The Troubling Case of Bowe Bergdahl

By Jay Holmes

Since his release from Taliban captivity on May 13, 2014, in exchange for five senior Taliban leaders, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has been in the spotlight of the U.S. media. The Obama administration and much of the American media hailed the initial reports of his release as a victory and an obvious cause for celebration. However, within hours, questions began to emerge concerning the wisdom of exchanging five senior Taliban leaders for a U.S. Army soldier who had, according to his army comrades, apparently deserted his post in premeditated fashion.

 

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl image by U.S. Army

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
image by U.S. Army

 

Bergdahl has now become something of a transient touchstone of American politics. Members of both Houses of Congress have pointed out that President Obama violated federal law when he authorized the release of Guantanamo prisoners without giving Congress the required thirty day notice. The law is quite clear on this point. The law was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013 and was signed by President Obama. We know that the President did in fact read the law before signing it because he complained about the restriction that the law placed on him at the time of the signing.

Whether anyone in the Department of Justice or Congress will do anything about that clear violation of law is doubtful. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has attempted to explain away the violation by saying that the President had complained about the law when he signed it, and that the circumstances were urgent.

I fear I must take responsibility for this particular instance of President Obama’s misbehavior. He was simply copying an old ploy that I invented when I was in third grade. When the nuns would assign me homework, I would complain about it and not do it. The following day, I would explain that urgencies—baseball practice, family events, reading time with better books, etc.—had prevented me from doing the homework. I stopped using that ploy when I got to high school. If I had known way back in third grade that future presidents and press secretaries would unleash such a powerful weapon against the American people, I never would have created this devastating device. I offer my sincere apologies.

The public’s response to the Bergdahl case has ranged from “Shoot the bastard!” to “He’s a hero, though I can’t explain why.” Much of this mixed reaction has little to do with legalities or illegalities. The basic controversy stems from the fact that five very dangerous Taliban leaders were released from Camp Cheerful in Guantanamo, Cuba, to obtain the release of a member of the U.S. Army who apparently deserted his post. The public’s anger concerning Bergdahl is based on statements made by Bergdahl’s platoon mates and a 2010 Pentagon investigation that concluded that there was “incontrovertible evidence” that Bergdahl walked away from his unit. Bergdahl has not been convicted of desertion or of any other violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and he might or might not ever face a court martial.

 

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with Taliban. image from Voice of Jihad Website

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl with Taliban.
image from Voice of Jihad Website

 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey now explains that, “The questions about this particular soldier’s conduct are separate from our effort to recover any U.S. service member in enemy captivity,” and that, “Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.” I trust and respect General Dempsey, and I accept his position as rational. Precisely how much the U.S. was willing to give the Taliban in exchange for Bergdahl is another matter.

On June 30, 2009, Bergdahl vanished from his army post in Afghanistan. In statements that he made to his battalion mates and emails that he sent to his family prior to leaving his post, he made it clear that he was angry with the United States of America, and that he was ashamed of being American. So what would make any sane member of the U.S. Army turn into an American-hating deserter? The question might not quite apply in this case. He may have not been all that sane to start with.

A glance at Bergdahl’s background raises questions about whether he was ever fit to enter the U.S. Army in the first place. Prior to joining, Bergdahl had traveled to France and had attempted to enlist in the French Foreign Legion. To their credit, the Legion rejected his application. Somehow, the U.S. Army failed to detect the same issues, or it ignored whatever had concerned the French Foreign Legion.

Once Bergdahl arrived in Afghanistan, he began learning to speak Pashto. According to his battalion mates, he became more anti-social and spent more time with Afghans than with his platoon mates.  Bergdahl’s father is certain that he became socially isolated from his comrades while in Afghanistan. The very fact that Bergdahl was willing to wander off alone into the wilds of Afghanistan calls into question his ability to make rational decisions.

It’s a large Army and a volunteer Army. The pool of enlistment applicants is by no means infinite. If the Army were to exclude every youngster that seemed a little odd or that had previously acted immaturely, it would be a very small Army. I can forgive the U.S. military for its imperfect recruiting methods. Many of our nation’s military heroes did not always act like saints. The U.S. military will not find perfect screening tools for candidates. Such tools do not yet exist.

My personal judgments concerning Bergdahl’s conduct are not important. The opinions of his battalion mates should not be quite so easily dismissed. Thus far, it is clear that the majority of men that served in combat with Bergdahl are certain that he is a deserter. The Army is stating that this case will be fully investigated. But the president has the power to order this or any other investigation to be abandoned, or to deliver whatever conclusions he desires to have delivered. Both President Johnson and President Nixon directly intervened in major courts martial cases during the Viet Nam War for political reasons. President Clinton intervened during the Iraq No-Fly Zone operations. I don’t doubt that President Obama will do the same.

