Support our troops… sometimes

When the public debate turns to whether the U.S. military should reconsider its policy of leaving no soldier behind in war, you know the public debate over Bowe Bergdahl is fever fueled.

It all stems from the prisoner exchange for Bergdahl, the Army sergeant who may or may not have deserted his post in Afghanistan, where he and his colleagues were — if you follow the recent Memorial Day speeches — fighting for our freedom, including our right to try a man in public before waiting for any details surrounding his late-night walk into the arms of the Taliban.

Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. But the talk shows, politicians, and echo chambers have the story in an election year now, so we’ll have to wade through the muck to eventually learn the real story. Patience to do so really isn’t our “thing,” however.

Today, the Star Tribune rips them all in a no-holds-barred editorial that calls the public reaction “a national disgrace.”

Sorry, we must have missed the asterisk tacked onto those “support our troops” bumper stickers. From the uproar over Bergdahl’s release after five years of captivity, it looks as if that support was only for those serving who never made a mistake on the front lines.

And if there isn’t national consensus on the right ratio of enemy prisoners to one American soldier? Or if the approval process was expedited for an American soldier’s release? Tough luck.

“The message sent by Bergdahl’s return is that Americans don’t leave their own behind, no matter what. That is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness,” the Strib says.

They’re questioning that now, too, the New York Times says in an article today.

“I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy,” the Army Ranger creed states.

“We don’t leave soldiers on the battlefield under any circumstance unless they have actually joined the enemy army,” John Bellinger, a top State Department lawyer during the Bush administration, told Fox News yesterday. “He was a young 20-year-old. Young 20-year-olds make stupid decisions. I don’t think we’ll say if you make a stupid decision we’ll leave you in the hands of the Taliban.”

“The only question that required an immediate response was, did the United States want Bergdahl back and what were we willing to trade?” columnist Kathleen Parker writes today. “This was indeed a hard choice — and the answer had to be yes.”

Related: Inside the Obama administration’s debate over freeing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (The Washington Post).