NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

June 13, 2014

Judgment time is ahead

This is not a book review of “Duty” by Robert M. Gates, former secretary of Defense over more than four years during the presidencies of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

I’m a slow reader of autobiography, especially one as enriched with detail that takes us behind the governmental screens to the turbulence of two wartime presidencies.

I finished the book on the week that President Obama traded the release of the five Taliban prisoners for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Two of the prisoners are wanted for war crimes.

This we know of President Obama.

He played it for all it’s worth as a heart-warming story of a recovered hero.

That may be so. It may well be something far less.

We do not know what Bergdahl’s state of mind was when he is said to have simply walked away from his post and was captured some five years ago.

We do know what the five major Taliban prisoners did, and why.

It was so central to what has cost us dearly that it’s not only the nature of their release, but the degree to which they will continue to be a threat that is worrisome.

We also know that the exchange of the prisoners for Sgt. Bergdahl, given that President Obama did it without involving Congress, will be more than a footnote of his role in history.

Neither do we know what the state of Sgt. Bergdahl’s mental health was when he walked away from his duty.

That will be forthcoming.

Deserting one’s post in time of war is as serious a decision as one can make. In some of our wars, they paid with their lives.

We do not know why he did what he did.

That is going to take some time.

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