America cares about its POWs, without exception

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an undated image. Bergdahl, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an undated image. Bergdahl, 28, was freed from captivity Saturday, May 31, 2014, after being held prisoner in Afghanistan since 2009, U.S. officials said. Photo Credit: AP / U.S. Army

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Ellis Henican Newsday columnist Ellis Henican

Henican is a columnist for Newsday. He also is a political analyst at the Fox News Channel and

You can't say, "We don't trade with terrorists." What you can say is, "We say we don't trade with terrorists."

There's a big difference between the two.

Ronald Reagan did it. Doubt me? Google "Iran-Contra affair." Oliver North, the architect, is a hero among conservatives today. In 2011, the notoriously tough Israelis sprang 1,000 Palestinian militants in exchange for a single Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit. Israel has made other lopsided trades with Hamas and Hezbollah -- freeing a total of 8,000 detainees in three decades, according to one count.

By that light, the 5-to-1 swap for Bowe Bergdahl -- five Taliban commanders for one U.S. Army sergeant -- is actually a relatively favorable exchange rate.

The Israelis did it for the same two reasons that Barack Obama did. They care about their people, and there is no better choice.

Whatever the merits of the individuals involved -- and Bergdahl was no David Hackworth, it seems -- no decent commander-in-chief leaves his own citizens forever in enemy POW camps.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Wars end, even long wars like Iraq and Afghanistan. When those wars are concluding, prisoners are inevitably exchanged. Many of them have done horrific things on the battlefield. That is the very nature of war. But POW grabs are not life sentences, whether it's our fighters or theirs.

Accept for argument's sake that Bergdahl is as terrible as his worst critics say. What's the right thing for us to do? Let him face justice when he returns to America? Or leave him behind in the war?

Ask the Israelis. Even Guantánamo will close one day.

 

WE DON'T

@Newsday

1. Make threats

2. Pay bribes

3. Break laws

4. Spy on friends

5. Trade with terrorists

advertisement | advertise on newsday

ASKED AND UNANSWERED: With all the cool-sounding criminal names out there -- Jack the Ripper, the Hillside Strangler, Son of Sam -- how'd you like to be "the Bald Bandit?" The follically challenged holdup man from Citibank in North Lindenhurst must be having some major self-esteem issues just about now . . . A church poor box in Selden last week. Now a ballfield snack-shop on Hempstead's Salisbury Park Drive? How much lower will LI's petty thieves go? . . . What are Brushstrokes I and II?: a) Two gigantic Roy Lichtenstein sculptures on the front lawn of the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, b) guaranteed traffic-stallers on already-choked Montauk Highway, or c) both of the above? . . . Bye-bye Bay Shore: Will the Entenmann's raspberry Danish twist taste just as fresh when it's trucked in from the Grupo Bimbo ovens in Horsham, Pennsylvania, or God knows where else? . . . When Melville-based Sbarro moves its HQ to Columbus, will the Brooklyn-born pizza chain start boasting about its "tasty Ohio slices?" . . . Noticing a pattern here? Who's the next company moving TO LI? . . . 23.6 percent of LI home sales are now no-mortgage-all-cash deals? So says MLSLI. Where do these people get all this money? Have you seen the asking prices?

THE NEWS IN SONG: Too weak to break the chains that bind me: James Brown's "Prisoner of Love," tinyurl.com/POW Love

Follow on Twitter @henican

LONG ISLANDERS OF THE WEEK: ROCKET KIDS

Hey, kids. There once was a time when Long Island was a global center of aerospace research and development. The Apollo lunar module was even built here. That's faded for reasons too numerous to detail here. But now's the time for a revival. And Saturday's rocket-building competition at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City was a splendid place to start. Third- to eighth-graders started with bottles, added parachutes and went from there. Lift off!

You also may be interested in: