Our view: If you rush to judgment on Bergdahl, you're wrong

June 10, 2014 

We have been receiving phone calls, emails and Letters to the Editor nearly every day since the story broke from people who have decided Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a deserter, a traitor or an enemy of the United States. Some who raced beyond speculation to convict and sentence him say the Hailey native is all of the above. A few have gone so far as to suggest such crimes deserve a firing squad.

The authors of these opinions base their argument on an unsupportable extrapolation of one fact: that Bergdahl walked away from his unit five years ago on June 30, 2009.

Much of the vitriol and rush to judgment can be traced to the method used by President Obama and cabinet chiefs to extract Bergdahl - a prisoner swap involving five Taliban warriors. Additional emotion reverberated after soldiers purporting to have served with Bergdahl linked the deaths of some of their colleagues to efforts to find Bergdahl and then free him from his captors.

To be sure, there were some compelling accounts related about attempts to find Bergdahl five years ago. But how can some choose to believe this and not weigh it against what Defense Department Secretary Chuck Hagel had to say last week.

"I do not know of specific circumstances or details of U.S. solders dying as a result of efforts to find and rescue Sgt. Bergdahl," Hagel said at a news conference Wednesday, which was reported by Reuters. "Until we get the facts, until we have ... a review of all the circumstances, it is not in the interest of anyone and certainly I think a bit unfair to Sgt. Bergdahl's family and to him to presume anything. We don't do that in the United States. We rely on facts."

What a novel idea, and one Idahoans especially should embrace.

Bergdahl is recuperating in Germany from his ordeal. There is no evidence he has yet spoken about his leave from his unit or his capture. Thus, there are no new facts yet with which to label him, much less to convict him of anything.

There will be inquiries. There will be a day when all the evidence will be considered and judgment rendered.

That anyone believes this case has been sufficiently investigated and vetted enough to assign guilt to any charge is beyond disgusting and absent of Bergdahl's right to be judged innocent until proved otherwise.

Those unhappy with the way this mission to liberate a member of the U.S. Army, a POW, was carried out should separate that from any consideration of Bergdahl's future fate. It is unfair and un-American to do anything else.

We believe Bergdahl should be held accountable for any decisions he made while in uniform - but not before his health has been restored and he has been reunited with his family.

We are embarrassed for those so overcome with self-righteousness and reckless disregard for justice that they would take it out on Bergdahl's family or community.

Flag Day is Saturday. Father's Day is Sunday. The Fouth of July is just around the corner.

Let us focus on these expressions of America and leave the medical and military evaluations to those with the appropriate expertise and duty.

"Our View" is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service