Fighting The Good Fight

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Memo to Republicans: PLEASE, DIE ON THAT HILL.

Over the weekend, the U.S. government negotiated with the Taliban for the release of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who'd been held captive for five years and the only known U.S. prisoner in the Afghan war.

This has made certain people grumpy, and I would like nothing more than to let them express their grumpiness as loudly and as often as possible, because I enjoy it when right-wing groupthink rushes headlong into objective reality convinced that everyone agrees with them.

In many ways, this is the writ-large version of the open-carry nuts freaking everyone out by bringing M-16s into Chili's. Everyone they talk to agrees with them and thinks they're cool, so of course mainstream America will love them, too, right? And so they're going to come right out and say that Bowe Bergdahl should have remained a prisoner in Afghanistan, or worse, because they think everyone will go along with it.

Unfortunately for them, they've spent the decades since Vietnam instilling into American culture that America's soldiers are not to be questioned. We cannot call the ones who kill babies "babykillers". We cannot fault the ones who stack brown people into naked pyramids. And we have to give prisoner abusers a shot at at least one term in Congress.

So good luck turning Bowe Bergdahl into a villain without seeming like a bunch of psychopaths.

There are, basically, two lines of attack here. First is the "Obama Is Weak" crowd, who come out every time Obama makes a foreign policy decision and say it's weak. Doesn't matter what the decision is, it's not strong enough. This faction is basically saying that it sucks that Bowe Bergdahl had to rot to death in an Afghani prison, but we have to hold true to our principles. And the primary proponent of this view is somehow presidential contender Ted Cruz.

"The idea that we're now making trades, what does that do for every single soldier stationed abroad? It says the reason why the U.S. has had the policy for decades of not negotiating with terrorists is because once you start doing it, every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers."

Sure! All you have to do is capture more soldiers before they all leave, hold on to them, feed them, and care for them for five years, and then you can get back five former "high level" Taliban prisoners who've been in legal limbo for a decade. I know these heathens don't understand American economics, but I'm pretty sure they can figure out the cost-benefit ratio on this one.

And, of course, the Taliban are only "terrorists" by the definition of "brown people we're shooting at". They're not actually considered terrorists by the State Department. They're not nice people, but not all utter bastards are terrorists. And of course, if you think a handful of prisoners, ten years older, having been treated to American "enhanced interrogation" for most of that decade, are going to be in any condition to make a difference in whatever fight we think we're having with them, you're insane.

But there is a deeper level of insanity. You see, Bowe Bergdahl was captured after leaving his base without permission. After sending e-mails to his family that indicated that, for some reason, seven years into the Afghan war, Bergdahl was disillusioned with the war and his country. Some on the "say anything to piss people off" front call him a defector to Al Qaeda. Others just imply it.

"No, Mr. President, a soldier expressing horrid anti-American beliefs – even boldly putting them in writing and unabashedly firing off his messages while in uniform, just three days before he left his unit on foot – is not 'honorable service.' Unless that is your standard." - Sarah Palin, in her role as six-inch sewage pipe between the fetid swamps of the right-wing id and the respectable company of D.C. politics.

There's only one problem. You know who else was sick and tired of the stupid fucking Afghanistan war for the past five years? Most Americans. So who are they gonna sympathize with? A quitter who bailed on their sacred duty to their country partway through, or Bowe Bergdahl?