On the other side of the coin, the five criminals that were released had previously dedicated themselves to the anti-Western, anti-reason, Stone Age agenda of the Taliban. I expect that they will continue to do so.

 

Taliban Five, a.k.a. Taliban Dream Team Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mohammad Fazl, Khalrullah Khalrkhwa, Mohammed Nabi

Taliban Five, a.k.a. Taliban Dream Team
Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mohammad Fazl, Khalrullah Khalrkhwa, Mohammed Nabi

 

The Pentagon cannot resolve the underlying issues of the Bergdahl controversy. They are political in nature. The propaganda efforts put forth by the spin-demons in D.C. have been amusing but not terribly effective. Democratic Party stalwart and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Senator Dianne Feinstein has contradicted the White House’s assertion that they were forced to act quickly because Bergdahl was in imminent danger. It looks like a major political disaster in the making, but my best guess is that it will all soon fizzle. In all likelihood, the public relations fallout will not greatly influence political events in the U.S. A great number of both the president’s detractors and supporters are dogmatic in their politics, and neither this nor any other event will easily influence their loyalties. The president and other politicians understand this and act accordingly.

On the bright side, there is a glimmer of hope in this and in every other political disaster in the U.S.There are significant indications that young voters are less likely to settle for a constant diet of dogma to satisfy their political wishes. In spite of our best efforts to fail, we may have succeeded in raising a generation of Americans that are somewhat less politically gullible than previous generations have been. Call me a wild optimist, but it seems to me that the defective political products that have sold so well in the American political market place might not sell so well in the near future. The buyers are becoming more leery. Let’s hope that that trend will continue.

In the meantime, the Bergdahl case won’t have much influence on our policies or operations in Afghanistan. The Haqqani terrorist branch of the Taliban have their five extra zealots back, and they will continue to grow and to exert whatever influence they can in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although it’s infuriating to see terrorists set free, it won’t matter much in practical terms. The White House does not wish to burn much more of its shrinking political resources in Afghanistan. We are leaving regardless of what changes might occur there. Whether or not the Afghani tribal leaders will be willing and able to allow government to occur in our absence remains to be seen.

Bayard & Holmes CyberSmack – Rush Limbaugh

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

Last week, Georgetown law student Sarah Fluke testified at a congressional hearing and asked Congress to make it mandatory for employers to provide contraception coverage for their employees in their health insurance benefits.

In response, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Here’s his quote:

“What does it say about the college co-ed [Sandra] Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says she must be paid to have sex?” Limbaugh asked. “What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

Not only did he blantantly misquote her, the next day he stated she should post videos of herself having sex as a way of compensating taxpayers for her birth control. (She was not advocating that taxpayers pay for anything.)

Even Rush’s “apology” mischaracterized the issue and could reasonably be construed as insulting:

Lest we get sidetracked into unnecessary discussions about employers’ rights, religious freedoms, or the rights and wrongs of contraception, there is an issue in this that is irrefutable, and that issue is that Limbaugh was a disgusting coward to bully this unsuspecting woman so completely while locked in the safety of his radio booth behind his microphone.

This type of misogynistic behavior is more typical of how we would expect a radio announcer in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan to treat a woman. Limbaugh could have made his point and been plenty offensive without directing such rude, unjustified name calling at someone who was merely stating her well-considered position in a congressional hearing. For him to attack her so personally demonstrates a level of hostility toward women that should never be supported in a civilized society.

Therefore, Rush has earned a Bayard & Holmes CyberSmack.

We believe Rush needs to learn the value of civility toward women. Therefore, as part of his CyberSmack, we will be awarding him a ticket to Trinidad, Colorado, the gender change capital of the United States, where he will be transformed into a vague approximation of a woman. The operation should go something like this. . . .

image of Rush Limbaugh by Nicolas Shayko

image of Rush Limbaugh by Nicolas Shayko

Before

image from FEMA

image from FEMA

After

We will then send Rush to Afghanistan with the mission of convincing the Taliban to be polite to women. To accomplish this mission, we will equip him with a special electronic device to translate his words from English to Pashto. When Rush says, “Hello, how are you today?” the translator will twist his words in the same manner he inflicts on everyone else and will produce a “Rush” of insults involving references to their impotence and their affection for goats.

The Taliban will then, no doubt, teach Rush how it feels to be an abused woman, and what life is like when a society has no value or respect for its women. That’s a place our country should never go, no matter what the issue.

What other fun can you think of to teach Rush how to behave toward women?

We. Are. At. War.

