“A Prodigal Son”


“It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”

Luke 15:32

An area of theological instruction reserved for senior year study at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, my alma mater, dealt with the dicey issue of “Proportionate Evil”. Simply stated, one can find oneself trapped in a situation offering only two choices, both carrying negative consequences and requiring unavoidable immediate resolution. A stunning example can be witnessed in Alfonso Cuaron’s multiple Oscar winning space thriller, “Gravity.”

Mission Commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) must determine whether to sever his linked umbilical connection to Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and die — or guarantee killing both by not doing so – effectively being forced to decide between suicide and a double homicide.

Not nearly as dramatic back here on earth, but nonetheless offering situational comparison, here’s Barack Obama agreeing to obtain the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban after five years of enemy captivity in exchange for five enemy combatants caged at Guantanamo for more than twice that time, unleashing in the process an explosion of hypocritical right-wing political wrath. But it was that or leave him abandoned in chains or worse as we begin our withdrawal from combat, Sgt. Bergdahl being the only member of the United States military held captive in Afghanistan.

One out of five young American soldiers repeatedly sent to fight needless wars in the merciless heat and dirt of Iraq and Afghanistan since March of 2003 are now displaying classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Over 5,000 of our troops have been killed. Over 70,000 have been seriously wounded, these warriors returning to often face inexcusable delays in obtaining basic health services from the Veterans’ Administration.

Bergdahl’s family may display unsettling eccentricity and the Sergeant, himself, hardly seems the heroic John Wayne type, but let’s reflect on the irrefutable truth that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and Afghanistan’s Taliban involvement should have been ancillary and temporary. We can call them “terrorists”, but we’ve always been on their turf. Taliban is NOT Al Qaida. Three trillion dollars of our collective treasure has been lost with nothing gained but strained foreign alliances and a people divided by irresponsible media and limited leadership.

National insanity is individually contagious and reliably self-perpetuating. As more facts emerge, it seems clear that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl answered his country’s call to service only to find himself psychologically unstable, chronically conflicted and deeply disturbed, perhaps even pathologically so. It appears probable that Bergdahl left his post near the Pakistani border and disappeared with disillusion –unarmed into the night.

As men and women from our “Greatest Generation” were properly recognized and honored upon the 70th Anniversary of “D-Day” on June 6th, it should be recalled that over 21,000 American soldiers were convicted of desertion during World War II. 49 were sentenced to death, but only Private Edward Donald Slovik of Detroit became the first and only American to be tried and executed for desertion since the Civil War. Sgt.Bergdahl may well be eventually determined to be a deserter.

Yet with more than a small measure of emotional reluctance, I cannot help but agree with President Obama’s assertion that “Whatever circumstances turn out to be, we still get a soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that.”

I also support 31-year-old Gerald Sutton of Michigan, a member of Bergdahl’s abandoned combat unit, who contends, “Whatever the tribunal or whatever he faces, whatever judgment they pass will be – if they just decide to give him a black mark and a dishonorable discharge – I think he should face the music.”

As harsh rhetoric increases with dedicated fervor from Obama haters and as wild speculation and unfounded innuendo continues screaming from both press and pulpit, I would hope we might find unified concurrence on one simple fact.

A war is mercifully ending as a prodigal son comes home.

It is the American way.

“There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day.
On the bloody morning after –
One tin soldier rides away”

“One Tin Soldier/ Theme From Billy Jack” — Dennis Lambert/Brian Potter — (1969)

6 Responses to ““A Prodigal Son””

  1. Charles Walker Says:

    Your old memory is a little off there, Peter C. It wasn’t “Proportionate Evil”, it was “Situational Ethics” also known as “Intellectual Weaseling”. The “five enemy combatants caged at Guantanamo” weren’t exactly the Al-Qaeda/Taliban equivalent of “Willie and Joe”, they were the top management and they WILL come back and kill more Americans. You are quick to mention the explosion of hypocritical right-wing political wrath, but conveniently fail to mention the explosion of hypocritical political wrath from Democrats on this issue. I guess that’s a little more of that good, old Le Moyne “situational ethics? You also ignore the fact that after all these years no one gives a rat’s ass about the MIAs from Vietnam and Korea or the American servicemen held by Russia after WWII, but…what the hell…that doesn’t play into your point that in your humble opinion President Obama can simply can do no wrong and is thus above criticism. Q.E.D.

  2. petercavanaugh Says:

    Poor Charlie. As even Father Rudolf knew, the study of “Proportionate Evil” is a primary issue in “Situational Ethics” and it’s clearly unnecessary to specifically cite the exact course title when referencing a single aspect, even though this is probably what the nuns taught you at Holy Rosary. And – repeat after me — “Taliban is NOT Al Qaeda and had nothing to do with 9/11 other than temporarily house the Saudi Arabians responsible, including Bin Laden, whom they were willing to turn over to a third party for punishment, but George the Conquerer didn’t want that and then screwed up an early capture by trusting the wrong Afghans.” And — we were going to soon have to let those five go anyway as the conflict ended under international law, even though we’ve never officially charged them with ANYTHING after a dozen years of captivity. Killing Americans? “W” remains responsible for the needless deaths of thousands of our fellow citizens and he’s sitting around painting cats. I am unaware of any missing MIAs at this point in history other than unsubstantiated allegations on outer fringe blog sites, right next to reports on flying saucers and interplanetary mind melding. Obama certainly can do wrong — naively trusting Congressional Republicans and the military during his first few months in office being at the top of my list. Hillary will make a great President. Prepare to bow prostrate before your new queen, Walker. Relax. That’s “prostrate”, not “prostate.”

  3. Charles Walker Says:

    Poor Charlie my ass…

    a. Father Rudolph taught Sociology (when he wasn’t trying to cop a feel from the co-eds) not Theology or Philosophy
    b. Granted that most of the unpatriated Americans interred by the Soviets in WWII and by N. Korea are undoubtedly dead, there is incontrovertable proof that they were detained. While there may or may not have been additional POWs in the hands of the North Vietnamese, there are several thousand MIAs whose remains the Vietnamese have not cooperated in finding and identifying, a “bring them home” program the US gommamit has not persued with any vigor at all.
    c. Note that I specified “Al-Qaeda/Taliban”. Neither you or I or apparently the current administration has any idea to what extent these two groups intertwine or cooperate. We do know they have the same goals, that is killing you and me deader than a fuck.
    d. Lets not forget that long before Dubya moved in, Blowjob Billy had Osama in his sights and Sandy Berger talked him out of pulling the trigger.
    e. “W” may have been a moron but at least he told Congress what he was going to do before he did it unlike the current fellow who just, well, you know, goes and does it. You also blithly ignore that fact that he has pissed off a number of his fellow Proglibacrats in the process as well.
    f. Frankly, given the track record of our d̶e̶a̶r̶ ̶l̶e̶a̶d̶e̶r̶ beloved neighborhood organizer and given the idiots the Rechristicans ran in the last two cycles, Hillary would have been a MUCH better choice in 2008.

    I wonder if Hills will be able to bring herself to use that presidential crapper next to the Oval Office?

  4. petercavanaugh Says:

    What’s a “Blowjob?”

  5. Charles Walker Says:

    If Fast Willy is to believed its not sexual relations. In reality its what the current administration has been giving the country for the last 6 years. Costs a lot when administered by a pro and only makes you feel good for a minute.

  6. petercavanaugh Says:

    “A single minute?????”

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