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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hero or Something Else

“He wasn’t simply a hostage. He was a prisoner of war.” — National Security Adviser Susan Rice

In writing this post I am not accusing recently released Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of anything, but I believe that many questions need to be answered.

Top Obama administration officials on Sunday praised the diplomatic and military efforts to recover Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a prisoner of war in Afghanistan, saying it was an “extraordinary” and “life-saving” mission while disagreeing with the arguments that officials negotiated with terrorists and failed to inform Congress.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice made their comments roughly 24 hours after Americans learned that Bergdahl was recovered in exchange for the release of five Taliban detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

On May 31, 2014, U.S. officials from the White House and PentagonBergdahl_Bowe3 announced that Bergdahl had been released by his captors and recovered by U.S. special operations forces in eastern Afghanistan. The release was brokered by the American, Qatar and Afghanistan governments with the Taliban, in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees transferred to Qatari custody for at least one year. On 10:30 a.m. (EDST) May 31, 2014, Bergdahl was handed over by 18 Taliban members to a U.S. Navy Seal team in eastern Afghanistan, near Khost on the Pakistani border, in what was described as a "peaceful handover.

On June 1 Bergdahl arrived at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, a facility that treats serious war injuries from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, a U.S. Defense official said. His “reintegration process” will include “time for him to tell his story, decompress, and to reconnect with his family through telephone calls and video conferences,” a senior Defense official said.

When Bergdahl is ready to leave Landstuhl he will be transported to Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday that the United States saw “an opening” and acted quickly to rescue Sgt. Bergdahl.

“We believed that the information we had, the intelligence we had, was such that Sgt. Bergdahl safety and health were both in jeopardy and in particular his health deteriorating,” Hagel said. “It was our judgment that if we could find an opening and move very quickly with that opening, that we needed to get him out of there essentially to save his life. I know President Obama feels very strongly about that, I do as well.”

According to U.S. government officials, Sgt. Bergdahl was the only remaining American soldier captured in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. His release was part of a negotiation that includes the release of five Afghan detainees who are held in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. The BCC reports that the detainees have already been freed, and on Saturday Obama said that they would be transported to Qatar.

The U.S. has released five Taliban prisoners kept at Guantanamo Bay — all of them either senior Taliban figures or Taliban officials with connections to Taliban leaders, and all labeled by the Pentagon as highly dangerous to the security of the U.S. and its allies if released. They are:

Mohammad Fazl, the former Taliban defense minister during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, chief of staff of the Taliban army, and commander ofMullah Mohammad Fazl its 22nd Division. According to a U.S. Department of Defense document obtained by Wikileaks, Fazl is believed to be an associate of Supreme Taliban Commander Mullah Omar and was “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiites,” surrendered to the Northern Alliance commander Gen. Dostum in November 2001.

“Detainee is assessed to be a HIGH risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests, and allies,” his Guantanamo detainee file reads. “If released, detainee would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with ACM [anti-coalition militia] elements participating in hostilities against US and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”

Mullah Norullah Noori, a former Taliban military commander and Taliban governor of two Afghan provinces, who led Taliban forces against U.S. andMullah Norullah Noori coalition troops and was also “wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims” as Fazl was, according to Noori’s Guantanamo prisoner file as obtained and posted by Wikileaks. He is also believed to be associated with Supreme Taliban Commander Mullah Omar.

Noori commanded the Taliban in the northern city of Mazar e-Sharif. Like Fazl, he surrendered to Gen. Dostum in 2001.

Rated a “HIGH” threat to U.S. security interests if released, Noori is or was associated with members of al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin.

Mohammed Nabi, another senior Taliban official with ties to al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, and other anti-U.S., Taliban-allied groups, according to his Guantanamo Bay file as posted by Wikileaks.Mohammad Nabi Omari

Also rated as a “HIGH” security threat if released, Nabi fought with the Mujahideen against the Soviets. After that, he told the Americans who captured and detained him, he was an off-and-on Taliban member in the early 2000s, worked for the chief of the Taliban’s Border Department, which controlled smuggling. In early spring of 2002, he left the Taliban to sell used cars in a small village near Khost and became a CIA informant.

