News / USA

Americans Divided Over Soldier's Release in Exchange for Taliban Fighters

A sign celebrating the release from captivity of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl stands on a street in the soldier's hometown of Hailey, Idaho, June 4, 2014.
A sign celebrating the release from captivity of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl stands on a street in the soldier's hometown of Hailey, Idaho, June 4, 2014.
Zlatica Hoke
American public opinion is divided about the swap of five Taliban prisoners for a U.S. soldier who was held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan for nearly five years.  Opponents have questioned the circumstances of the soldier's capture and fear the exchange will encourage hostage takers worldwide. Supporters say that no American should be left behind no matter the cost.
 
One place where Americans stand firmly by Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is his hometown in Idaho. Welcoming banners hang around Hailey, a small town in southern Idaho, where many remember Sergeant Bergdahl as a boy.
 
"Bowe is a Hailey-raised kid and I think that the people in Hailey stick by their own until they have reason no to do it," said Karen Parker, a Hailey resident.
 
Residents were thrilled to hear of Bergdahl's rescue and were planning a celebration for him -- until they started receiving disparaging messages from around the country. 
 
"We've gotten hate mail.  We are being called 'traitor town' in Hailey, Idaho, because we support a young man that came from this community and we are glad he is free after five years," said Kathy Clark, another local.
 
Bergdahl went missing in June 2009, in Afghanistan's Paktika province, where he was deployed. Some fellow soldiers testified he walked off base and into hostile territory by choice.
 
"We just want people to realize he is not an American hero, that he is not - he did not serve with honor and dignity and respect.  He is a deserter in a time of war -- that's it, that's the whole message," said Joshua Cornelison, a medic in Bergdahl's unit.
 
Some who say they will not judge Bergdahl's actions before the circumstances of his capture are clear criticize the administration's decision to release five potentially dangerous prisoners for a captured soldier. Thriller novel author Scott McEwen spoke to VOA via Skype from San Diego.  
 
"There is a difference between, you know, leaving someone there and not, and letting go five major lieutenant/captains of a terrorist group. I think there's many things you could have done in between," said McEwen.
 
The swap has sparked resentment in some Afghan communities still scarred from Taliban attacks in the late 1990s. Farmer Abdul Karim remembers the attack on his village of Deh Saqi.   
 
"They [the Taliban] took our children and wives through Jalalabad to Pakistan and imprisoned us in Pulicharkhi jail. They burned down all our homes," said Karim.
 
The exchange has become a political issue between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress. Republican House Speaker John Boehner said he was glad Bergdahl was free, but condemned the swap.
 
"The biggest issue here is the violation of a policy that the United States has had for many, many years that we don't negotiate with terrorists," said Boehner.
 
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testified before a congressional panel Wednesday. 
 
"Our first priority is assuring his well-being and his health, and getting him reunited with his family," said Hagel.
 
Hagel said Bergdahl's case will be examined in detail after he has recovered.  In Hailey, residents wish him a speedy recovery.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs