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Charlie Vignola: G.O.P. smears P.O.W.

Posted: June 10, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 10, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Just when you think Fox News and the right-wing scandal machine can sink no further, they wallow in a new level of filth that just boggles the mind.

After successfully turning Americans against the poor, union workers and even school teachers, this past week they set about demonizing an American P.O.W. and his innocent family.

In 2009, after disappearing from his base, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan and has been held prisoner for the past five years.

His status as America’s only P.O.W. in Afghanistan was a source of pain for his family and a source of concern for politicians on both sides of the aisle who wanted an American soldier brought home.

And then President Obama made the grave mistake of actually arranging Bergdahl’s release.

Much like conservatives couldn’t allow Obama a foreign policy win when he oversaw the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, so now would they have to find a way to fling mud all over what would at any other time be a downright joyous occasion for Americans.

In record time, the return of a U.S. prisoner of war was assiduously distorted by Fox News and the right-wing media into an episode of “Homeland,” perverting it from a long-anticipated, patriotic victory into an act of arrogance, sabotage and law-breaking so heinous, it’d only be natural to call for President Obama’s impeachment.

The challenge: How does one turn a U.S. soldier who was legitimately captured and held prisoner for a half decade into a traitor who arguably deserved to be left in the hands of America’s enemies to be tortured and possibly killed?

Well, when you don’t have all the facts yet, turn to gossip, innuendo and slander.

Since “swiftboating” worked so well to trash Senator John Kerry back in 2004, why not resurrect that tried and true strategy?

And so Republican strategist Richard Grenell arranged for Bergdahl’s disgruntled fellow soldiers to speak to the press and paint a one-sided, unflattering picture of the P.O.W.’s behavior before he was captured, implicitly suggesting he didn’t deserve to be rescued.

Next, have influential Fox News commentators like Bill O’Reilly slander Bergdahl’s father by saying his long beard made him “look like the Taliban.”

Never mind that his father grew the beard in solidarity with his imprisoned son, much like people shave their heads in solidarity with cancer victims — or that Bergdahl’s father looked as much like the Taliban as the cast of

“Duck Dynasty,” the members of Z.Z. Top and every single Amish male in America.

When reports emerge that Bergdahl has difficulty speaking English after being held prisoner by the Taliban for five years, get some quotes from super-patriot Sarah Palin that “real American” P.O.W.s like John McCain didn’t forget how to speak English — as if all people who are captured and tortured respond in exactly the same way, and if they don’t they’re suspect.

When Republican politicians who’d previously attacked President Obama for not getting Bergdahl back sooner are betrayed by their old Twitter posts, they immediately begin trying to erase them to cover evidence of their brazen hypocrisy.

Of course, this is all part of the long game conservatives are playing to taint any possibility of a “win” for President Obama, politicizing the most innocuous developments and trying to frame every one of his actions as a seditious event, turning their party collectively into “The Boy Who Cried Impeachment.”

We hear the inflammatory claim that Obama has “negotiated with terrorists,” which sounds good until you’re forced to acknowledge that the Taliban aren’t technically considered “terrorists” by the U.S., but are a guerilla army we’re dealing with in the Afghanistan War, and we’ve had to negotiate with them on numerous occasions — even bribing them back in 2010 not to attack our convoys.

Beyond that, even conservative icon President Ronald Reagan himself “negotiated with terrorists” during the Iran-Contra Scandal of 1985-86, trading arms for hostages with the rogue state of Iran.

In that case, the convoluted and ultimately botched deal only got us half our hostages back and sent “patriot” Lt. Col. Oliver North to the slammer.

The truth is conservatives would’ve attacked President Obama no matter what he did.

You think if he refused to trade Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl and left a U.S. soldier in the hands of the enemy to be exploited in propaganda videos and potentially executed, the G.O.P. would be lauding Obama for his strategic savvy and nerves of steel?

The bottom line is that it is shocking and disgraceful for any American to suggest that we should’ve left Bergdahl as a captive of the Taliban because he annoyed some of his fellow soldiers and possibly lost his zeal for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

The truth is, we’re still in the dark about the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance, capture, and long torturous years in captivity, and until we conduct a thorough investigation it would be living up to America’s noblest principles to give this P.O.W. the benefit of a doubt.

Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.



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