The American Gilad Shalit

Watch this, then read.

For an interesting contrast in societies and to see what “supporting the troops” really means, the Gilad Shalit affair offers a good example of a country that actually understands what that statement implies and does not simply use it as a hollow slogan. For the 5 years since his capture by Hamas, the entire Israeli state was singularly focused on the fate of this one individual, his name was known well by every Israeli and his image was ubiquitous in the media.  He was, as a soldier, truly “supported” and it is difficult to argue that popular pressure did not help influence the Israeli government to engage in the lopsided prisoner swap which resulted in his repatriation. None of this is brought up to whitewash or apologize for the crimes of the Israeli government or to endorse military jingoism, but rather as a concrete example of actually doing what many of those in the West who support and advocate for wars claim they do, that is “Support the Troops”.

Who is the American Gilad Shalit? There is no figure who occupies such a place in the consciousness of the average citizen; but it should be Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The overwhelming majority of Americans, including those supporting the continued U.S. military intervention in foreign countries are likely unfamiliar with his name, but he is a U.S Army POW captured by the Taliban in 2009 and still believed to be held by them today. He has a bit in common with Gilad, they are both the same age (25), the same rank, and both have parents who have tried through their own efforts to bring awareness to the continued incarceration of their sons. The difference is that Gilad became a cause celebre among the people of his own country, while Bowe continues to suffer in obscurity. Where is the outcry and demand for his freedom among the war cheerleaders, but more importantly where is it from the average citizen?

Let me be clear, I am fiercely opposed to the war in Afghanistan, but the blame for its continued prosecution (and the crimes against humanity all such wars and occupations inevitably entail) does not ultimately lie with the average soldier sent over into an impossible situation. Sgt. Bergdahl’s father released a video earnestly (which I HIGHLY recommend you to watch), directly appealing to the Pakistan military as well as his captors in the Haqqani Network to release his son; a step presumably  taken in light of the apparent  ineffectiveness of his appeals to the U.S. government. There is no one who can watch this father’s appeal and not conclude that he and his family are not also victims of the war; nearly as out of sight and out of mind in the media as its Afghan victims. Their son has been a POW for nearly three years, their only glimpses of him coming through intermittent video releases, the last being over a year ago. His image is unknown to the average American, his name is obscure and his fate is not brought up in public discussions of the conflict.

War has myriad victims, the overwhelming majority of whom having no voice in the popular discourse yet suffering the consequences of others ill-thought out and malicious decisions. People like David Frum, Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer beat the war drums and implore others to go kill and die for their ideologies, but it is Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis and American servicemen (and, if the aforementioned individuals have their way in the future, Iranians) who actually deal with the grave consequences of what their words represent. “Support the Troops” is a hollow slogan used to stifle debate, but it is not actually practiced in a meaningful way. Bowe Bergdahl is an American, and the U.S. citizenry should take it upon themselves to advocate his cause. “The Troops” are not a propaganda tool to be used to promote more warfare, they are individuals, as are Afghan and Iraqi citizens. The Israeli government has committed crimes against humanity and is on the whole not admirable, but the overwhelming commitment of average Israelis to alleviating the plight of a single one of their citizens is, and should be emulated by Americans and others. For Americans, an appropriate place to start would be with their own Gilad Shalit.


One Response to The American Gilad Shalit

  1. Steve from Raleigh says:

    If the sentiments of the far left are to be taken at face value, this gent should probably be murdered. That is, if you’re following the same rules of engagement parroted every day about the Little Satan.

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