According to his Defense Dept. file, Nabi was involved in attacks against U.S. and coalition forces and facilitated smuggling routes for the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Khairullah Khairkhwa, a direct associate of Osama bin Laden according to his Defense Dept. detainee file obtained by Wikileaks, and a senior Taliban military commander who also served as the Taliban’s minister of Interior and the governor of Herat.

He represented the Taliban at meetings with Iranian officials seeking toKhair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa support actions against U.S. and coalition forces after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the document. He attended a meeting at the direction of bin Laden, reportedly accompanied by members of Hamas, the document says, and is believed to have been one of the major opium lords of western Afghanistan.

In 2002, he sought to negotiate an integration into the new government through Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai who has been accused of corruption and drug smuggling, but was arrested by Pakistani border patrol and released by Pakistan into U.S. custody.

He is also deemed a “HIGH” threat if released.

Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of intelligence, had direct connections to Taliban leadership and was “central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups” to fight against U.S. and coalition forces, according to his Defense Dept. fileAbdul Haq Wasiq obtained by Wikileaks.

He also used his position to support al Qaeda, assist Taliban personnel in eluding capture, and arranged for al Qaeda members to train Taliban intelligence staff, according to the file.

He seems to have later turned informant, as his file notes that Wasiq was arrested after a meeting with two Americans and a translator, in which he was supposed to deliver information leading to the capture of Mullah Omar. Shortly after the meeting, U.S. forces arrested him.

“Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Berghdal’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans. Our terrorist adversaries now have a strong incentive to capture Americans. That incentive will put our forces in Afghanistan and around the world at even greater risk,” said House Armed Services Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., and Senate Armed Services Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., in a joint statement.

“In executing this transfer, the President also clearly violated laws which require him to notify Congress thirty days before any transfer of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay and to explain how the threat posed by such terrorists has been substantially mitigated. Our joy at Sergeant Berghdal’s release is tempered by the fact that President Obama chose to ignore the law, not to mention sound policy, to achieve it,” they said in the joint statement.

A senior administration official responded: “Due to a near-term opportunity to save Sergeant Bergdahl’s life, we moved as quickly as possible. The administration determined that given these unique and exigent circumstances, such a transfer should go forward notwithstanding the notice requirement” of the National Defense Authorization Act, the law in which Congress levied the Guantanamo-transfer restrictions.

The detainees left Guantanamo in the afternoon of May 31st for Qatar, which will take them into custody. After that, it’s not clear exactly what their status will be.

Of course there is great jubilation in Bergdahl’s home town of Hailey, Idaho. Understandably his parents and friends have expressed great joy at his release. This is to be expected. His father has even studied Pashto, the language of the Taliban, so he could communicate with his son who according to reports has trouble speaking English after his five years in captivity.

A recent article by CBS News asked the Question; Is Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a hero or a deserter?

“While tattered yellow ribbons still adorn utility poles in his native Hailey, Idaho, others are expressing conflicting thoughts about Bergdahl's plight as the war winds down, with President Barack Obama threatening to withdraw all U.S. troops by year's end unless the Afghan government signs a crucial security agreement.

They are convinced that on June 30, 2009, just a few months after he arrived in Afghanistan, Bergdahl willingly walked away from his unit, which was deployed in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan, adjacent to the border with Pakistan. While they do want Bergdahl home, they think he should have to answer allegations that he deserted his unit.”

“Rolling Stone magazine quoted emails Bergdahl is said to have sent to his parents that suggest he was disillusioned with America's mission in Afghanistan, had lost faith in the U.S. Army's mission there and was considering desertion.

Bergdahl told his parents he was "ashamed to even be American." Bergdahl, who mailed home boxes containing his uniform and books, also wrote: "The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong."

The Associated Press could not independently authenticate the emails published by the magazine in 2012. Bergdahl's family has600x42310 not commented on the allegations of desertion, according to Col. Tim Marsano, a spokesman for the Idaho National Guard. Marsano is in regular contact with Bergdahl's mother, Jani, and father, Bob, who has grown a long, thick beard and has worked to learn Pashto, the language spoken by his son's captors.

A senior Defense Department official said that if Bergdahl is released, it could be determined that he has more than paid for leaving his unit - if that's what really happened - "and there's every indicator that he did."

Still, it's a conundrum for commanders under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the equal application of the law, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the Bergdahl case.

Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School, said if there is evidence that Bergdahl left his unit without permission, he could be charged with being absent without leave (AWOL) or desertion.”

Bowe was reportedly “disillusioned” when he went missing. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2012, Bowe’s family shared the sergeant’s final email­ to his parents:

“I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools. The US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies. The few good SGTs are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live.”

Bergdahl’s parents also spoke Saturday at the White House and expressed gratitude for their son’s pending return. His father, Robert, said Bergdahl is having trouble speaking English after the trauma he endured.

Robert Bergdahl, Bowe’s dad, who enjoys passing along pro-Taliban anti-American “invader” tweets for Taliban spokesperson Abdulqahar Balkhi and whose Twitter feed is an odd mix of anti-American and anti-war sentiments, Bible verses, strange quotes, and hippie-dippy tree-hugging weirdness, took it upon himself to celebrate his son’s release by sending a Tweet to the spokesman for his son’s captors.

The Tweet read: “@ABalkhi I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, Ameen [sic].” The Tweet was quickly deleted, but not before being captured on the Twitchy feed.

Bergdahl the elder’s correspondence with the Taliban’s spokesperson certainly coincides with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s alleged sentiments prior to his ‘capture.’ According to emails quoted in Rolling Stone magazine, Bowe told his parents he was “ashamed to even be American,” and that he was disgusted with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and with the Army.

According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor:

“In his final message, Bergdahl refers to having mailed home boxes with his uniforms and books.

“Feel free to open them, and use them,” he wrote.

Later that night, Bowe Bergdahl’s father Bob Bergdahl, a UPS truck driver, sent his son an email from their home in Hailey, Idaho, with the subject line: OBEY YOUR CONSCIENCE!

"Dear Bowe," he wrote. "In matters of life and death, and especially at war, it is never safe to ignore ones' conscience. Ethics demands obedience to our conscience. It is best to also have a systematic oral defense of what our conscience demands. Stand with like-minded men when possible. dad."

“In the early-morning hours of June 30th, according to soldiers in the unit, Bowe approached his team leader not long after he got off guard duty and asked his superior a simple question: If I were to leave the base, would it cause problems if I took my sensitive equipment?

“Yes, his team leader responded – if you took your rifle and night-vision goggles, that would cause problems.

“Bowe returned to his barracks, a roughly built bunker of plywood and sandbags. He gathered up water, a knife, his digital camera and his diary. Then he slipped off the outpost.”

When his absence was discovered, Bergdahl was listed as “DUSTWUN” – Duty Status: Whereabouts Unknown.”

A Report by NBC News states:

“Two years ago, Bergdahl was handed over to members of the Quetta Shura, or council — the decision-making body of the militants — for his scheduled release in exchange for five Taliban commanders being held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay, said a senior Taliban commander affiliated with the Haqqani network, a major militant faction of the Afghan Taliban.

"The talks at that time failed, and he was again handed over to his captors, and that's why he didn't trust when [he] was told about his likely release," the Taliban commander told NBC News on the phone from Afghanistan.

But this time, “our talks finally proved successful for [a] prisoners' swap. We returned our valued guest to his countrymen and they released our people.” said the Taliban commander.

"The talks at that time failed, and he was again handed over to his captors, and that's why he didn't trust when [he] was told about his likely release," the Taliban commander told NBC News on the phone from Afghanistan.

But this time, “our talks finally proved successful for [a] prisoners' swap. We returned our valued guest to his countrymen and they released our people.” said the Taliban commander.”

Russ Vaughn writing in American Thinker states:

“Obama got his pig, and I make no apology for that description of PFC Bergdahl (he was promoted to sergeant while being held captive) for this is where this discussion turns deadly serious. As a former non-commissioned officer who served in combat with another airborne unit, my first reaction upon hearing of Bergdahl’s desertion many years ago was, get him back, give him a fair court-martial and put him in front of a firing squad. Good, honorable paratroopers lost their lives searching for this treasonous bastard. Various sources from Bergdahl’s unit, the 501st Airborne Infantry are reporting in around the Web with this information:

PFC Matthew Michael Martinek, Staff Sgt. Kurt Robert Curtiss, SSG Clayton Bowen, PFC Morris Walker, SSG Michael Murphrey, 2LT Darryn Andrews, were all KIA from our unit who died looking for Bergdahl. Many others from various units were wounded or killed while actively looking for Bergdahl.”

