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Ron Radosh

Perhaps the president’s handling of the Bergdahl-Taliban swap will be the one action that will turn the tide, pushing even his most stalwart supporters to become fed up.  I say this based upon a phone call my wife received last night from a relative, one of those perennial liberals who up to now has supported virtually every Obama policy and act. True, this is hardly a scientific poll or sampling. But we were stunned to hear this relative tell us how angry she was with the president. The deal, she said, was unconscionable and dangerous.

There is legitimate debate to be had about whether or not the administration should have moved to get Bowe Bergdahl back. Charles Krauthammer, in his much discussed column, argued in favor of Bergdahl  being freed and then tried by the military. At NRO, Andy McCarthy wrote a strong critique of Krauthammer’s argument, arguing that in the midst of a war that is not yet over, giving five top jihadists at Gitmo for one possible deserter is more than counter-productive. Moreover, it is quite possible he will never be court-martialed. Michelle Malkin reminds us that ten years ago this very month, a Muslim Marine deserted and although he was supposed to be court-martialed, a trial never took place.  This particular soldier was known to be supporting jihadists and regularly listened to their propaganda tapes.

As yet, we do not have all the facts about Bergdahl’s  desertion. Was he simply unbalanced and naïve? Was he an actual sympathizer seeking the Taliban  out? Or was his conversion to Islam and documented training with Taliban members done to save his life and prevent them from killing him? Or did it arise from a case of Stockholm syndrome?

Despite administration denials, especially Susan Rice’s now famous claim last Sunday that he served with “honor and distinction,” we know that the desertion took place. And there is good reason why the military treats deserters harshly. An armed force cannot survive, and ensure that dangerous missions are carried out and that discipline is maintained, if any soldier can decide at any time that he cannot fight and has to walk away.

It is also an insult to those who go into battle knowing that they may never come back. We were reminded of that when we paused to honor the sacrifice and heroism of those who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, where thousands were cut down, especially in the first group who left the boats and faced a barrage of German fire without any defenses to protect them.

The filmmaker Ron Maxwell reminds us in a Facebook post that during our Civil War in the extremely cold winter of 1862-1863, Stonewall Jackson’s aide-de-camp reported that three soldiers from the Stonewall Brigade had deserted. He  hoped that because of their age and that they had fought honorably with the unit for two years, they would be spared. Jackson replied  that it was a plea he could not accept. In a scene from his movie Gods and Generals, Maxwell writes what he thinks is likely Jackson said when he denied this appeal.  “Desertion is not a solitary crime,” Stonewall Jackson tells his aide-de-camp. “It is a crime against the tens of thousands of veterans who are huddled together in the harsh cold of this winter.” And so the deserters are tried in a court-martial and then shot.

In World War II, Private Eddie Slovik was sentenced to death by firing squad for desertion. Many now believe he was unfairly singled out as an example. Out of the 50,000 deserters in the war, many of whom received long sentences of jail time at hard labor, he was the only soldier executed. As WW II veteran Nick Gozik, who observed his execution by firing squad, has noted, Slovik was a brave man. He was given two chances to rip up his letter of intent to desert by officers, and rejected them. Slovik believed he was not constitutionally fit to engage in warfare, and he went to his death bravely without even flinching. But his execution — fair or not — indicates how seriously the U.S. Army dealt with deserters in World War II.

Some years ago, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, historian Michael Oren, wrote a prescient article about whether it is right to honor those who deserted in past wars, as had been the case when the British government erected an actual monument to those who had been shot for desertion in WW I, and then retroactively pardoned them. Oren worries that excuses for desertion might spread, and that Europe’s views “are symptoms of European attitudes toward not just World War I soldiers but toward all soldiers, even those who fight in just causes. And, if that is true, one might well ask: Can a society that valorizes its deserters long survive?” Oren believes that an attitude is developing that, since many now believe all wars are immoral,  deserters can be viewed as honorable. Would, he asks, Americans honor a soldier who deserted from the Union Army when its task became liberating slaves? Indeed, he notes that the Union Army actually had far more deserters than did the Confederacy. Oren writes:

For some Europeans, the aversion to military force is insufficient; they want Americans to lay down their arms as well. The Wall Street Journal recently profiled U.S. Army Specialist Andre Shepherd, a deserter living in Germany. Shepherd, with assistance from German peace activists, is seeking to stay in the country under an EU directive offering asylum to soldiers who refuse to fight in illegal wars. The German government has been paying for Shepherd’s room and board. “It’s just amazing here,” he told the Journal.

Today, the American left wing deals with the issue of Bergdahl’s desertion in two ways. The first is the growing chorus of those who blame his own unit for lax security, and imply that his fellow soldiers themselves were an undisciplined and carefree bunch. This is the editorial position of the New York Times, whose editors write that “the army’s lack of security and discipline was as much to blame for the disappearance, given the sergeant’s history.” The editors believe that Bergdahl is simply “a free-spirited man” who is unfairly being demonized by those who call him a “turncoat.”

