Bowe Bergdahl: Guilt by Association with Obama

by David A. Love

The Republican furor over the release of American POW Bowe Bergdahl just doesn’t make any sense — that is, unless you think of Sgt. Bergdahl as a stand-in for President Obama.

The Army soldier has not even set foot on U.S. soil after being held captive by the Taliban for nearly five years in Afghanistan.  And yet, Bergdahl, 28, has been tried and convicted in the media, accused of being a deserter, a terrorist sympathizer, and anything and everything but a child of God. Obama struck a deal securing the soldier’s release in exchange for America’s release of five Taliban prisoners.  The President ignored the law requiring him to inform Congress of the transfer of the Taliban prisoners 30 days in advance, and he is not apologizing.

Bergdahl’s parents are now receiving death threats, according to the FBI, amid allegations that six soldiers were killed searching for the solider.  Bob Bergdahl, Bowe’s father, who is a Republican, has been called a traitor, a Muslim and a supporter of the Taliban, while the rightwing echo chamber at Fox wants him to shave his beard because he looks like a Muslim.

Without a shred of evidence to substantiate the claim that Bowe Bergdahl did something unethical, illegal or immoral while serving his country, critics are ready to tar and feather the man and impeach the President at the same time.  There will be an investigation, to be sure, and the GOP faithful are chomping at the bit.

And say what you will about U.S. policy in Afghanistan, the blunders and the real questions about why the U.S. went over there in the first place, but it is certain that Bergdahl was a volunteer in the U.S. Army in the first place.  And while we don’t have all of the facts, we don’t need the whole story to know the military does not leave its soldiers behind.  So why should this soldier be any different?

Then there is the issue of hypocrisy among GOP lawmakers who urged for the man’s release — that is, until he was actually released from captivity and became another success story for the White House.  Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said he would support such a deal four months ago but backtracked just days ago once the deal was done.  The detractors are lining up to lambaste Obama, and yet they have failed to offer any alternative solutions.

Further, there are reports that Bergdahl escaped twice.  And now he is telling the people treating him in an American medical facility in Germany that the Taliban beat and tortured him and held him in a cage after his escape attempt.  If true, this bolsters Obama’s decision to act and could spell trouble for his Republican critics who would politicize that which should not be political.  It is a new low, even for barrel scrapers in the Tea Party and on Fox News.

Apparently all of this Republican criticism is too much for commentator Juan Williams — the lone wolf in the Fox wilderness who believes America should be loving Bergdahl rather than focusing on his father’s beard or other extraneous matters.

The cold hard fact is Sgt. Bergdahl has become a proxy for President Obama.  The Republicans have made a living profiting from white resentment over black progress. They have opposed any program that will benefit African-Americans, even if whites will benefit as well.  When one of those black people became the president, they shifted their focus to ensuring Obama fails at everything.

Lacking a legislative agenda, the President’s foes have nothing in their game but crass political ploys and bottom-of-the-barrel gimmicks.  They were unable to stop an Obama victory in 2008 and failed to kill Obamacare or stop his 2012 reelection.  After failing to impeach him for being a president while black — and despite their futile attempts to label Obama an Arab, a Muslim, a Kenyan, a fascist-socialist-Communist and everything else — President Obama’s successes continue, despite dysfunction in Congress.  Demonizing the President did not work, so Bergdahl and his father will do for now.

The Republicans, though mostly chickenhawks, usually position themselves as pro-military and would normally gravitate towards someone such as Bowe Bergdahl. But supporting the soldier does not support their narrative, which is that Obama must not succeed.  And Obama looking good does not look good for Republicans.

Meanwhile, there is proof the Republicans were trying to play both sides of the fence and were prepared to condemn Obama had he failed to secure Bergdahl’s release.  Last Thursday, D.C. sanitation workers found half a million signs dumped behind the Republican National Committee headquarters which read “IMPEACH OBAMA FOR LEAVING AN AMERICAN BEHIND IN AFGHANISTAN.”

You couldn’t make this up if you tried.

The Grio

David A. Love View more

David A. Love
David A. Love is the executive director of Philadelphia-based Witness to Innocence, a national organisation of exonerated former death row prisoners and their families in the US. He is also executive editor of, and a contributor to the Huffington Post and the NBC News site, theGrio. Follow David on Twitter @davidalove

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