Most Americans will agree that rescuing a prisoner of war is the right and patriotic thing to do; however, when this prisoner of war apparently converted to Islam and declared jihad while in captivity, the action turns from one of heroics to one of controversy and doubt.
Regardless of the reason behind Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s conversion and change (whether he did so to ease his captivity or out of free will), his actions while in captivity along with the release of five of the most dangerous Gitmo detainees drastically increase the security threat toward America.
This controversy is further muddled by the fact that Obama bypassed the law by not giving Congress a thirty-day notice before releasing the inmates from Guantanamo Bay.
Having just finished my second book, Our Presidents Rock!, it is interesting to contemplate how previous presidents would have acted if they were in President Obama’s shoes today. Would George Washington have negotiated the release of Sgt. Bergdahl? Would Franklin Roosevelt have released five of the most dangerous Taliban members in Gitmo? Would the military experience of Andrew Jackson and Dwight Eisenhower have influenced them toward compassion or chastisement for Sgt. Bergdahl?
First, George Washington — the general — would never have allowed Sgt. Bergdahl to walk off his base unarmed in the first place. Known for his military leadership and tight control and regulation of his army, Washington would have ensured that his men stuck to their positions and refrained from wandering into enemy range. Furthermore, Washington never tolerated any form of desertion, going so far as shooting men who attempted to desert during battle. Needless to say, Bergdahl would never have been a POW were George Washington still the chief commander of the U.S. Army today.
George Washington — the president — would have acted in the same manner as George Washington, the general: carefully contemplating, to the full extent, Sgt. Bergdahl’s actions on the day of his capture and his overall conduct while serving in the war before negotiating his release. Had Washington read the emails Sgt. Bergdahl sent to his father about being “ashamed” to be an America followed by his subsequent declaration of jihad, Bergdahl would have received great chastisement (to say the least).
Andrew Jackson would share Sgt. Bergdahl’s pain, in that he served as prisoner of war during the Revolutionary War. And that’s exactly where Jackson’s sympathy would end. Although both men experienced the same terrors of war, their responses to the situation differed greatly. Jackson, only a boy at the time of his imprisonment, refused to be intimidated or swayed by his British captors and instead displayed courage (or recklessness) far surpassing his young age. When a British soldier asked Jackson to shine his shoes, Jackson refused, receiving a large cut across his face from the soldier’s sword. Thus, upon hearing of Sgt. Bergdahl’s acquiescence to the request of his Taliban captors, Jackson would have shown no mercy.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as president during the Second World War, understood the responsibility of holding prisoners of war firsthand. However, for Roosevelt, the more POWs in America’s hand, the better. In 1942, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the collection, detention, and near imprisonment of all Japanese-Americans after the Roberts Commission concluded that Japanese-Americans had helped organize the Pearl Harbor attacks — although no substantive evidence existed. In light of Roosevelt’s actions, there is little doubt that he would have absolutely refused to release the five Gitmo detainees back to the very people who still pose a grave threat to America. This is further reinforced by the recent statement from the Taliban explaining that former-detainee Noorullah Noori is anxious for and insistent upon his return to Afghanistan to fight American forces in the region. Roosevelt must be reeling in his grave.
Dwight D. Eisenhower’s opinion can be seen through his D-Day message, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” As a man who experienced both world wars and led the Allies to victory during one of the worst wars the world has ever known, Eisenhower would not have agreed to a negotiation that would possibly reverse years of fighting and the sacrifice of thousands of American lives. For Eisenhower, a man for whom “the ends justify the means,” saving one American POW (when six or more men died while searching for him) in exchange for the release of five dangerous American enemies (who could potentially kill thousands of Americans) would not equate.
In short, Sgt. Bergdahl should be grateful that he lives in this era and was rescued under the presidency of Barack Obama. Had Bergdahl been born and served his country at any other time in America’s history, his story could well have ended differently.