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#PRRant: The Bergdahl PR Disaster
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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I'm sure we have all heard by now of the hand-over of former prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl within the last few days by the Taliban in Afghanistan in exchange for five Taliban prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay for over a decade. These high-raking Taliban members, whom many in the current Obama Administration deemed as extreme risks against the United States, were flown to Qatar, where they were greeted as heroes. In fact, the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Omar, came out of hiding to purportedly release a statement saying the prisoner exchange signaled the beginning of the “ultimate defeat of the United States” in its war in Afghanistan.

Just recently in its “Best of the Web” column, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled 'Suck It Up and Salute': Bergdahl, Kerry and the left's view of the military authored by James Taranto. (The complete piece can be accessed here.) The media — broadcast, traditional, and digital — has been having a field day with reporting on the controversy over the Bergdahl release deal.

I am not going to quote extensively from the posting, but found it very interesting that Taranto asked in the beginning of his article: "How in the world did an administration known for political competence, if for no other kind, manage to pull off such a public-relations disaster? The answer is that the left has a very large blind spot when it comes to military culture."

At some length, the article noted the similarities and differences between a younger John Kerry's testimony as part of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War group to a U.S. Senate hearing in 1971 and some of the comments made by those in the Obama Administration seeking to justify why five high-level Taliban prisoners had to be traded for Bergdahl. It also revealed the fractious debate within the Administration on the propriety of such an exchange.

There are those, both within the Administration and in the general public, that consider Bergdahl as nothing more than a deserter. No one disagrees with the fact that the young Sergeant, before being captured back in 2009 by the Taliban, walked away from his post, leaving his military gear behind. In a time of war, abandoning one's military post without orders to do so is desertion. I'm not sure what the current punishment is, but 150 years ago the Articles of War of the Armies of the United States clearly stated desertion was a crime punishable by death. So was clearly aiding and abetting the enemies of the United States.

At the end of his article Taranto noted, quite tellingly, that “the bitter criticism of Kerry in 2004 and Bergdahl today would carry no force if it came from mere "right-wingers." It comes, instead, from servicemen and veterans who see the two men as having behaved dishonorably. Once again the left is being undone by its failure to comprehend the centrality of honor to military culture.”

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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