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If You're Not Cheering Bowe's Return, You Didn't Want to End the War

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BOWE BERGDAHL
Pool via Getty Images

If you're not cheering the Obama administration's successful diplomacy to bring home prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, you must be a Republican warmonger. I will buy dinner for the first person who can show that they have been agitating to end the war in Afghanistan but now oppose the Administration's successful diplomacy to win Bowe's release.

If it's true that the people who are opposed to the diplomacy to win Bowe's release are a subset of the people who want to keep the war going, then we should question why these voices have gotten so much play in the media, since they represent nothing in terms of public opinion. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents wanted the war to be over a long time ago.

If the war is ending, then we are about the business of bringing our soldiers home. If we are not about the business of bringing our soldiers home, then the war is not ending.

If the war is ending, then prisoners of war go home. That's embedded in the definition of "prisoners of war." Whatever thin excuse remained for keeping prisoners detained without trial at Guantanamo goes away when the war goes away. Therefore, the five Taliban prisoners exchanged for Bowe's release had to be released anyway.

Indeed, if you're not cheering the Obama administration's successful diplomacy to bring home prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, then you didn't want to close the Guantanamo prison. Closing the prison means that the prisoners who are there have to go somewhere else. Normally, when prisoners of war are released they go home. In this particular case, the Taliban prisoners agreed to go to a kind of house arrest in Qatar, preventing them from leaving the country, and the government of Qatar agreed to it as well. That's a bonus.

If you want to close the Guantanamo prison, this was not a trade of something good -- releasing Bergdahl -- for something bad -- releasing the five Taliban prisoners. This was a trade of something good -- bringing home Bowe -- for another good thing: transferring five prisoners from Guantanamo. It was win-win.

It's regrettable that more Washington Democrats haven't yet spoken up to defend the administration's successful negotiations with the Taliban to free Bergdahl. Outside the Beltway, bloggers like Markos Moulitsas and Juan Cole told it like it is. But so far the attitude among many Washington Democrats seems to be: it's the president's job to take the heat on this. We're just going to hide under our desks.

Maybe if you're a Democratic incumbent with a tough re-election race, determined not to offend anyone you don't have to, you have a case for getting a pass. But most Washington Democrats are not vulnerable incumbents. Ending wars requires talking to people that Washington doesn't like. It's a bad precedent for the future if the "right wing noise machine" goes unchallenged on this.

If you think that Members of Congress who support diplomacy should be speaking up, you can tell Congress so here.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, after this piece was posted, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went to the Senate floor and gave a speech strongly defending the administration's use of diplomacy to rescue Sgt. Bergdahl and denouncing Republican critics as hypocrites who previously demanded that the president act to win Bergdahl's release. The Hill reported Senator Reid's speech here.