Robert Ehlert: It’s time to focus on Bergdahl’s freedom

rehlert@idahostatesman.comJune 1, 2014 

The personal joy for the family of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is what matters now, and what will endure.

A national joy should surround it and bask in it, for the return of a prisoner of war from enemy combatants - alive after five years - is among the rarest of outcomes.

A U.S. citizen, a soldier is returned, and on this occasion everybody from his unit commander to the commander in chief should be proud and be thanked for making good on executing the honorable duty of bringing one of our own home.

For that is the pledge made when men and women join the United States Armed Forces and find themselves in harm's way. And especially those who wind up captives of the enemy.

No one can yet know all of the circumstances leading to Bergdahl's captivity five years ago, nor can we say with certainty what all was involved in the delicate negotiations for his release.

That understanding will come and go and never inspire more than the determination to bring Bowe Bergdahl home.

Though our posture at times has been to never negotiate with terrorists or the enemy, that is a black and white rule that ignores all the gray reality smothering and shrouding the bitter truths of war. Does such negotiation make Americans higher targets as hostages? That is a What-If world. Bergdahl was a captive in this world.

I know the Bergdahl family would have given anything for the return of their son. But they were helpless. That the ransom reportedly involved five members of the Taliban is inconsequential to the message that, this time, the United States got their man back. Alive.

Let those who think otherwise, who are quick to conclude this is a bad deal and bad precedent, ought first to detail what their plan was. If they have no plan, they should keep their concerns to themselves until they have had a chance to understand the pain of separation from a loved one, a comrade in arms.

Idahoans should appreciate the way Gov. Butch Otter, Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, and Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador have been supportive and focused on the joy of Bergdahl's freedom and anticipated homecoming - and not the troubles of the TV talking heads.

Thank God firefighters and police don't stop to ponder the speculation and gossip about the people they rescue. Thank God those in the Pentagon and the White House followed through and freed our Idaho solider. Such unwavering commitment by our military is the stitching of our stars and stripes.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman's editorial page editor. Contact him at 377-6437, or on Twitter @IDS_HelloIdaho.

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