Opposition to torture was once an American value. In fact, former President George W. Bush used torture as one of his justifications for invading Iraq. Then, conservatives decided torture was OK if they didn’t like the person being tortured.
Another key American value is now under assault from the right: the time-honored and strongly held conviction that we never leave our men and women in uniform behind. It’s a foundational military value, drilled from day one into me and my platoon mates in basic training. “I will never leave a fallen comrade,” states the Soldier’s Creed, a summation of the Army’s values. For airmen, it’s “I will never leave an airman behind.”
Yet here are conservatives, blowing yet another gasket, because President Obama negotiated the release of our lone prisoner of war in Afghanistan, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
As you might expect, these conservatives had spent years criticizing Obama for not bringing Bergdahl home. There was former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) in December, blasting Obama for lack of action. “Any time, attention, or even mention from the Commander-in-Chief? Nah, no camera highlights in it for him,” he wrote online. Or Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who said in a statement last year, “The mission to bring our missing soldiers home is one that will never end. It’s important that we make every effort to bring this captured soldier home to his family.” Oliver North was equally strident in his invocation of the Soldier’s Creed, writing on Facebook in 2011: “Sgt Bergdahl and his loved ones here at home deserve our prayers and encouragement until he is rescued or released. That’s what we do. We’re Americans.”
Well, that’s what Americans did. Times have changed. The conservative right has now decided soldiers can be left behind if they fail to meet some right-wing litmus test. Whether it was Inhofe, North, Arizona Sen. John McCain, himself a former POW, or a multitude of right-wing bloggers, the president’s critics on the issue ... well, they remained the president’s critics when Obama managed to do what they had all asked him to do. West even called for Obama’s impeachment.
To be fair, it’s been a rough couple of months for Republican conspiracy mongers. The success of the Affordable Care Act has left “ObamaCare repeal” in tatters. Then, their embrace of deadbeat rancher Cliven Bundy ended up in a hilarious backfire. So, they quickly shifted to the House GOP’s Benghazi select panel, but that effort has been hampered by internal GOP infighting and an inability to rally the public to their cause. So when Bergdahl’s release was announced, they saw a new opportunity to pounce.
Conventional Republicans were certainly caught off guard by the right-wing blowback. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi tweeted, “Welcome home, Sgt Bowe Bergdahl. A grateful American thanks you for your service,” and Ohio’s Rep. Jim Renacci said “So glad to hear that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is coming home safely. He’s a true American hero.” Rep. Lee Terry (Neb.) posted on Facebook, “A grateful nation welcomes him home.” But with bringing our troops home suddenly unpopular among conservatives, they soon deleted those messages.
These people once prided themselves on defending the honor of our service members and veterans. No longer. They (literally) boo our troops if they are gay. They filibuster funding for better veterans care. And if they get captured, well, they may or may not be left behind. It really depends on what Sarah Palin thinks about it.
Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com).