The GOP has yet again proven that it is schizophrenic in the extreme, capable of switching gears at the drop of a hat and faster than a Formula 1 driver on meth. From the beginning of our longest war ever, and through the course of both it and the War That Never Would Have Happened If Dubya Didn’t Have Daddy Issues, Republicans have continuously and hypocritically waved the “we love our servicemen (and women, I guess, but they don’t belong in the military and neither do the gays)” flag. The poor thing is rags and tatters from all the efforts to cover the many egregious points at which they proved that the opposite was true. It’s a dramatic break with reality as us sane people know it to have a party on one hand scream, “If you don’t support the war/GOP president/loss of constitutional freedoms, then you hate our troops and are a traitor!”, while on the other hand, they say to the troops, “Yeah, we couldn’t be bothered to get you proper armor or IED-resistant vehicles. Hope you can scrape up the money to buy what you need on your own, because we sure as hell aren’t going to bother.”
The latest event underlining this mental dichotomy is, of course, the saga of Bowe Bergdahl. For those living under a rock, Sergeant Bergdahl is an American soldier captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2009 and recently freed under an agreement between the Obama administration and the Taliban. He was freed in exchange for five Taliban fighters who have been held at Guantanamo Bay for over a decade. To say that the change of mind on the part of the GOP regarding Bergdahl has been abrupt is like saying the ocean is a little damp. Senator Kelly Ayotte (Republican of N.H.) made a speech on Memorial Day asking that people keep Sergeant Bergdahl in their prayers, and said, “I renew my call on the Defense Department to redouble its efforts to find Sergeant Bergdahl and return him safely to his family.” In less than a week, however, Ayotte spun right around and demanded an inquiry about the exchange that answered her request.
She isn’t alone in this sudden change of heart. Senator John McCain (Republican of Arizona), himself a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said in February, when asked specifically about this prospective trade, “I would support. Obviously I’d have to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home, and if exchange was one of them, I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider.” At least it took him 3 months to change his mind. Once the exchange was made, he decided that “(Obama’s) decision to bring Sgt. Bergdahl home – and we applaud that he is home – is ill-founded … it is a mistake, and it is putting the lives of American servicemen and women at risk. And that to me is unacceptable.” Then, we get into the really disgusting claims and insinuations, that Bergdahl was a deserter, a traitor, and so forth. It’s funny how none of those claims surfaced before his release was secured under a Democratic administration. There are questions about what happened and why he was in a position to be captured, how his mental state might have affected all this, but many on the right are jumping straight to their own chosen answers with nary a pause in between for anything so inconvenient as “innocent until proven guilty”.
So, sending Sergeant Bergdahl into a war, with insufficient resources and support, in a part of the world that has been consuming outsiders’ lives for over a century, was an acceptable choice for Senator McCain, but rescuing him was not? I wonder how he would have felt to have someone take the same attitude toward his own imprisonment. Afghanistan is as bad a hellhole than Hanoi ever was. Ask veterans of this war, or Russian soldiers who served there while we were happily supplying these mujaheddin with weapons, or one could even go back to Kipling: “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, And the women come out to cut up what remains, Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains, An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.” It was like that even before our soldiers engaged in barbarisms of their own. The stress of serving in such a place and being given proof that many of your fellows are no better than the people you are fighting can break the strongest minds. If the GOP had cared for an instant about Bergdahl or anyone who shared this experience with him, there would have been material and psychological support for our troops. If there had been, maybe events would have turned out differently. Instead, the GOP has consistently voted against increased health resources for veterans and servicemen, choosing to emulate the style of General Patton who preferred to slap soldiers who had PTSD back into “shape” and send them back out to fight.
Those objecting to the exchange are the same people who have been demanding Obama’s impeachment because the President ordered the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a traitor who publicly renounced his citizenship, swore his allegiance to our enemies, and took up arms against the United States while encouraging others to follow his example. These people in the GOP would use and expend American soldiers to capture a self-declared terrorist and give him a trial because they will not acknowledge that the president did the right thing. These very same people would condemn Bergdahl and leave him in Taliban hands without so much as a day in court, because it would let them score political points off Barack Obama. The hypocrisy of seeking a trial for a self-avowed traitor while trying to deny one for an actual citizen is blinding.
Bowe Bergdahl was a symbol of our commitment to bring all our troops home, and a tool used by the GOP to lash at the Obama administration for “failing our troops”. Now that he’s no longer useful in that respect, suddenly he wasn’t worth the effort and the Obama administration is at fault for doing what the GOP pushed for lo these many years. This, along with many other factors, proves that the GOP doesn’t care about the troops, despite its rhetoric; they just care about scoring political points, no matter the mental gymnastics required, and to hell with the people used and abused in pursuit of that goal. No amount of yellow ribbons or insincere speeches will ever supplant the truth of their actions.
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