No Soldier Left Behind

June 4, 2014

The Obama administration recently announced the release of POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive by the Taliban for five years. There are legitimate questions about Bergdahl’s capture, but Republicans are wrong to politicize his return. Here’s what you need to know and how to talk about Bergdahl’s release.

TOPLINES 

It’s a core principle of military honor that we never leave a soldier behind. That honor code, manifested in the Soldier’s Creed, is foundational for all of our armed services.
There are lots of details that aren’t clear yet. But the important thing is clear: Bergdahl is an American soldier. We bring our soldiers home first and ask questions later.
Republicans’ criticism has nothing to do with the facts. They just want to attack the President, and they’re happy to betray core military values to do it. A few months ago they said they supported this exchange, and now Bush officials have confirmed they’d have done the same thing.
Why do Republicans think it’s okay to leave an American soldier to die in enemy hands?

 KEY:  Connect with your audience |  Make your case |  Show how your opponents differ


VOCABULARY

Use this:

Instead of this:

Bergdahl may have gone AWOL Bergdahl may have been a deserter
Bergdahl was a POW Bergdahl was a hostage
Taliban is a military enemy

Taliban is a terrorist organization


ATTACKS AND RESPONSES

ATTACK: America should not negotiate with terrorists.

RESPONSE:

  • America should negotiate POW exchanges when wars end.
  • If you don’t know the difference between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Al-Qaeda conducts terrorist attacks against Americans around the globe; the Taliban is a legitimate military enemy that operates only within their own territory. The Bush administration made this same determination. Soldiers captured in our war with the Taliban are POWs, and when wars end, POWs on both sides go home
  • For the record, while it would be nice to think we never negotiate with terrorists, the reality is more complicated. Our Founding Fathers paid ransoms to pirates. Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush all negotiated with terrorists or terrorist sponsors. President Reagan popularized the idea that we should not negotiate with terrorists, but nine of his most senior advisers were indicted in the Iran-Contra scheme, which did just that.
ATTACK: We shouldn’t have made a deal for Bergdahl. He was a deserter.

RESPONSE:

  • Republican PR firm has been publicizing accounts that Bergdahl might have gone AWOL just to make the President look bad.
  • Any questions about Bergdahl’s record are military personnel issues to be dealt with by the chain of command. If Bergdahl went AWOL, he should be punished. But that’s a matter for a court martial, not a congressional hearing.
  • No matter what he may have done, leaving him behind is not who we are. We take care of our own and we punish our own.
ATTACK: Bergdahl is responsible for the deaths of American soldiers.

RESPONSE:

  • Eight people died in that province in the months after Bergdahl’s capture. But it’s not at all clearthat any of these deaths had anything to do with efforts to rescue him.
  • If Americans have given their lives to bring him home, it’s good that we finished the job. 
ATTACK: Obama’s deal to get Bergdahl back was illegal. He was supposed to notify Congress before releasing detainees.

RESPONSE:

  • Congress was on notice that this might move forward starting last December. The administration sometimes has to act more quickly than Congress is capable of, which is why they notified them then.
  • This is why we have a Commander-in-Chief who can act quickly on matters of national security to respond to changing circumstances.
ATTACK: We shouldn’t have released those Taliban prisoners. They will just attack Americans again.

RESPONSE:

  • By the time these men get home, the war will be over. And when wars end, POWs go home.
  • Members of the GOP, including John McCain, supported this exact deal with the same five guys being exchanged for Bergdahl in the past. A former high-level Bush administration official said that Bush would have made the same deal, too and that the Bush administration had returned around 500 Guantanamo detainees.