While news of the deliberate downing of a commercial airliner in Europe continues to dominate the headlines, there's another story brewing that I'm guessing will once again become a major national news story very shortly.
After the Mountain Home News went to press last week, the Defense Department announced that it planned to court martial Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on charges of desertion and misconduct before the enemy. If convicted, the Idaho native faces up to life in prison in addition to the loss of his rank, pay and military privileges and benefits.
There's apparently just one reason why Bergdahl was returned to the United States after he went missing in Afghanistan back in 2009. Our president essentially "traded" him in exchange for five known terrorist leaders that were being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
So the question many people are asking is whether the United States made a good deal. Was it in our nation's best interest to trade five very bad people for one soldier whose actions in a combat zone have raised a number of doubts?
Whether these Taliban fighters return to terrorism is anybody's guess at this point. However, the "rock star" treatment they received once they arrived in Qatar doesn't fill me with a whole lot of confidence that they "learned their lesson" during their time in confinement.
This prisoner swap represents the best example of a "Catch 22" than I've seen in a very long time. Simply put, it directly conflicts with two major facets of military and national policy.
The U.S. military has a code of conduct that states that it will never leave anyone behind in a combat situation. There are documented cases throughout the nation's history where those in uniform risked their lives, with some wounded or killed, trying to retrieve the body of a fallen soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. That code of honor is taken very seriously.
Even to this day, there are teams scouring the jungles of Southeast Asia searching for the more than 1,600 Americans that are still listed as missing in action from the Vietnam War.
Here's where the Catch 22 arises in this case. The United States has made it a point that it will never negotiate with terrorists. Once our country starts down that path, it gets increasingly harder to change course.
It's clear that terrorist groups like the Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS know this and are using it to their benefit. As we've seen over the past several months in the case of ISIS, they've captured a number of people these terrorists were willing to exchange for money or their own followers that were taken prisoner. Failure to comply was followed by gruesome videos showing ISIS thugs beheading the people they held captive.
These terrorists also know the strict rules our military uses when it comes to armed combat. Since the events of 9/11, I've lost count how many times we let a bad guy get away because they were in close proximity to bystanders that would've died had we pulled the trigger.
But that's the unintended consequence of being the "good guys." The United States was built on the principles of democracy and freedom in the pursuit of peace.
Our nation's military operates on a very strict set of rules when it comes to conducting combat operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The bad guys know this all too well. In many cases, they use those same rules against the United States, "playing us" like the proverbial violin.
This is probably a good reason why we don't see terrorists go up against countries like Russia. Looking at what's happening right now in the Ukraine, it's clear the Russians don't "play nice" with others.
Our nation's military is built on the pillars of duty, honor and selfless service. Bergdahl's behavior is in sharp contrast to honorable people like Air Force Capt. Lance P. Sijan, whose aircraft was shot down over Laos during a nighttime combat mission on Nov. 9, 1967.
Despite the extent of his injuries, Sijan successfully evaded capture for more than six weeks before he was captured and held prisoner in North Vietnam. Ensuring brutal beatings and torture from his captors, he remained defiant, never disclosing any information to the enemy with the exception of his name, date or birth, service branch, rank and service number.
Sijan died while in captivity. Several years later, his remains were returned to the United States, and he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Let's compare both individuals. Sijan showed a tremendous amount of bravery and determination while in captivity. Bergdahl, on the other hand, has shown very little in terms of bravery. He's accused of deliberately walking away from the safety of his military compound for reasons I expect will be a key part of the evidence used against him during the pending court martial.
Here's something that doesn't make sense. Bergdahl wrote that he unsuccessfully tried to escape from his captors about 12 times over the years he was held prisoner. After that second or third escape attempt, I'm curious why the Taliban didn't kill him instead.
So the question remains: Did our president and our country get a good deal by trading five known terrorists for one soldier whose motives behind his disappearance remain in doubt?
I don't think we'll know for absolute certain until we know the outcome of his court martial.
-- Brian S. Orban