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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs