DOUG ROSS: How much is an American life worth?

2014-06-22T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: How much is an American life worth?Doug Ross, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357

How much is an American life worth? If that question doesn't make you squirm, there's something wrong with you.

And that's why I've been uncomfortable with the debate over the release of former POW Bowe Bergdahl after five years of captivity.

Bergdahl went missing in Afghanistan in June 2009 and was freed last month. Can you imagine what it would be like to be a Taliban captive for five years?

The closest I could come to that was to ask Elliot Sortillo, 79, of Portage. You'll read Sortillo's story on Monday. Sortillo was a POW for 30 months during the Korean War.

At the end of the interview with Sortillo, I asked about Bergdahl's release.

"Trading one enlisted man for five terrorists, that is so much horse manure," Sortillo said.

Sortillo didn't have many kind words for President Barack Obama. The president got bad advice on this, he said.

"He's not a hero. It'll tell you that right now," Sortillo said.

"This clown walked away in a combat zone."

Which brings us back to the question of what should have been done about Bergdahl before he was release, and to what should be done about him now.

Obama's critics are too numerous to count. Depending on the issue, you can count me among them.

But is the life of an American soldier worth five terrorists? I say yes, but with an asterisk.

What are the odds those terrorists, who had been held at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba so long, will resume positions of power in the Taliban? I'm guessing they're slim.

If those terrorists are smart, they will assume they've got a drone tracking them at all times, capable of striking them down at any moment. They might even have a microchip in them to facilitate this process.

As for Bergdahl, the questions about whether he walked away from his unit, rather than being captured, present a difficult situation for the United States military.

So Bergdahl, having been given medical treatment and having been debriefed, should face the U.S. military justice system. Let the American justice system, not public opinion and hyperbole, determine the facts.

If he's deemed guilty, as Sortillo and others believe he is, then he should face the appropriate military discipline.

But as you debate whether Bergdahl is guilty of desertion, remember he was being held captive by the Taliban, and every day he was in captivity posed an additional threat.

Which would you rather face — the American justice system or the Taliban style of justice?

I say Obama was right to bring Bergdahl home, and the Obama administration had better be keeping an eye in the sky on those five freed terrorists.

I'll let the military justice system determine what to do next.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Follow him at and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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