Soldier’s friend laments precedent of prisoner exchange

Jun. 04, 2014 @ 03:48 PM

Sam Rosenthal isn’t sure the price was worth it.
Rosenthal, a 2009 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was close friends with Morris “Mo” Walker.
Walker died in August 2009 in Afghanistan – one of at least six men who died searching for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Last week, the Obama administration released five Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for the Taliban handing over Bergdahl after five years in captivity.
Critics of the deal have complained that it was a dangerous choice to free al-Qaida operatives who might endanger more American lives.
And some questions remain about why Bergdahl left his post, with detractors labeling him a deserter. However, no official charges have been leveled against him.
“I am trying to reserve judgment until we know all the specifics of Bowe’s disappearance,” said Rosenthal, a former sports columnist for The Daily Tar Heel who’s now in Spain. “If he truly deserted, it’s a shame to say the least.”
Walker, 23, attended UNC from 2004-2008. He joined the army in August 2008. He died a year later when an improvised explosive device detonated near Forward Operating Base Kushamond.
He was the first UNC- Chapel Hill alumnus to die in the war in Afghanistan.
“It was surprising and upsetting to myself and those close to Mo to have his passing re-visited under such circumstances, but at the same time, we view it as an opportunity to once again reflect on our wonderful friend’s life and to share his memory with even more people,” Rosenthal said. “Nothing related to how Mo died affects how proud we are of him and his service. He was special, and he is missed by many.”
Rosenthal is dubious about the swap that led to Bergdahl’s freedom, though.
“As for the prisoner exchange, I am afraid of the precedent it sets and the possible repercussions it may have in our future dealings with terrorist organizations,” he said. “I can’t answer if the price paid was worth it, but it certainly was a high one. I wish my friend were still here.”

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