Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Republican complaints about POW release just more election year hypocrisy

The mid-term elections are still five months away, but it’s never too soon to engage in hypocritical partisan posturing. Republicans grab onto any fig leaf to score a nebulous point, and such is the case in the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held prisoner by the Taliban for five years. While it can be a matter of discussion that the  circumstances relating to his POW status—apparently simply walking off his post, perhaps in the hope of being captured—and the cost it took to obtain his release, was out of proportion. However, the five high-level Taliban leaders who were released from Guantanamo Bay were not technically “criminals,” but legitimate officials of the former Afghan government and technically POWs themselves, so they would have had to be released sooner or later.

But Republicans, former military officers-turned-media “experts” and a few dough-faced Democrats have chosen the low road, taking the opportunity yet again to accuse the President of nefarious dealings and endangering the nation’s security. With troop withdrawals from Afghanistan soon to begin and an uncertain future for that still unstable country the only certainty, questioning what was ultimately required to bring about Bergdahl’s freedom seems more than a little petty spitefulness. After all, since when do the Republicans have anything positive to say about the President? It becomes a little old after awhile, like the boy who cried “wolf” once too often. 

The truth of the matter, of course, is that the U.S. has negotiated with non-official elements for over a century, beginning with Filipino insurgents opposed to U.S. imperialism during the Spanish-American War. Nor did the U.S. see anything ethically or morally wrong with doing business with fugitive former Nazis if they were “useful”—and even employed in the U.S. space program those who helped build the V-1 and V-2 rockets that rained destruction and death (literally a  terrorist operation) all over Britain. The U.S.—both under the Lyndon Johnson and the Nixon administrations—also negotiated with the Viet Cong in order to effect the release of American POWs.

More pernicious was the activities of the Reagan administration, famous for undertaking business with the aid of an illegal shadow government created to deliberately skirt the law. The infamous “October Surprise” showed that Reagan and his associates were not above such underhanded tactics as negotiating with the “terrorist” government of Iran in order to delay the release of the American hostages, so as not to be seen as “advantageous” to the Carter administration if they had been released before the 1980 presidential election. Reagan also negotiated with the “terrorists” in Iran to effect the release of American captives in Lebanon—and more “famously” sold weapons to Iran in order to illegally fund right-wing so-called “freedom fighters” against the legitimately-elected government of Nicaragua. 

We could go on and on with this. The Clinton administration was forced to deal with Serbians accused of ethnic cleansing and other human rights violations to achieve a peace deal in the Balkans, while the Bush administration was aided by questionable characters in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tried to “deal” with Taliban and Al-Qaeda detainees in Guantanamo Bay for intelligence information. Thus the current Republican “complaints” should be seen for what it is: More bare-faced, partisan hypocrisy to gain “traction” for the coming election.

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