Skip to comments.A Vietnam War POW Takes America to tTask Over its Treatment of a Taliban POW (Bergdahl)
Posted on 07/07/2014 3:25:51 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Recently released prisoner of war U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a man I can identify with. On April 20, 1965, I was flying a night combat mission in an A4C Skyhawk over what was then called North Vietnam. My own bombs malfunctioned upon release during a run on enemy trucks. They exploded just below my airplane, blowing the wings and tail section off. Instantly I was in a whirling cockpit hurtling toward Earth, over enemy territory, but managed to eject and parachute to the ground. I spent the next four days on the run through the jungle before being captured. I then spent the next 2,855 days as a captive POW in North Vietnam.
During those years I and other POWs endured terrible conditions and periodic torture sessions for political propaganda, public display and false confessions. We each resisted to our individual utmost but ultimately our captors extracted written confessions (ones that we made as improbable and silly as possible) from everyone.
Ive been asked if I was a POW with U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. The answer is no John McCain was a POW with me. You see, he got there two and a half years after I was captured. John and I were in the same company at the U.S. Naval Academy, so I had a prior personal relationship with him. I say this because I cant understand his hawkish attitude toward getting involved in more wars, let alone his attitude toward the prisoner exchange that led to the release of Bowe Bergdahl. I heard John say the price of exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl, five of our Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was too high because they might be dangerous when released. Maybe he has forgotten that in 1973 our country made an exchange to bring 801 of us back home. The price of that exchange? A country.
We agreed to give up and withdraw our troops in exchange for Vietnam. Could anyone dispute that there were dangerous people in North Vietnam (maybe 30 million of them) at that time? In fact they could and did harm American soldiers for the next two years before we completely withdrew in 1975. So I dont hear McCain complaining about that prisoner swap.
Speaking for myself, Im pretty happy with both of them.
No one could possibly believe the Taliban treated Bergdahl well. Reports so far indicate the Taliban confined him to total darkness in a small metal cage for weeks at a time. They also suggest he was beaten and otherwise tortured during his nearly five years as a POW and that he was extremely ill when he was finally released. Yet there is a clatter of nonsense coming from right-wing pundits and multiple armchair warriors, writing and appearing on national TV, arguing that we should have left Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American POW, in Taliban hands.
Its easy for political hacks and chicken hawk commentators to discount the value of one American soldier, especially when there is a perceived partisan political benefit to doing so. Since he was rescued, Bergdahl has been the target of constant attacks. There have been suggestions that he deserted, that he did not deserve to be rescued and that he was somehow worth less than five members of the Taliban. Even his family has had to endure violent threats and his hometown canceled a parade in his honor because of the vitriol it inspired. In my opinion this is simply un-American, unpatriotic and unconscionable. The circumstances of Sgt. Bergdahls departure from his unit and capture are still being investigated. And he might very well have had the same popular political views now held by a majority of Americans: that we cant win a war in Afghanistan and should get out as soon as possible. Its true that if he did hold those views, he should not have acted on them while involved in active combat duty. And tragically, some of his fellow soldiers may have faced Taliban attacks during the search for him. But none of that obviates our countrys sacred obligation not to leave its fighting men and women in enemy hands. The Taliban held Bergdahl for nearly five years. Five years of brutality at the hands of our enemies.
There are real costs to war. I know that in a way that most of our politicians never will. And there are real risks; make no mistake that releasing five Taliban members was a risk. But to suggest that because there is a risk to trading five Taliban members for our own soldier we should not have done so is cowardly and un-American. Moreover, following that line would put our men and women in uniform at further risk. Why would the enemy keep captured soldiers alive if they knew we didnt value them enough to exchange enemy prisoners for them? I believe this prisoner swap for Bergdahl was brave and honorable. I am disgusted and sickened by the armchair warriors and political hacks that have come out of the woodwork to attack Bergdahls release from captivity. The majority of them are political partisans who oppose everything the president does and they are using this young soldier as a means to attack the president. My hope in all this is that Americans will eventually understand the truth underlying this incident, and that truth is this: We can never give up on our young men and women who we send into harms way. The broader lesson is that we shouldnt be getting into all these needless wars, wars that we cant win or benefit from to begin with. We should use better judgment and diplomacy to avoid the terrible costs in blood and treasure. But who knows? Maybe this incident with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will create a greater national discussion that will bring sensibility and humanity back to our country. To that end, Id like to offer a personal and heartfelt note: Welcome home Bowe.