By Piper Bayard

My heart is heavy today thinking about our soldiers killed when our enemies brought down their Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan last week. Seventeen Navy SEALs, five conventional forces, three Air Force forward air controllers, five Army helicopter crew members, and eight Afghan military personnel. I did not know them, but I know others of their ilk. To a person, they are the most honorable, high-minded people I’ve ever met. To lose these devoted men to an enemy attack is not only a tragedy for their families and friends, it is a tragedy for every American.

The Current Administration is busy sending ever more Special Forces to Afghanistan, while pulling out “regular” troops. They are doing this as a way to cook the personnel books for the upcoming election. The theory is that one Special Forces soldier is the equivalent of two “regular” troops. The Current Administration wants to be able to win votes by saying, “We have reduced our forces in Afghanistan.” That doesn’t mean we have achieved half of our as-yet-to-be-defined goal in that country. It means that much of the American public wants Afghanistan to go away, and politicians are in the business of making people think they are getting what they want.

This completely ignores the fact that there is no such thing as a “regular” soldier. Each and every job in the military is important, from the supply clerks stateside to the deployed infantry, artillery, medics, and cooks, every soldier is important to the functioning of the whole. Special Forces are trained as Special Forces. They have a specific function. They aren’t a distillation of our military; they are one part of a diversely trained, functioning military. Therefore, to “reduce our presence in Afghanistan” and try to fill the gap with Special Forces is the same as saying, “Your left leg is really strong so we’re going to cut off your right leg.”

This is my Two Cents. I’m calling out our Current Administration for putting its political interests above the interests of our nation, and above the interests of the men and women who serve our country.

We are at war. Our enemies are Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. I would ask you, Current Administration, what is our specific goal? It hardly takes a student of military history to know that a war can’t be completed if there is no defined goal, and I and others have yet to hear one. And no. While “protecting the American people” is a politician’s answer, it is not a specific military goal.

Also, every Al-Qaeda and Taliban dollar comes from opium or oil—either the opium poppies grown in Afghanistan, or the oil dollars coming in from their sympathizers. If we cut off their funding, we eliminate their relevance on the planet.

I would ask you, Current Administration, what are you doing to eliminate the opium production in Afghanistan? I know you engage people to encourage farmers to grow soybeans instead of poppies. But is it just an option you give them? Or do you destroy the existing poppy fields? Do you have buyers for those soybeans? Do you take on the drug lords as the full allies of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban?

And more, what are we doing to eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil? We only get around 20% of our oil from the Middle East (U.S. Energy Information Administration). Surely we can cut back our usage and develop alternative fuels by that much. We’re hardly on a petroleum shoestring in this country.

Current Administration, you are telling us to buy, buy, buy, spend, spend, spend, and the war is something happening “over there.” We don’t need to look back past World War II to see that, when you transmit that message, you are not behaving like an Administration at war.

Our nation is not behaving like a nation at war.

I challenge you, Current Administration, to step up and accept responsibility for the fact that we are, indeed, at war. Send whatever troops, equipment, and ordnance are necessary to root out our enemies. Stop cooking the personnel books for your election image.

I challenge you, Current Administration, to ruthlessly destroy the poppy fields and the drug lords of Afghanistan without apology, and to commit to long-term, Marshall Plan style reconstruction in Afghanistan, as we did with Japan and Germany. Fill the vacuum left behind by the elimination of the criminal enterprise with viable options people can actually eat and sell on the open market, and prevent a re-infestation of criminal, extremist vermin.

I challenge you, Current Administration, to not allow oil from any Middle Eastern countries to be marketed in America, unless those countries openly, consistently, and unapologetically stand as our steadfast allies against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and all Islamic extremists.

And I challenge us as Americans to behave as a nation at war and reduce our gasoline consumption, as our grandparents did in WWII. If we cut our oil consumption by 20% and wholeheartedly develop alternatives, we will need nothing from the Middle East.

Take a moment and imagine how different our Middle Eastern policy would be if those countries were no more relevant to us than Easter Island. Isn’t that worth a few bicycle rides? A bit of car-pooling and public transportation?

If our Current Administration and we, as a nation, accept responsibility for the fact that we are at war, . . . if we develop the WWII mindset that each and every one of us is responsible for the war effort, . . . Al-Qaeda and the Taliban will dry up and shrivel into footnotes in our children’s history books. America’s strength has always been in her independence. I call on us all to remember who we are.

In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are with our deployed troops, and with the families, friends, and commanders of the fallen. May our country step up and do them justice.

What’s your Two Cents about our Current Administration replacing our “regular” soldiers with half as many Special Forces?

Click here to learn more about the men our enemies killed last week.

All the best to all of you for a week of independence.