The Dirt View
Bowe Bergdahl witnessed a careless manslaughter in 2009. The killing of a child.
And then that killing was covered up by the officers in his Army unit: no report to Army Inspector General, no unit prosecution, no detention or reduction in pay grade, no punishment whatsoever for the MRAP driver who crushed the child.
Call them "wogs." Call them "towel heads." Talk of putting boots up their asses. Their lives don't matter. And that after General McChrystal committed U.S. forces to defending these villagers, first priority.
"I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting."Bowe Bergdahl was raised as a devout Christian, a Calvinist, a follower of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Son of Mary, Lord of Lords, Messiah, Wonderful. As a Christian he refused to accept hateful delusions.
-- Bowe Bergdahl
His last email to his parents made clear that his U.S. Army unit suffered a failure of leadership. This failure extended to support for an aggressive hatred of the local Afghan people.
It might as well have been Water Street in Manhattan in January, 2008. That's where a Wall Street CEO ran down Florence Cioffi, an office worker trying to hail a cab. He was recorded on video going 60 m.p.h. on that city street and kept going and was DUI and suffered not a whole lot more punishment than a strong talking-to. Nothing unusual.
Value for an Afghan life: close to zero. (Same as for Flo.) Unit comments ran to derision toward the victim's parents and the village.
Operation Enduring Freedom
Officially, of course, all was well in Afghanistan. President Obama approved the 2009 "Surge" with Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine at its heart. Protecting villages, as implemented and written up during the Vietnam War by Colonel William R. Corson, USMC, had been rediscovered. Corson's approach was simplified and then codified in 2006 as The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual ("FM 3-24.")
This manual stresses "hearts and minds" civic action programs. Unfortunately, COIN doctrine relies on an extreme confidence, bordering on fantasy, that asserts excellence in military leadership at all levels of engagement. Indeed COIN FM 3-24 worked to beat the band as a new language and a world view for our utterly narcissistic generals.
Further down the line, at the dirt view, things worked out differently.
Leadership failed to lead with humanity, as with Bergdahl's unit, and the indigenous population suffered uncontrolled, randomly deadly conflict. In Vietnam similar failures contributed to killing 2,600,000 people according to the U.S. Army history of that war. Iraq has produced 1,961,000 total extra deaths. "Peace Through Superior Firepower" and"Mission Accomplished" and "The Surge" don't cut it.
"Get 'em by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow" eased back to center stage carrying its lower-end racial hatreds. The statement also reflects a default world view common with American males: you can brutalize people into doing what you want. Hatred can drive everything.
Bowe Bergdahl's emails to his parents detail his units' officers' rejection of COIN, FM 3-24, and the elements of Corson's and his Marines' willingness to fight for their villagers. These rejections extended to COIN critical success factors, for example: language skills, tracking/backtracking tactics, dog teams, comm gear for villagers, working with elders. Bergdahl was unique working to learn Dari (Kabuli Persian), Pashto, and Arabic; he was not a fit to the prevailing incompetence.
Bergdahl's unit rejected acquiring skills. What they went with was hatred. And fear.
Go below the orange doodad for what Bowe Bergdahl tells us about his unit and how things were going in Afghanistan when President Obama came to office. It's a snap shot of the war in 2009.
This is useful, today, the better to appreciate the change in 2011/2012 when Hamid Karzai finally received independent resources from President Obama. He built up a multi-tribal multi-level national army. That is the Afghan way. It worked.
The U.S. had failed with Stanley McChrystal's take on COIN. Contrary to the rivers of calumny our American press dumps on Karzai, he was the one who understood how to beat the Taliban. And he did it.
The U.S. fielded 80,000 troops, took 21,000 casualties, and killing tens of thousands of so-called "Taliban." American accomplishments proved transient and/or illusory. No one should be surprised at our failure: look at the map. Afghanistan is the size of Texas and they have going on 30,000,000 people. Based on Corson's work in the 1960s and FM 3-24, calculations show that we would have needed 1,000,000 troops in-country to implement COIN. The project would have taken 5 years.
With 80,000 troops and trashing the Afghans, our Afghanistan war was a fool's mission. Bowe Bergdahl saw the worst of it.
Then finally Hamid Karzai and his team took over less than 5% of the annual budget, negotiated deals with the Loya Jirga tribal leaders, put 450,000 locals in play, and pulled us out of the fire. Taliban is deadly, but no longer a threat to overthrow the government. There's also a working cap on the poppy/heroin trade -- another story for another day.
