The POWs Obama is Leaving Behind in Afghanistan

Put aside, for a moment, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. What about the health of two other American captives that Obama is leaving behind: Caitlan Coleman and her one-year-old child?  Caitlan, then pregnant, and her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle were captured by the Taliban in late 2012 while traveling in a mountainous region near Kabul, Afghan’s capital.  Videos of the captives were emailed to Caitlan’s parents in July and September last year, so the Administration was well aware of their plight while negotiating with the Taliban for Bergdahl’s release. One can only wonder why the major news media and even Obama’s critics are ignoring this question during the current debate. If a Republican president had carried out such an outrageous swap while leaving Caitlan and her child behind, there would be shrieks about a war on women.

During the Vietnam War, all Americans held by the enemy, military and civilian, were considered POWs. Evidently the current Administration considers civilians taken prisoner in the Afghan War as only being hostages.  State Department Foreign Service Officer Douglas K. Ramsey spent several additional years in captivity in Vietnam, after US officials refused to trade a single communist Vietnamese Colonel for him. This is a very different precedent than is claimed by Obama. Ramsey spent a total of seven years a cage under conditions far worse than those suffered by Bergdahl.  As well, I spent over five years (five years and a month and a half) as a POW in Vietnam, a year of it in a cage.

Even assuming Obama told the truth, he must rank among the poorest negotiators in the world if he was suckered by the Taliban’s bluff to kill their ace in the hole if the US didn’t immediately accept the lopsided terrorist trade.  But, as P.T. Barnum allegedly said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  The Taliban may be fanatics and terrorists; but history has proven that they are not stupid; why would they kill a goose that lays golden eggs? 

Some see Obama’s lopsided trade as a trial balloon to see whether he can get away with releasing these terrorists without too many repercussions. If so, we can expect to see more such releases soon.  In any case, his actions can only motivate the Taliban and other terrorists to take more American hostages, whether to trade them for money to fund further terrorist activities against America and its allies or to trade for the release of more Gitmo detainees. 

A Band of Brothers

Meanwhile, the Afghan War veterans from Bergdahl’s platoon, a “Band of Brothers,” are being vilified by the liberal media and other Obama supporters for daring to speak the truth – that Bergdahl talked about seeking out the Taliban, and then voluntarily walked off their post, leaving his rifle and other equipment behind. Furthermore, several of their fellow soldiers were killed or wounded on subsequent missions as they tried to find him. 

Their treatment calls to mind another “Band of Brothers,” the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who came forward in 2004 daring to speak the truth about then Senator John Kerry’s wildly inflated claims about his short tour in Vietnam. The Swift Boat Vets were found credible in the eyes of the public and arguably cost Kerry the presidency.

This kind of truth-teller scares the hell out of the leftist political establishment and others in the dog-eat-dog political world. To discourage it from happening again, progressive acolytes have, for a full decade, accused all who dare to criticize them of the political crime of “swift boating.”

Since only a small percentage of Americans have served in the armed forces, few understand what the term “Band of Brothers” really means. Simply put, each man is part of a greater whole, supporting and protecting one another until death or victory arrives. Such relationships form in combat and in situations such as the POW “Hanoi Hilton” in Vietnam.

The proverb “Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins” comes to mind when critics attempt to vilify the Afghan vets. They were there and saw what happened. Obama was not.

Another Administration’s spin on the Bergdahl trade is that America’s policy is to “leave no man behind.” Balderdash! We left men behind in WWII who were taken by the Russians to the gulags in the Soviet Union. We left men behind in the Korean War, as we did in the Vietnam, Gulf and Iraq Wars.

Ironically, Kerry is now parroting the leave no man in his spin in defense of Obama when in fact Kerry was complacent in leaving POWs behind in Vietnam.  He chaired the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIAs in 1993; the committee report concluded that POWs were left behind.  Kerry’s spin was that there is no concrete evidence that any are still alive; the minority dissent contended  there is no concrete evidence that they are dead.  If Obama truly wants to assert such a policy, shouldn’t that be “leave no man, woman or child behind?”  Yet Obama has left behind at least two others – Caitlan Coleman and her year-old child – behind in the Afghan War. How will they spin this?

Credit goes to Congressman Duncan Hunter, who wrote to Obama last week, asking why other Americans still in the custody of Afghan militants were not included in the negotiations and swap.  Still, this question has yet to become a central part of the debate.

Bergdahl’s betrayal of his brothers in arms was paid for with the blood of his fellow soldiers. The price Obama paid to bring him home will, in all likelihood, cost more American blood and that of our allies.  In the court of public opinion, Bergdahl is being judged as a deserter; however, he is not unless he is found guilty by a Military court of law, which may not happen because of command influence by this Administration.

Michael Benge was a Foreign Service Officer in Vietnam and captured by the North Vietnamese communists during the TET Offensive in January 1968 and held in South Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos and North Viet Nam.  He spent 27 months in solitary confinement, of which most of a year was in a black box and one year in a cage.  He was released in 1973 in Operation Homecoming.