Let’s start with this:
With the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance no longer in any substantial doubt, the remaining outrage has focused on the Obama administration’s decision to trade five high-value Taliban terror detainees for him – several years after the Pentagon decided he wasn’t worth recovering.
Yet it appears the administration believed it would win a PR victory big enough to eclipse any legalistic hand-wringing on Capitol Hill, and whatever objections might surface among the military rank-and-file.
A White House official told MailOnline on Monday morning that Obama’s deputies were caught flatfooted by the intensity of public outrage in some quarters after Bergdahl’s rescue by Special Forces.
‘Everyone thought this would be a January 1981 moment,’ the insider said, referring to the negotiated release of 52 U.S. hostages in Iran after 444 days in captivity.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that there aren’t any military veterans in Obama’s inner circle. If there were I would expect that they would have told him that ransoming a deserter would not sit well with the millions of men and women who served in uniform.
But you can’t really blame them for guessing wrong, right? It’s not like anything like this has ever happened before, has it?
The story of Marine Pvt. Bobby Garwood is one of the strangest of the strange war America fought in Vietnam from 1959 to 1975. Captured by the Viet Cong in 1965, Garwood spent 14 years in North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camps, and when he was finally released in 1979, he came home not to a grateful nation but to a vengeful U.S. Marine Corps that put him on trial for allegedly collaborating with the enemy.
Branded a “traitor,” Garwood has become over the years the most vilified Marine in U.S. history. At his 1980 court-martial, Marine prosecutors accused him of desertion, encouraging other American soldiers to defect, maltreatment of fellow POWs, wearing the enemy’s uniform and carrying the enemy’s weapons.
Eventually, the Marine Corps dropped the charge of desertion — a charge even the top brass realized might be hard to prove against a Marine who had only 10 days left on his one-year Vietnam tour and was clearly looking forward to going home to Indiana.
But Garwood, a Jeep driver and headquarters gofer who never saw combat until he got lost one day and was captured by the VC at gunpoint, was still charged with “unauthorized absence” from his unit. After a hasty court-martial, Garwood was convicted of helping the enemy, reduced to the lowest rank in the Marine Corps and stripped of all pay and allowances — including the $148,000 in private’s pay that had built up during his 14 years in captivity.
Marine PFC Robert “Bobby” Garwood was not a prisoner of war for fourteen years. He was arguably a POW for eight years, but he voluntarily chose to remain behind when all the rest of our POWs from the Vietnam War were released in 1973. That might have had something to do with the fact that he collaborated with the enemy.
In 1979 he slipped a note to a Finnish diplomat in Vietnam and when the story broke the Vietnamese government quickly turned him over to us. A few years later he tried to claim that he had witnessed several other American POWs remaining in Vietnam after the war, but none were ever found and his story never check out. His claims were made during a period when there were several movies based on the idea of “lost” POWs.
I was in the army when Garwood returned, and I can tell you what the reaction was among me and my fellow soldiers. We considered Garwood a traitorous scumbag and we were disappointed that he wasn’t imprisoned.
The past few days we have seen many Democrats proclaiming that they “support our troops” and that it is always imperative that we “leave no man behind.” I say bullshit.
As a general rule we always want to take all reasonable steps to bring our service men and women home – alive if possible, but even their remains are precious. But bringing them home safely is not our military’s primary goal. We sent them into harm’s way for a reason.
No one would reasonably expect us to surrender to the enemy just to recover one of our captured troops. That is simply too high a price. But reasonable people could disagree on what price is acceptable.
It is very clear that Bowe Bergdahl was a deserter and possibly a traitor. If he is a traitor he deserves to die or spend the rest of his life in prison. Why would we want to ransom a traitor? He should be like Edward Snowden, forced to live in permanent exile in his new home.
But lets assume that he was merely a deserter. He has broken his oath and abandoned his buddies. Perhaps that doesn’t deserve punishment, but does he deserve any kind of support or consideration from us? We might take Bergdahl back the same way we did Bobby Garwood, but we shouldn’t have to pay for him.
FYI: Garwood is 68 years old and currently lives in Greenwood, Indiana.