Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The American Gilad Shalit

Since 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, new forms of terror have become part of the risks of day to day operations for overseas military personal, reporters and foreign workers. Kidnappings and how to deal with them have become a more normal occurrence. The days of beheading for shock value and political gain have been mostly replaced by demands for money. This has extended to the coast of Somalia where pirating is rampant in search of the ultimate ransom.

On Friday a video was released to show that the Americans have a different problem on their hands. Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan 6 months ago by Taliban forces. US Army officials were upset at the insensitivity of the video being released on Christmas Day and the use of a prisoner for propaganda purposes. The Taliban are interested in a prisoner swap.

How will the United States respond? Will Bergdahl's parents have to travel the world looking for world leaders to take up his plight? Will they have to plead for the Red Cross to demand that his Geneva Convention POW rights of visitations by the Red Cross and contact with his family be granted? Should there be a prisoner swap? What is a fair trade? Is 1000 terrorists for 1 soldier a good deal? What if they have killed American cvilians and/or soldiers? How many need to be released just to confirm he is alive? How about just sending all prisoners from Guantanamo Bay back to their families for a heroes welcome? Will Bergdahl's plight factor in to the Mid-Term Elections? Will Barak Obama hold regular meetings with Bergdahl's parent's to update them on efforts to get their son home? Will the released prisoners kill again? Will there be massive rallies demanding the US Government do more to help gain his release? Are US soldiers leaving graffiti after military operations to let him know that they were there and they were looking for him?

These are ridiculous questions. The story barely made the news. Israel has been dealing with these type questions for 3.5 years over kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. He is being held by Hamas the defacto government in Gaza. He has been denied access by the Red Cross and denied communication with his family. Both are major violations of the Geneva Convention. Shalit's parents have travelled the world trying to build the political resolve to free their son. The price of his freedom still sits at 1000 criminals, including terrorists with blood on their hands. The on and off again negotiations got so serious at one point that Israel released 4 prisoners just for the video tape to prove that he is alive. The entire nation is yearning for his return home. It is the only reason why anyone would even be willing to entertain the prospect of such a ridiculous and potentially dangerous trade.

The United States, European Union and others who enjoy condemning Israel don't understand how important it is for Gilad Shalit to safely return home. If only they put a fraction of an effort into caring about this issue instead of trying to turn up the heat on Israel over petty issues. They would get far more cooperation on issues they see as critical in the region. Those who cannot even relate to this major issue cannot possibly relate to what Israel needs to receive in return to go along with any other peace process. Putting more pressure on Israel does nothing to address these issues. It only strengthens her resolve that Israel needs to protect itself because when push comes to shove nobody else will.

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