(You can read more and see the photos by clicking here)

“Those deaths, every single one, are on Bergdahl’s head. For the squeamish among you who find my opinion too harsh, here’s Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the statutory regulation dealing with desertion:

(c) Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.

And there is damning evidence against PFC Bergdahl from those in his unit. He made no secret of his disillusionment with America, sending emails to his parents, one of which contained this statement, “The system is wrong. I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools. I am sorry for everything here”

Notice that non-capitalization of "American". A fellow trooper, Jason Fry, has reported that Bergdahl told him, "If this deployment is lame, I'm just going to walk off into the mountains of Pakistan."

So yes, we can court-martial this dishonorable deserter whose selfish views and actions caused all those unnecessary deaths and take his life or lock him away for the rest of it for the simple reason that the son of a bitch walked out on his band of brothers in an active combat zone in an act of betrayal that caused the deaths of his brothers in arms who willingly went in search of him, to save his sorry, weasel ass. Those events have immeasurable consequences on those both above and below his rank that he deserted. There is no greater crime that a combat infantryman can commit than desertion to the enemy on the battlefield. Were he to be judged by his fellow paratroopers, he’d be dead in the blink of an eye for the deaths that he caused. He willingly manipulated and violated the code of, “No man left behind,” for his own selfish sense of fulfillment that proved deadly to troopers in the 501st Infantry, and who knows how many more in special operations, who sent in patrols for years trying to find this weak-ass traitor.

As a viewer of the HBO series “Homeland I cannot help but see the parallels between the fictional series and Sgt. Bergdahl’s story. In the series Nicholas Brody, a Marine Sgt. (played by Damian Lewis) was taken prisoner by al Qaeda and eventually converted to Islam. After five years he was released and returned to the United States as a sleeper terrorist with the mission of killing the Vice President who had authorized a drone attack on the headquarters of the al Qaeda commander killing his young son.

Like the HBO series, this real life story revolves around an American soldier127351_story__homeland who got taken as a Prisoner of War by terrorists while battling on foreign soil. Having spent five years in captivity (and having grown a large beard a la Damian Lewis' on-screen character), Bergdahl just got released and is now heading back to his homeland in Hailey, Idaho.

But the comparisons don't end there. In fact, this is only the beginning. After he was captured in Afghanistan by Haqqanigroup terrorists, his then-19-year-old lover Monica Lee actively participated in protests to get him freed. But as years went by, the efforts waned and she got on with her life. Bergdahl himself told her in one of the messages his captors let him sent out to not wait for him.

Having thought that Bergdahl may never return, she began dating someone new. But yesterday she was told that Bergdahl is not only alive but has been freed and will soon be heading back home.

While the news brought of joy and relief for her, she quickly realized how awkward a situation would become when she comes face to face with her returning ex who may not know that she is now with someone else. This is basically what happens in the critically acclaimed HBO series.

Something to watch out for- the Homeland protagonist was turned by al-Qaeda while in captivity. Although rumors of Bergdahl assisting his captors did make the rounds in 2010, let's hope that's not actually the case here.

I say the following fully respecting the fact that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his family/loved ones might have an extremely understandably different opinion on the situation:

  1. The people we exchanged for Sgt. Bergdahl will end up running terrorist operations in Afghanistan if we’re lucky, and Afghanistan and abroad if we are not. And they will likely be doing it considerably sooner than a year from now.
  2. The Taliban will step up their kidnapping campaigns, because from their point of view said campaigns have been proven to work.
  3. Democratic, liberal, and progressive partisans like Alan Combs will freak if you point out either #1 or #2 to them.

It’s a heck of a thing when your only hope is maybe they put a remote tracker in one guy’s gut or some other techno-thriller nonsense. Unfortunately, no, this is not a Tom Clancy novel and we do not have a Jack Ryan in office. And I’m sorry that I have to be the one that gets to tell people hard truths like rewarding kidnapping gets more people kidnapped. But apparently telling people the things that they don’t want to hear is part of the entire ‘Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy’ thing.

All of this while Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi languishes in a Mexican prison chained to a bed. Tahmooressi was not a deserter. He is still in Marines as a reservist and has been said to be hero on the battlefield. What will his Commander-in-Chief do for this Marine?

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