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Bergdahl: Americans have forgotten what Israelis have always known

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
TIME, Inc.

It’s hard to rationalize the incongruity of the recent cover of TIME Magazine, which petulantly asks the question, “Was he worth it?” The feature was a symptom of our malignant gossip culture. Smug pundits and cynical politicians muse with alarming insensitivity about issues without offering any moral context.

“Save a life, and you save the whole world.” –The Talmud

Was Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl equal in value to five Taliban murderers? Did he deserve to be returned to his family in Idaho from the cesspool of Islamic terrorism and genocide into which we injected (with catastrophic results) him and hundreds of thousands of other American youngsters? That’s like applying a moral equation to the 9,397 US graves at Normandy: “Wait, let’s see: maybe we should only decorate 6,522 of these crosses because the others weren’t really that heroic, might have been afraid or even wandered off, and, well, just weren’t likable.”

The only reason Sgt. Bergdahl was there in the first place was, like the Israelis have for decades, we Americans are standing up to the insatiable need of Muslim extremists—from Baghdad to Mumbai to New York—to murder us and each other. Neither we nor the Israelis apply a likability litmus test to the men and women we dispatch in our attempt to stop this Middle East hemorrhaging of malevolence, misogyny, and mass murder. No, we give each one of them a uniform and, in that moment, they become our national children.

Since when did we ask if a child of ours is worth it, even if we have issues or problems or even heartache about that child? Since when did we qualify his or her dreams of coming home from madness, even if after they returned home, we decided to apply some discipline? But shall we leave that process to ourselves, or to the kinds of crazy people who kill their own kids with chemicals and at this moment are slaughtering each other in Iraq over some skewed theological nuance?

The Israelis, who had borne the cross of sacrifice and suffering alone till we got the nightmarish wake-up call of 9/11, have never had this “worth it?” debate. With painful determination, they retrieved their kidnapped POW, Corporal Gilad Shalit, for a lopsided 1,027 Hamas militiamen (included 280 known killers of Israelis) not so long ago. Both Shalit and Bergdahl had been held for five years by the terrorists. The behavior of both men that attended their captures was deliberated in varying degrees in their respective democracies.

The difference was this: in Israel, the discussion was muted and short-lived because The Talmud teaches that if you save one life, you have saved the entire world. 80% of the Israeli public supported the deal, knowing the long-term risks to Israeli security guaranteed by the reinsertion of 1,000 extremists back into the Islamic terror cycle. In the United States, we have sunk to the level of our tragic mistakes in the Middle East by reducing a uniformed soldier caught in that web to a media-driven confab of hypocrites wearing little flag pins on their lapels.

This morning, three kidnapped Israeli teenagers are still missing, being held by the courageous warriors of the Hamas murder syndicate. There is no arithmetic in Israel; there are just three young lives equal in value to three heavens.

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