Why the Bowe Bergdahl Deal is a Disaster for Travelers
A memorial marks his Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s homecoming. (Photo: AP)
Let me get one thing straight before I go any further: I am glad Bowe Bergdahl is home. I am a firm believer in “Leave No Man Behind.” I added my voice via social media to the campaign for his release for years. I am, however, not happy about how it came about and what it means for millions of Americans who travel abroad every year (not to mention the position it puts the members of our armed forces in).
On June 9, the United States government traded five high-risk Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl.
Watch: Bowe Bergdahl’s Handoff
This was huge news for many reasons. The Sun Valley, Idaho, native had been held by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the tribal region of Pakistan for five years and, despite efforts, had remained a Prisoner of War. But the bigger news was: The United States had negotiated with terrorists — breaking a longtime tradition of never entering into trade type talks with thugs.
This is a big deal, people. And it affects all of us with a passport.
In 2012, I took a boat up the Niger River in Mali to Timbuktu, to attend the Essakane Music Festival (also known as the Festival Au Desert).
On the morning of January 13, the second day of the Festival, Tuareg chiefs and government ministers convened for a conference on security in Northern Mali — ironic, as just six weeks earlier four tourists had been kidnapped, one killed, in broad daylight from Timbuktu by al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM). According to eyewitnesses in Timbuktu, it took local police four hours to respond to the scene, a mere half hour walking distance away.
The conference, held in a tent in the sand dunes, was a recipe for disaster. Well-dressed government ministers delivered the final insult by insisting on speaking in French and English — languages not native to the area.
One Tuareg chief was incensed and verbally accosted the government speakers.
According to Mohammed, an Algerian who looked like a young Fidel Castro and spoke Tamashek, Arabic, French and English, the Tuareg chief stood and shouted (in Tamashek), “You come to our part of the country for a festival celebrating our culture and you don’t even have the decency to speak our language. You have done nothing for us since the ceasefire!”