Phillip Butler, PhD, a retired U.S. Navy aviator, is a peace and environmental activist who lives on the Monterey Peninsula. For more, visit www.philbutlerphd.com
Does he not understand the POS in question was not captured, but in fact deserted to the enemy and likely gave them useful intel?
Makes all the difference in the world to me.
Apparently Phil feels sorry for the traitor.
I respect this man for his service and for his sacrifice, but his statement simply holds no water for me.
Lord I hate hippies, no matter what flavor they are.
He deserted and then went rogue. Big time difference.
I respect the opinion of those men who served with him before he deserted. I side with them, and if it puts me on the other side of the fence than this former POW, I can live with that.
What would he say if he were rather captured, or his squadron-mates killed, on missions to rescue Jane Fonda?
No more need be said-- However, I thank Mr. Butler for his service to our nation in Vietnam... but he nowadays is a full fledged blivit, that's an old Navy term for "ten pounds of manure in a five-pound bag."
I can understand how someone who was a POW can empathize with Bergdahl but to do so means he has to overlook the fact that Bergdahl deserted and that is how he got where he was.
Bergdahl is a traitor and he should be treated like one.
This man Butler has broken faith with any person who wears or has worn the uniform. He is an ultra-liberal Democrat, and if that is a fact (and it is) he wishes to surrender this country to those who wish it ill.
The author laments how politicized Bergdahl has become...
While completely forgetting who politicized it. Barry brought his parents into the Rose Garden, to make a spectacle over it.
If the nature of his desertion is really still ‘under investigation’, the manner in which Barry gave his ‘seal of approval’ in the Rose Garden speech is beyond stupid. As commander in chief, he polluted the investigation...and as politician in chief, he took a fairly simple desertion case and made it very clear where liberals should line up.
As to the trade - the author forgets to note how Barry has pushed to release the fab five since he first took office, and put the onus on the military and intelligence agencies to prove why they shouldn’t be released. Then, all of the sudden, a prisoner swap? Its all too obvious that Barry wanted to release these very dangerous men. The only real question is why. But window dressing this release as a prisoner swap doesn’t change how dangerous this release was.
But don’t worry...they promised to stay put until after the mid-term elections...not that Barry politicized the situation, or anything like that.
Yep. See my post at #13.
I won’t be to hard on this pilot and former P.O.W. But he is failing to differentiate between captured and deserted.
All evidence points to Bergdahl walking away from his post, and everyone else in his unit seems to support this narrative.
I'd be curious to know how much the Democommies paid the author to dream up this fiction. Did someone get jammed up with a commodities investment, or is upside down on his McMansion?
It matters not to Phil the egregious desertion of Sgt. Bergdahl. Due to the trauma suffered by years of POW incarceration, his mindset operates in very narrow parameters. Logic, in the manner exercised by those not so wounded, is impossible.
I thank Phil for his service, sacrifice, and grievous mental trauma. That being said, I would no sooner expect cogent thought on this topic from him than I would expect to see a Viet Nam era paraplegic dunk the ball at an NBA arena basket.
As someone who have been in a leadership position I would make him accountable for his actions. People died and their families deserve answers.
This former POW is a hard leftist liberal. To me, he surrenders any default respect and cover he gets by supporting the extreme liberal agenda which is deliberately destructive to the United States.
The fact that he cannot distinguish the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture completely invalidates anything he has to say on the subject.
I think most humane and compassionate people might adjust their stance (or at least expose it to considerable reflection) on negotiating with those people if it was a person captured against his will while doing his job.
I don’t think there is any dishonor in opposing this swap in every single way, shape, or form, due to the circumstances surrounding his desertion.
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