The recent release of the last American POW in the Iraq-Afghanistan War era should have been a cause for relief, if not celebration. The fact that this release was accomplished through the exchange of five prisoners from Guantanamo, some of whom have been imprisoned for almost a decade and a half, seemed reasonable as well as a hopeful step in the direction of closing the American Gulag. Predictably, the opponents of President Obama have a problem with all of this.
The release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl pursuant to a prisoner exchange should have been one more entry in what is hopefully the last chapter of this country’s exit from the bloodbath that has been the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. The war in Afghanistan was a poorly planned misadventure by the Bush-Cheney team – a misadventure that morphed into a quagmire, consuming thousands of American casualties and billions of American dollars. The war in Iraq was hatched from misinformation and the wet dreams of neoconservative chicken hawks who feel no shame, regret or remorse in sending Americans to their death for no good reason.
Sgt. Bergdahl being the last American POW from these twin military disasters is a reminder of how disastrous foreign policy mistakes can be. It should also be one more reason for everyone to hit the Pause button prior to calling for America to “do something” in Libya, Syria, Ukraine or Nigeria. “Something” costs lives. “Something” costs money. “Something” can create chaos out of confusion. Many times “something” is not the answer and not doing “something” is not a sign of weakness as so many of the critics of President Obama would have us believe.
The fact that Sgt. Bergdahl was exchanged for five Afghan prisoners who have been held in Guantanamo is a reminder that there is still a hell hole of torture, cruelty and violations of basic human decency that is owned and managed by the United States of America. Whatever the justification might have been for using Guantanamo as a holding pen for suspects in the war on terror (and why does the United States even have a military presence in Cuba?), there can be no justification for holding these prisoners without due process and resolution.
Meanwhile, we are faced with the specter of American soldiers force-feeding Guantanamo prisoners in the name of …………….Freedom? Liberty? The American Way? There is no way that Guantanamo, a prisoner of war camp in an undeclared war, can be rationalized. And every day that this relic of past American colonialism and present day American barbarism exists, it gives a lie to all of the glorious and magnificent aspirations of this country.
The existence of Guantanamo and its defenders are really telling us that this country has a very long way to go before it even begins to approach the ideals that it claims are the reason why the United States of America is supposed to be exceptional.