitor, went AWOL, etc etc. He is officially an american soldier who was captured by an enemy force so defacto a prisoner. And there is a long standing tradition (as mentioned above) of trading for prisoners.

I forget which commentator made the point (maybe on talkingpointsmemo.com) but we don't just trade for soldiers who are virtuous and heroic (e.g., get captured in a blaze of gunfire defending their companions). We try, at least should, bring all our soldiers home.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Actually, I see all these points...

But it seems to me that the trump card at this point is: no charges have been brought against Bergdahl. So currently we should see this as an at least semi-ordinary prisoner exchange. Right?

6:54 AM  
Blogger Aa said...

WS wrote: "So currently we should see this as an at least semi-ordinary prisoner exchange. Right?"

Yep, that's the way I see it.

10:35 AM  

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