“Presumed innocent until proven guilty,” that’s what I learned. I also heard that care should be taken with whom you associate. In other words, you might be presumed guilty just by associating with others who cause trouble. Whether right or wrong, you may and will be judged by the company you keep.
Is guilt or innocence determined by placing evidence on a scale and waiting for that scale to tilt beyond any reasonable doubt or at least by a preponderance in one direction or the other? How much that scale must shift to prove guilt depends upon the charge, but it must shift to prove guilt.
Sadly, I think those basic concepts are being forgotten. In many instances, the credibility of witnesses and of evidence presented no longer reaches the scale. People may talk of laws made by man, from nature, by God, or other Supreme Being. Christians recite any number of Biblical passages. Atheists propose numbers of justifications. Non-Christians, Agnostics, and others proffer their own insights.
Constitutionalists quote different passages and statements made by Founding Fathers or Revolutionary period individuals (unfortunately many students in US history courses do not realize the different time frames and are at times totally ignorant about the Articles of Confederation as our government) but rarely within any type of proper context.
What matters most today is not evidence or knowledge but who is being judged and that the judgment is correct if it matches are own personal opinion. I missed what I’ll term the hypocritical commandment. Thou shalt judge others but shall not be judged thyself in the same manner by which thou judges others.
I don’t know SGT Bowe Bergdahl or his family or friends. I’ve never even been close to the state of Idaho. All I’ve done is read a number of articles about the man, his family, and his capture over the past few years. Skip all the 2014 reports, and take a glance at earlier commentaries and opinions. The overwhelming majority write of an American soldier who is being held captive. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle expressed sympathies to the family and vowed to work to obtain his release. People started a White House petition calling for Presidential action. Lawmaker, famous, some like me or you, SGT Bergdahl was a soldier and a person missed by his family here at home.
Sure many questioned details. Was the reason for his captivity his own doing? Was Bowe Bergdahl derelict in his duties? Did he intentionally get captured? Was he just another on that seemingly infinite list of “being in the wrong place at the wrong time?”
Those questions, however, seemed secondary before this week. Secondary in the sense they would be answered when SGT Bergdahl returned to American soil. Those issues would then be addressed according to proper protocol.
I don’t know the answer and neither does anyone else. Nobody, perhaps not even Bowe Bergdahl himself is privy to all the information surrounding all of the events. In most cases, the evidence would be placed on that scale of justice to let it tilt in favor or innocence or to pronounce guilt.
Today, however, judgment in that manner is unreasonable. Unreasonable because what matters more than anything else are the political points one might achieve. People who claim the United States is a Christian nation basically shove Christianity out the door since it is not convenient in their effort to castigate the President. People who argue for Constitutional provisions ignore those tenants of rights for others which they claim for themselves.
President Obama broke US Code by not giving Congress 30 days’ notice to debate the issue. Consider the origin of that requirement, however, which is the National Defense Authorization Act first signed in 2012 and renewed in 2013 and 2014.
With those acts Congress attached the rider requiring their 30 days’ notice. President Obama signed them into law. Without his signature, military personnel would not have been paid (Congress was adjourned so the bill would die without any action) and Congress made it no appropriations without their rider. In signing, however, the President issued a signing statement calling into question that rider among issues in the “all or nothing” (my phrasing) bill.
Also during the timing of the Bergdahl negotiations, Congress was in another recess. As argued these recesses are for Members to engage with constituents, well I learned that my home state of Louisiana must now be a part of Texas because Ted Cruz, among others, was speechifying in New Orleans. Constituents today seem to be more about campaign contributors and upcoming elections than the people who vote in your district or state.
Some news outlets have already branded Bowe Bergdahl as a traitor. If it opposes President Obama, apparently information provided by Duane R. (“Dewey”) Clarridge is unquestionably accurate. So what if Clarridge had been indicted for lying to Congress in what we often call the Iran Contra scandal (President George H.W. Bush pardoned Clarridge during the course of his trial so guilt or innocence is unknown, but one would think that more corroborating sources would be sought before declaring “truth” regardless of singular source).
Sarah Palin had one opinion back in 2009 which was on the Alaska state government page:
“Todd and I are praying for Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, his family, and all of his fellow soldiers who are putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom and protect democracy abroad,” Governor Palin said. “The capture of Private Bergdahl and the bombings in Jakarta prove that we have not defeated terrorism, and that radical extremists will stop at nothing to attack Westerners and our ideals.” (Page removed upon updating but available on the wayback machine).
Today since the exchange occurred during the Obama administration or perhaps as a result of the Clarridge information Palin has on her Facebook page:
“This deserter chose to put our soldiers in greater danger by abandoning his post and purposefully hooking up with the enemy after writing of his disdain for the USA.”
Like so many others, the 180 turn in opinion took place following the release of Bergdahl, and apparently it is unnecessary to hear from SGT Bergdahl since the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Dewey Clarridge, Vladimir Putin, people who have been to Afghanistan, more people who could not find Afghanistan on a map, and every “expert” seeking 15 minutes of fame, are proven credible sources and have already passed judgment. Seriously, that’s how it appears these Constitutional seekers interpret American justice and law.
