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

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    From fast-food restaurants to pizza delivery, the history of take-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora