A shameful rush to judgment on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

A shop in Hailey, Idaho, celebrated the release from captivity of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
A shop in Hailey, Idaho, celebrated the release from captivity of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The Associated Press

All that the good people of Hailey, Idaho, wanted to do was welcome a son of their town back home. But this is America, the land of hot air and small minds and legions of relentless naysayers who bullied one small town into backing away from a good deed.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had spent five years in enemy captivity after leaving his post in Afghanistan. Yes he might eventually and convincingly be characterized as a deserter, as so many of his military colleagues and others who are quick to judge want to put it now.

But Bergdahl’s episode — the story of a possibly troubled young man in the midst of a troubling war — is still clouded by a profound lack of answers and of humanity.

We know very little about Bob and Jani Bergdahl, the soldier’s parents, who have every right to reunite with their son and receive their community’s warmth and prayers. And, yes, of course, it remains very tragic if other parents’ sons died in the wake of Bergdahl’s disappearance.

Still, too many people right now want to convict Bergdahl of those deaths and deny his parents any good feeling. And they seem to want us to be a nation that would have left Bergdahl in enemy hands or worse.

“What’s unfortunate is that many people have spoken out about this episode without having all the facts,” Sen. Claire McCaskill said this week. “And this rush to judgment is frankly un-American. Especially considering that this is somebody who signed up and said: ‘I’m willing to die for my country.’ And was held in captivity for five years.”

Good for her and for others in the blogosphere who advise that we all chill out and wait to hear from Bergdahl himself and, if necessary, from the military’s justice system.

The Bergdahl rescue came at the end of swift-moving and delicate negotiations on a prisoner swap — one American for five high-level officials of the Taliban — that had been discussed and reported on for at least three years.

President Barack Obama certainly has some explaining to do about the Taliban deal and its consequences for American security.

But his characterization — “we saw an opportunity and we seized it” — is not unreasonable, and clearly the political debate, when it’s not shamefully vicious, will be vigorous.