, Salem, MA


June 18, 2014

Cyr: Where fault lies

The furor over the American POW Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl continues to escalate. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on June 11 faced hostile questioning before the Armed Services Committee of the House of Representatives. Members of Congress complain the White House broke the law by not consulting in advance

Meanwhile, striking sudden military gains are being made in Iraq by the exceptionally violent Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, shorthand title ISIS. The fall of Mosul, the nation’s second-largest city, represents a stunning victory in political as well as military terms. Iraq government security forces apparently provided little resistance.

U.S. forces are now in process of disengaging from Afghanistan where Bergdahl has spent five years with the radical Taliban, previous rulers of the country. Trading five Taliban leaders for Bergdahl further fuels opponents of the Obama administration. As Iraq appears to crumble, will Afghanistan suffer a similar fate?

One special aspect of this complex and disturbing tapestry of events is the degree to which Bergdahl himself has become a target of intense scrutiny and growing criticism. While he was still undergoing medical treatment in Germany, media detectives probed behavior before and after falling into enemy hands, as well as terms of his release.

Secretary Hagel was targeted for strident hostile questions, mostly of the rhetorical variety. Republican Representative Jeff Miller of Florida implied that Bergdahl was being kept in Germany rather than returned to the U.S. for political reasons. Hagel, a Vietnam combat veteran, as well as former U.S. senator, acquitted himself extremely well.

Historically, the United States has given a particularly high priority to bringing all troops home, including POWs. Comradeship, and emotional bonding vital in combat, is a feature of effective militaries. Americans go further than others in emphasis on the individual.

When Marines retreated from the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, under relentless Chinese assault in terrible winter weather, they carried out their dead, as well as wounded. Korean and Vietnamese officials have noted the sustained commitment by our government to identify and retrieve remains of those lost. Similar efforts continue regarding the missing from World War II.

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