Steve Rose

U.S. should never trade terrorists for captives

The president’s biggest mistake was exchanging Taliban captive Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five senior Taliban figures held at Guantanamo Bay.
The president’s biggest mistake was exchanging Taliban captive Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five senior Taliban figures held at Guantanamo Bay. The Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Democrat from Missouri, has declared that critics of the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl affair who “rush to judgment” are “un-American.”

No, Claire.

To let loose five known terrorists — two of whom are alleged to have committed “crimes against humanity” by their mass killings — that is un-American.

To negotiate with terrorists is bad enough. But to release five jihad criminals of this magnitude is outrageous.

If Bergdahl were the true hero he was touted to be early on, it still would not have justified negotiating with and releasing these high-level terrorists.

But it is becoming clear that Bergdahl may be anything but a hero.

When Bergdahl declared to his father in an email that he was no longer proud of his country and that he wanted to help the Afghans, he unfortunately followed his father’s admonition in his return email to “follow your conscience.” His father should have encouraged him to “follow your orders.”

I understand why Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers are so outraged at what they say he did.

Back in Vietnam, I recall one in our platoon who was on guard duty and was discovered asleep. The officer on duty who caught him decided not to charge him with an Article 15. But we never again rested while that soldier was on guard duty. That is something we will never forget.

So I can just imagine how Bergdahl’s platoon must have felt if he did walk away without his rifle, heading toward the Taliban. If true, that is desertion, and the punishment should be very harsh, even though he was a captive for five years.

Bergdahl’s small hometown in Idaho has decided to cancel its “welcome home” party for its “hero.” People feared, appropriately, there would be protests and controversy. Until the facts are known, I would not be tying a yellow ribbon to my tree, if I lived there.

President Barack Obama does not make mistakes all the time, as his enemies declare. But this time he did, and it was a whopper. Harsh criticism is precisely what the president deserves.

Obama showed a complete lack of leadership and has set a dangerous precedent that will surely backfire on this nation in the future.

Terrorists will know that, no matter what crimes have been committed, they can make a deal with the United States for the release of their worst fellow criminals.

I wonder if one of the terrorists at Guantanamo had been a perpetrator of the atrocity of 9-11, would we have let him go, as well, if that was the demand to let our prisoner of war go free?

The bad judgment this episode displayed will haunt this country.

And that brings us to the Rose Garden.

Why, oh why, if the president knew there were questions about Bergdahl — and he did know — would he parade Bergdahl’s parents before the world and say such glowing things about their son?

If you knew the soldier who was released was going to be immersed in controversy, don’t you think our commander in chief would have the good sense to keep this a low-key event?

This was a botched deal if ever there was one, from beginning to end.

It will look like even more of a botched deal if Bergdahl ends up in a court martial or if one of the released terrorists commits another atrocity.

I don’t think Obama should be impeached, even though I do believe he broke the law by not giving Congress notice, as required for release of Guantanamo prisoners.

But I do think most Americans will judge him harshly for this trade.

It was one of the lowest points of Obama’s presidency or any presidency.

To reach Steve Rose, a longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to