Welcome home, Sergeant, and you're under arrest. Which sums up the two polar reactions you can see and hear all over the papers, news channels, Internet, talk shows and Washington, that other swirl of confusion. All of 'em are bustin' out all over with fact-free, equal-but-opposite opinions about what th' heck to do with Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, United States of Agitation.
If it's not too much to ask, supposed ladies and gentlemen and quick-on-the-draw opinionators, could we all just settle down, president and senators and distinguished and undistinguished kibitzers alike, and let the sergeant settle in at that military hospital in Germany? There he can be checked out, debriefed, get some tasteless food and whatever rest from the press he can get, and generally be treated like any other trooper out of enemy hands and back in our own.
Then, after the facts and the law, the past and present, the current probabilities and future possibilities can be sorted out ... let us proceed to do what our minds and hearts, compassion and U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice dictate. If that would not be too much to ask in this age of instant communication and nonexistent meditation.
Reason is about to be trampled in this rush to judgment. Could we please wait and give justice a chance to emerge out of this sea of passion? For justice is not to be hurried nor conscience ignored. Both may require time before their full weight is felt and assayed.
Whenever one of these cases arises, and a Solomon is needed to adjudicate, a splendid if perhaps apocryphal British precedent comes to mind -- that of the brilliant admiral who won a great sea battle by ignoring orders. He was given the Empire's highest order and shot, not necessarily in that order. But all was done with due regard for law and order, propriety and custom. Let us do the same with our sergeant.
Unfortunately, everybody wants to get into the act, including leading members of Congress, who are now rushing to get on stage. Who says there's no bipartisan unity on Capitol Hill? Both the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee have joined the vast throng of politicians, opinionators, Concerned Citizens and kibitzers-in-general who have taken it upon themselves to bash the administration's decision to negotiate a prisoner swap with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Both these senators complain they weren't sufficiently consulted about this deal with the enemy to free the sergeant in exchange for five top Taliban prisoners at Gitmo, who are now basking in Qatar. The senators say they should have had more to do with the president's decision. "Input," it's called in the current bureaucratic lingo. Maybe they've forgotten that Congress is part of the legislative, not the executive, branch of American government. And that there's a reason the Founding Fathers gave this country's armed forces a single commander-in-chief and not 535.
But the show must go on. At a time when the whole imbroglio could use a lot less showmanship and, though it may be too much to hope for, a modicum of judgment. A little patience and self-restraint would be welcome, too. Instead, the country is getting a plenitude of verdicts and a sparsity of evidence. Just the reverse of the proper order. Which is what happens when politicians, not statesmen, are in charge. If anybody is.