The GOP Can’t Pretend They Love Our Troops Again After This

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.

Jason Francis

Jason Francis is a red-state liberal, residing in the heart of Dixie where he gets to watch the train wreck of conservative politics up close and personal on a regular basis. He's lived in affluence and poverty, in both urban and rural settings, attended both public and private schools, and has visited most of the US at one point or another.


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  • strayaway

    “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?”

    Bergdahl was not a sergeant when sent to Afghanistan. If he was sent there with “insufficient resources and support” please remember that we had a Democratic President, House , and Senate in June, 2009 when Bowe Bergdahl wandered off. Even if Bergdahl had sufficient resources and support, who is to say he still wouldn’t have wandered off? 73% of all US deaths in Afghanistan have occurred under President Obama. Why are we still there?

    • Sandy Greer

      I think we’re still there because we’re afraid to leave. For fear the Taliban and Al Qaeda will move back in after we’re gone.

      Which they probably will. It’s what happened in Vietnam. We took a hill – moved on – and the enemy moved in right behind us. And then they were behind us.

      Other than that, I agree with what you said. Surprised? 😉

      • Matthew Reece

        The only way to have a shot at doing what the troops are supposedly there to do is to stay for centuries and merge with the native population like the Romans did when they conquered a place. No one is seriously suggesting this (and for good reason), so the Taliban and al-Qaeda will be back in charge soon.

      • Sandy Greer

        Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And I don’t purport to know what it is – beyond winning hearts and souls and minds.

        Other than that, we agree. I’m in utter shock. Speechless, almost. Did Hell just freeze over? 😀

        Ingenious idea, BTW

      • Pipercat

        There’s an interesting take on what the Syrian regime is doing in its civil war/insurgency. Pure ruthlessness. Something we don’t have the stomach for; hence, why the whole idea of nation building is a bust..

      • strayaway

        I don’t know why we are still there. Mission creep and profitable contracts seems as good of an explanation as any. Maybe we are waiting for the population of Afghanistan to adopt a kinder more gentle version of Islam but my guess is that they will instead kick their little girls out of all the schools we are building them first.

        No, I’m not surprised. I don’t think you are big on war profits and mission impossibles. We got rid of the Taliban and Bin Laden. Those were our only goals. We should have left long ago.

      • Sandy Greer

        Ah, but when I agreed with you, it had nothing to do with war profits. Though you’re right about me, there. And, to quote Audrey Hepburn:

        Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I’m possible!”

        No. When I agreed with you, it was with the idea that ‘supporting our troops’ – and/or failure to do so – is the fault/responsibility of BOTH (all) parties. That no hands are clean here, and that refusal to recognize is Willful Ignorance – partisan, and divisive.

        This being an election year, I understand some wish to demonize the ‘other’. But think it unwise, in the scheme of things.

        Skinning cats, and all that.

  • Rivegauche610

    Isn’t it long past time to jettison the vile conservative scum and begin the process of dividing the country into two?