Sarah Palin also posted a photo of her daughter’s Twitter message. I really don’t know texting language, but apparently the acronym Bristol Palin used is common. As I have written before, the language on her reality show conflicts with my values in the manner in which I interpret Christianity so admittedly I’m not a fan or follower and do not give much thought to her opinion.
The hometown of Bergdahl apparently does not have the right to celebrate the release of a local resident. Regardless of how Bergdahl wound up in captive hands, his family and friends still care about him as a person. Agree or disagree with the community, but for those who argue rights are suppressed why is it then acceptable to suppress the rights of that community? If you don’t like it, don’t go. Is Idaho really along the way most people are traveling that this event will alter your schedule?
Why have opinions on judgement flipped flopped?
I’m not stating a position regarding Anwar al-Awlaki, but I find it amazing that people who criticized what they termed a “rush to judgment” in that situation have tried and convicted Bowe Bergdahl in their courts of judgment.
Look at the past
Historically, let’s dismiss this idealism that America has never negotiated with terrorists or the enemy. Every President in my lifetime has done so both openly and in private. If you predate the modern terrorist definition and use the term enemy, every President has conducted negotiations and deals. Obama is neither the first nor I doubt will be the last whether from the position of likelihood based on statistics or history. The ordinary citizen will not know everything regardless of the level of transparency.
We need to know everything? What if telling you or me puts someone else in jeopardy? As per the trade, in combat when is a uniform or person connected with your enemy or opponent not targeted? The kill or capture theme inside a conflict zone has not changed.
The United States in 2006 with President George W. Bush released Guantanamo prisoner Jabr al-Faifi to Saudi Arabia after extended negotiations. Jabr al-Faifi did get “rehabilitated” in Saudi Arabia according to conditions, but he then re returned to Yemen and rejoined al-Qaeda.
Now before anyone goes on the attack of George W. Bush for releasing prisoners and “negotiating with terrorists,” nobody really knew at the time that Jabr al-Faifi would act in essence as a double agent who saved an unknown amount of lives by revealing the 2010 computer ink bomb plot to the Obama administration and the British.
What’s different in that 8 year period is that Congress did not hold paying the salaries of our military over President Bush. he did not have the same Congressional Gitmo restriction as President Obama had to sign for our troops to be paid. Congress squawked over the release of Jabr al-Faifi. What’s different is the political party of the Presidents.
We did not know about Jabr al-Faifi in 2006 and perhaps we do not know about those released from Gitmo here in 2014.
I am not a scholar of that geographical region, but some scholars wonder if actors removed from the scene for a period of 12 years could return as trusted sources. Others wonder if these 5 men would want to leave the life they will have in Qatar to return to any type of life in Afghanistan.
I cannot forecast the future. I can say that I am appalled that Bowe Bergdahl has gone from being an American held captive to a despised and hated individual without any trial or opportunity to speak. I’m appalled that his family is being vilified. If one of my friends or family members were lost or held captive, I would do everything possible to bring them back. Learning a different language to communicate, Twitter, growing a beard, and so on are not evil and anti American. I was a kid during the 1980s, and I could not guesstimate the number of movies I saw with Americans going to rescue American POWs from Vietnam. There preparations and desires were not portrayed as anti-American.
Barack Obama is President of the United States of America. During his presidency, Bowe Bergdahl returned to American hands. SGT Bowe Bergdahl may be the nicest or the most evil individual on the face of the Earth today. Five years ago, however, many here wanted his release and criticized Obama for not making that happen. Today, Obama is castigated for Bergdahl’s release. Bergdahl is guilty without trial while others who had been proven guilty are regarded as American heroes or victims because those individuals shared a disdain for President Obama.
Congress, both sides of the aisle, have time for recess. They have time for investigative hearings after the fact. They don’t, however, seem to have the time to address issues before the fact. They will criticize decisions that they had the opportunity to but failed to make. The President is not stealing any power. The President is being forced to act because Congress refuses to work. They can vote to repeal Obamacare, but dang if they can pass legislation to help it work more efficiently. They will just fight about immigration but do nothing other than speechify. Economic development, reforming and clarifying the tax code, infrastructure, and so on are not seeing the light of day in either Chamber. Still, there is time for how many committees holding hearings on Benghazi before the naming of a Select Committee? How many committees will hold hearings about Bowe Bergdahl? Will there be another reading of Green Eggs and Ham to force another government shutdown?
Guilt, innocence, and such need not rest on facts. Rhetoric and propaganda sell more, and we do not care until someone judges us the way in which we try to judge another. It’s sad. It’s ridiculous.
Just because Barack Obama supports something, that does not mean it is necessarily good or bad. Those who oppose Obama, however, seem to find fault regardless of issue. Yet, those in Congress offer no alternatives and others fail to comprehend that to humor you, Barack Obama is wrong 100 percent of the time, but someone will still need to fix all of the problems you blame him for creating. Sadly, more time will be spent finding another scapegoat.
It is ridiculous.