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The Despicable Republican Attack on an American Prisoner of War

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It is hard to fathom. Major elements of the once-proud Republican Party have stooped so low that they are systematically attacking an American prisoner of war because they believe it discredits their political adversaries.

Only one word serves to properly describe such behavior: despicable. And the mainstream media outlets that have enabled this attack by taking it seriously are not much better.

Here are the facts:

Over the weekend, President Obama announced the release of the last American POW in Afghanistan -- Bowe Bergdahl. In exchange, five Taliban prisoners were released from Guantanamo Prison into the custody of the Qatari government that had helped broker the prisoner exchange. The Qataris agreed to prevent the Taliban prisoners from returning to Afghanistan for a year, by which time America's combat role in Afghanistan will have ceased.

Almost immediately, the deal was attacked by Republicans as "negotiating with terrorists" -- an act that they say would encourage more "hostage taking."

In fact, of course the deal was a traditional prisoner exchange -- the kind that combatants do regularly at the end of -- and often during -- wars. Both sides released prisoners of war that were taken by the other on an active battlefield.

The president negotiated the exchange because his overwhelming responsibility was to fulfill his commitment not to leave any American soldier behind when America's combat role in Afghanistan ends later this year. What would the Republicans have done -- let him live out his life in the hands of the Taliban?

You bet this exchange was in the national security interests of the United States, because it sent a message to all of the men and women in the American military -- people who have volunteered to risk their lives for their fellow Americans -- that our country has their back -- that we will not forget them and leave them to die in some far off place once a conflict is over.

In fact many of the critics of the exchange never saw a day of combat in their lives. They stayed safely at home -- having dinners at their favorite restaurants, enjoying a round of golf on the weekends -- while they demanded that other Americans go to war in the Middle East. And now they have the audacity to question whether it is worth it to exchanging some Taliban prisoners to free one of the people who actually went to fight in their wars?

Many of the loudest critics are precisely the same "chicken hawks" who were the architects of the Iraq War -- the greatest security and foreign policy disaster of recent history -- premised entirely on intentional lies to the American people. In fact, many of them should have lost the right to be taken seriously on any matter of foreign policy, much less the right to be taken seriously when they -- in effect -- advocate that an American soldier be left as a POW for the rest of his life.

But the right wing's attacks did not end with assaults on the prisoner exchange itself. Now they have turned to attack the character of the POW himself and the circumstances in which he was captured.

The bottom line is simple. If Bergdahl's violation of a rule made him an easier target for capture by the Taliban, it is up to the American military to decide the facts of the case -- not the right-wing pundits. And if he should have been disciplined, that's up to the American military as well -- not the Taliban.

Whatever the circumstances, Bergdahl suffered five years of deprivation and hopelessness that is unimaginable to the sanctimonious "chicken hawks" who sat safely by state-side while others fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In fact their attacks are reminiscent of the shameful way America treated returning Viet Nam veterans almost half a century ago.

This time, the "Obama derangement syndrome" that infects the right-wing pundit class has led them into a dark place that is simply over the top -- even for them. Their Republican colleagues who are not so deeply infected by this disorder should restrain and silence them for their own good -- and to protect what is left of the reputation of what was once a respectable political party.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.