What Michael Oren called “the eagerness to immortalize deserters” has already been taken up by some on the left, who justify Oren’s fear that some Americans might follow the European attitude. This time, it comes from The Nation magazine, the flagship publication of the American left.  Writer Richard Kreitner’s article is titled “The Honorable History of War Deserters.”

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Top Rated Comments   
Perhaps the president’s handling of the Bergdahl-Taliban swap will be the one action that will turn the tide, pushing even his most stalwart supporters to become fed up. I say this based upon a phone call my wife received last night from a relative, one of those perennial liberals who up to now has supported virtually every Obama policy and act. True, this is hardly a scientific poll or sampling. But we were stunned to hear this relative tell us how angry she was with the president. The deal, she said, was unconscionable and dangerous.

Perhaps. Perhaps pigs will fly. Perhaps the sky will fall and we can all catch larks. Perhaps the leopard will change its spots.

More likely, however, is that a few aging Leftists who have some vestigial patriotism from the half-century or more ago when the Leftist euphemisms "liberal" and "progressive" were not yet synonyms for "flagrantly and openly anti-American" are mildly discomfited. But their voices are few, and easily ignored---by the regime, by the media, by the ahistorical young.

It is a waste of time to keep messing around with the entrails of sheep trying to find a portent of sanity in the American Left.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
To a traitor, a fellow traitor is a hero.

To the left, all traitors are heroes. A country can and should allow principled dissent. But it should not glorify treason...or one day it will be ruled by it. That one day is upon us.


19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
It could be mentioned that Slovik, like so many of past wars, was a conscript soldier. Bergdahl volunteered.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (56)
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18 weeks ago
18 weeks ago Link To Comment


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19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
The left long ago parted ways with America. An issue as serious as this will pry a few Democrats loose from Obama, but not likely very far or long.


19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
WHY SHOULD BO BERGDAHL HATE PRESIDENT OBAMA?

Click www.apollospeaks.com for the answer.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not sure. My own anectodal evidence tells me that the hard-core Obamabot thinks that either a) Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban while doing his duty or b) he's a conscientious objector. In either case, he's considered a hero at best, or at worst a brave, free-thinking protester against Bush's illegal war. Either way, he's an American who deserves our full support.

I'm waiting to form a final judgement until I get more information about the kid and the events leading up to his capture by and/or desertion to the Taliban. I don't know whether his reported statements are the griping of a disgruntled soldier or serious expressions of his political beliefs.

At the moment, I tend not to view him in the most charitable light. He sounds like a crank. His parents (understandable parental concern for their son aside) sound like cranks.

But I think the kid's character - whether he "deserved" to be released - is a separate issue. The important thing is, no matter whether the kid was kidnapped or deserted, Obama made the deal to get him back. That's what we should focus on. If we beat on the Bergdahl too much, we look like bullies.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Regarding Pvt. Slovik, during the Battle of the Bulge, the supply of replacements from the US who were infantrymen dried up. At the same time, there were an estimated 25,000 AWOL/desertion individuals in Paris.

As the primary allegiance of a Muslim is to Islam and the Ummah, it is not clear how a Muslim can have any but a conditional allegiance to the Constitution and the US military if in the military.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Leftists ALWAYS try to turn bad behavior into a virtue. It's the only way they know to relieve their self loathing.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Even if they question their silly hollow man's actions in this one instance it's meaningless. They would still vote for him all over again if they could.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was going to post but you've said all there is to say. Finally, finally! (maybe) they're angry with Obama. But angry like no smartphone or ipad for a week angry. Angry like your grades better improve or else, Buster. Meaningless.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
He likes the Taliban 5 and he likes the deserter, for Obama it's a win-win.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hostile dictatorships do not waste time with onanistic hand-wringing about what to do with deserters. They just shoot them. During World War II, both the Nazis and the USSR executed thousands of deserters on the Eastern Front. There is little doubt what countries like Iran or North Korea would do with frontline grunts having second thoughts.

Leaving all moral arguments aside, if America's enemies ruthlessly maintain discipline while America itself indulges desertion, the practical result may well be defeat for America in a present or future conflict. Do even the most hardcore leftists really believe that such a result will advance the Western values that even they claim to uphold?

This is the same theme that invariably occurs with any leftist criticism of military operations or the military itself. They assume that we can, at will, reduce the unsavory aspects of war (punishing deserters, using terrible weapons, risking civilian casualties, etc.) without risking defeat and the even worse results that will entail. But this is just false. The reality is that extreme measures and victory cannot be separated, even if, in recent times, technological advances (like precision bombing) have made the military option less unsavory than at any point in history.

If we choose to go to war, it makes no sense to conduct it in any way other than that which will defeat our enemies as quickly and decisively as possible. When has leftist squeamishness ever had any result other than encouraging US enemies and prolonging the resulting suffering?
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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