The Real and the Unreal: Bergdahl and the Boo Birds

I’m not usually put off by neologisms or phrases, but it wouldn’t disturb my soul one bit to wake to the day when “alternative reality” wasn’t in the popular lexicon.  It has its place in fiction, in science fiction, and in interactive narratives, but it’s been worked to death in political scripts.  There’s REAL and there’s fiction.

Reality

The United States has secured the release of a POW in Afghanistan.  I don’t really much care how Army Sgt. Bergdahl came to be a prisoner, anymore than I cared about the details of pilots shot down and captured over Vietnam some 45 years ago, or about members of units captured and held hostage by the Viet Cong.  It didn’t matter to me then, and it doesn’t matter now, if the pilot was off course, or the unit trekked into unnecessary risk, or whatever. We negotiated with the North Vietnamese, we got soldiers and airmen back, and all the Rambo movies to the contrary we didn’t leave members of our military behind when there was any possible way to retrieve them.

I have to admit I’ve never been much of an ally for those who complained about the deals made to secure the release of American diplomatic corps members in January of 1981. They were Americans, members of our diplomacy team, and if there were ways to secure their release (like gold from Federal Reserve vaults) then fine.

Fast forward to 2014, and in the parallel universe of Republican thinking (1) it’s wrong to secure the release of a hostage because … he might not be a perfect guy? Or, (2) it’s wrong to secure the release of a hostage because… we don’t negotiate with terrorists, as if the Iranians weren’t behaving that way in 1980? Or, (3) it’s wrong because … there’s an African American Democrat in the White House and some people can’t seem to stomach that fact?

And then there’s Sore Loser Senator John McCain, “concerned” about swapping high risk prisoners? [CBS] McCain — who was released by the North Vietnamese in March 1973 — and how was that negotiated?   Just for the record, if the five prisoners from Guantanamo are so “high risk” then why were they never officially charged with criminal activity, put on trial, convicted, and sentenced to appropriate terms?

U.S. negotiations weren’t even close to the numbers in the Gilad Shalit Exchange during which the Israeli government freed 1,027 Palestinian (and other) prisoners in exchange for the return of Corporal Gilad Shalit in 2011. [WaPo]  And, we do support the Israelis, right?  We didn’t become semi-hysterical when the Israelis negotiated this hostage release, did we?

Downright Unreal

None of this makes much difference to the Republican Poutrage Machine.  This latest temper tantrum requires that its audience ignore hostage negotiation positions since time out of mind, and indulge in the favorite game of conservative punditry — What IF all the forces in the universe converge to create a reaction we might have imagined in a novel in order to support a narrative of which we might approve — i.e. the President was wrong?

That isn’t an “alternative reality” it’s just downright fiction.  Worse still, it’s the easy fiction of hack writers and lazier editors who think they need “conflict” to sell print and commercial time, and will continue to interview the uniformed about the uncontested for the benefit of the unconcerned.

Reporting, especially on the cable news channels, has devolved into the interviewing of Frequent Flyers who can be relied upon to criticize any and all actions in any and all instances; the context, the content, and the repercussions be damned.

But that’s ever so much easier than, say … offering in-depth reporting on climate change, on unemployment insurance benefit legislation, on infrastructure needs, on global trade policy, on anti-discrimination legislation, on voting rights and civil rights, on income inequality trends, on comprehensive immigration policy reform…

You know… those things that make a difference in the REAL world?

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