Cal Thomas: Bergdahl’s freedom came at too high a price

06/10/2014 5:23 PM

06/10/2014 5:23 PM

Defenders of President Obama’s release of five Taliban terrorists from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl cite as justification Israel’s history of swapping hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for one or two Israeli soldiers.

As strong an ally and example of democracy as Israel is, especially in a region sorely lacking in either, Israel is not the United States. Israel has its own interests and purpose for its actions. The world looks to the United States for leadership, and in this president and his administration it has found little.

There are important distinctions between Israeli prisoner exchanges and the Bergdahl deal. First, according to some who served with him, Bergdahl deliberately walked away from his post. The Israeli soldiers were captured while doing their jobs.

Second, because of the proximity to Gaza and the West Bank, Israel presumably is better able to monitor terrorist movements, while we have sent the Gitmo five to Qatar, a nation that reportedly funds Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida affiliates. Next year the released prisoners are likely to return to Afghanistan.

As former Israeli diplomat Yoram Ettinger wrote in the publication Israel Hayom, the head of Israel’s security service stated that 60 percent of released Palestinian terrorists revert to operational terrorism. Most of the 1,150 terrorists released via the May 21, 1985, “Jibril exchange” played a key role during the First Intifada (wave of terrorism), Ettinger continued, and more than 50 percent “of the Palestinian terrorists who were released between the 1993 Oslo Accord and the eruption of the Second Intifada participated in that wave of Palestinian terrorism.”

We should not have rescued Bowe Bergdahl. His freedom came at too high a price. War is hard and difficult choices must be made. The exchange has now given the Taliban a victory that the United States can ill afford to relinquish. One man’s freedom, quite frankly, has resulted in America’s continued bondage to Taliban extremism.

The president seems to have used Bergdahl as a convenience. He has long wanted to close Gitmo. It is one of his unfulfilled 2008 campaign promises. The president has declared the Afghanistan war will be over when American forces leave in 2016. But it isn’t over for the Taliban, who will likely return to their oppressive ways when we are gone, diminishing the sacrifices made by the American military and squandering the investment of American taxpayers.

Who doubts al-Qaida will also return to perhaps plot another Sept. 11 from the same territory? We won’t be there to stop them.

Whose hands will have blood on them if these five released Taliban members kill more Americans? Even the president has said it is “likely” they will rejoin their war. The only thing these people understand is power and resolve, but this administration has displayed weakness and vacillation.

During the just-concluded observance of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, a number of commentators noted how different Europe would be had America and its allies not destroyed Nazi Germany and then stood against Soviet communism.

How different will America be if we allow Islamic jihadists to have their way? While we practice tolerance, pluralism, diversity and freedom of religion, they practice the opposite. For them the war will not be over until they win it.

For America, packing up and going home isn’t victory; it’s just quitting.

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