WASHINGTON – Americans are expressing confusion and emotional strain this week after it was announced that the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan was freed via a prisoner-exchange with the Taliban on Saturday. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl—who had been imprisoned by the Taliban for almost five years—was traded for five Taliban members who’d been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002.
“Obviously, I’m ecstatic that Bowe has been released,” said Greg Thompson, a veteran himself, from Cleveland. “What he went through must have been horrifying, and it’s wonderful that he’s free. But we negotiated with those godless bastards to get it done?”
“It’s like I had the best sex of my life, but then found out it was with my cousin,” Thompson added. “I feel satisfied and dirty, all at the same time.”
Kendra Leverington, of Boise, Idaho—near Sgt. Bergdahl’s hometown of Haily—echoed Thompson’s comments. “I don’t know if it’s a fair trade or not,” Leverington said, referring to the five Taliban members who have been released from Guantanamo Bay and relocated to Qatar, where they will be subject to a one-year travel ban. “But even if it was a good deal, I thought we weren’t supposed to be dealing with them in the first place. Next thing you’ll tell me it’s okay to wear a Hitler mustache again.”
Since the 9/11 attacks, the White House—during both the Bush and Obama administrations—has maintained that the US government will not “negotiate with terrorists” under any circumstances. But the deal under which Sgt. Bergdahl was released from captivity appears to most observers like an obvious example of just that—a careful negotiation and exchange with what the US government considers a terrorist organization.
“It’s causing a fair amount of cognitive dissonance,” said Prof. George Herring of the University of Michigan. “People know that freeing an American POW is good, but they also know that negotiating with terrorists is bad—and this whole Sgt. Bergdahl situation has basically fried their circuits.”
Not all Americans are having so much trouble with the deal, however. Others have already resigned themselves to the situation, Prof. Herring said, and are eagerly searching for other ways in which negotiating with terrorists might help the United States.
“We’re seeing it on the message boards already,” Herring explained. “People are suggesting all kinds of trades. Seven al-Qaeda fighters for oil rights in Iraq. Twenty Taliban prisoners for fifty kilograms of opium.
“Not sure how that second one would help America, actually,” Herring added. “But people are going pretty wild with it.”