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And Now We've Successfully Politicized the Return of an American Military Prisoner

This undated image provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. U.S. officials say the only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan has been freed and is in U.S. custody. The officials say Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's (boh BURG'-dahl) release was part of a negotiation that includes the release of five Afghan detainees held in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)Who was is that said that the United States doesn't negotiate with terrorists? It was Ronald Reagan, and he said it while he was in the middle of selling Hawk missile parts to Iran as part of negotiations with terrorists to return our hostages in Lebanon. This was also in the middle of the great '80s "Missing in Action" action-adventure film craze in which various people — Chuck Norris, David Carradine, Chuck Norris — conducted private invasions of Vietnam to rescue military prisoners. The idea was etched in stone: If bad people take you hostage or prisoner, the United States will lift every stone to make sure you come home, because to do otherwise was dishonorable.

In an act of great disgrace and shame, all that changed over the weekend.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, appeared on Fox & Friends on Monday where he asserted that the White House did not follow the law when they negotiated the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity in exchange for five high-ranking Taliban prisoners. He said he intends to investigate the prisoner swap and criticized President Barack Obama for ending the “chapter in American history where we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

Well, first of all, he's lying when he says that America hasn't negotiated with terrorists. This isn't a case where he's simply wrong. As chair of the House Intelligence Committee, he no doubt knows full well that we've negotiated with terrorists before to get people released, have done so since terrorism and organized crime became things, and will do so in the future because it's easier to get your people back through negotiations than waving your, umm, guns at them and sending in the special forces, which tends to get lots of friendly people killed.

We haven't emboldened terrorists or sent a message that we do things differently. We and everyone else (anyone care to guess how many times the Israelis have swapped prisoners with Hamas and Hezbollah?), when there's no other choice, have negotiated with terrorists. In fact, most of the actual heat Reagan took for saying that we don't negotiate with terrorists came from foreign and military policy experts, who said such a rigid stance needlessly and stupidly bound our hands in getting our people back.

Having read a few articles about this guy over the years, I have the same questions everyone has about his conduct and the reallocation of military resources required to go looking for him. That, of course, is part of the military code that we don't just abandon people. The president's hands are tied on this, and his top brass and his military people and veterans everywhere would never forgive him if he picked and chose who he brought back. It's simply the way we did things, until the end of May, 2014, when half the United States decided that the "everyone comes home" only applies to people rescued by Republican presidents.

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