Racist xssholes made poor choices for implementing a COIN strategy.
How hard a call is that one? Anyone expect different?
Where the climbers at the top of the Pentagon pyramid do not take account that they're relying on racist and low-value time servers, the whole of the enterprise spirals out of control.
Here's what our top end, cleaned up and spiffy folks were talking about in 2009. It's 100% buzz word bxllshxt:
Our diplomatic effort should be based on building a clear consensus behind the common core goal and supporting objectives. To this end, we will explore creating new diplomatic mechanisms, including establishing a “Contact Group” and a regional security and economic cooperation forum. The trilateral U.S.-Pakistan-Afghanistan effort of February 24-26, 2009 will be continued and broadened, into the next meeting planned for early May, in Washington.
The United States must overcome the 'trust deficit' it faces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where many believe that we are not a reliable long-term partner. We must engage the Afghan people in ways that demonstrate our commitment to promoting a legitimate and capable Afghan government with economic progress. We must engage the Pakistani people based on our long-term commitment to helping them build a stable economy, a stronger democracy, and a vibrant civil society.
-- White Paper of the Interagency Policy Group's Report on
U.S. Policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2009
Same time, back down the ladder into reality the only real money in the Afghan economy was poppies/opium. "Democracy" was a head count by tribes. (They're great for lamb-hockey on horseback and screaming at dog fights. Outside of towns illiteracy is the norm.) And that "vibrant civil society" concept... it doesn't quite translate. Afghanistan villages function as small scale theocracies.
Away from cities, that's also Afghanistan in 2014. Get over it. The basic culture has been there for 7,000 to 10,000 years. They don't want your help. They know better than to trust you.
COIN in Afghanistan
Let's look at what Bill Corson had to do to protect "his" villages in Vietnam: the CAP implementation success factors focused on language skills, tracking/backtracking tactics, dog teams, comm gear for villagers, and working with village elders.
If Bill Corson were still alive, he'd love Bowe Bergdahl. On his own, working against the anti-COIN racism of his unit, Bergdahl ordered the Pimsleur courses for Dari (aka, Kabuli Persian) and the Rosetta Stone courses for Pashto and Arabic. That's what you call a bright spot.
For the rest of COIN skills, the Army did not learn tracking with the excuse that they had drones for that. So what happened when an attack force split up? Well, bye-bye.
Backtracking attackers was never attempted. Not once by a regular Army unit. We still have arguments with the Army, today, over whether it is possible. They are perfectly happy to deny the history and technology of their own Indian Wars from the 19th Century. They allow that there is such a thing as a "dog." But there is no such thing as a Bloodhound.
Comm gear came to the villages in 2012. The walkie-talkie styles for local traffic and satellite phones to reach the Afghan army. Dirt cheap. Easy to use. And yes, rural Afghans know how to do backtracking. In their 7K to 10K years on site, they've learned a couple things.
Here's that sad, regrettable, dirt view snapshot as annotated by a late Michael Hastings:
HERE.On June 27th, [of 2009] he sent what would be his final e-mail to his parents. It was a lengthy message documenting his complete disillusionment with the war effort. He opened it by addressing it simply to "mom, dad."-- Michael Hastings, June 7, 2012 for Rolling Stone
"The future is too good to waste on lies," Bowe wrote. "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. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting."
The e-mail went on to list a series of complaints: Three good sergeants, Bowe said, had been forced to move to another company, and "one of the biggest shit bags is being put in charge of the team." His battalion commander was a "conceited old fool." The military system itself was broken: "In the US army you are cut down for being honest... but if you are a conceited brown nosing shit bag you will be allowed to do what ever you want, and you will be handed your higher rank... The system is wrong. I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools." The soldiers he actually admired were planning on leaving: "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."
In the second-to-last paragraph of the e-mail, Bowe wrote about his broader disgust with America's approach to the war – an effort, on the ground, that seemed to represent the exact opposite of the kind of concerted campaign to win the "hearts and minds" of average Afghans envisioned by counterinsurgency strategists. "I am sorry for everything here," Bowe told his parents. "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." He then referred to what his parents believe may have been a formative, possibly traumatic event: seeing an Afghan child run over by an MRAP. "We don't even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks... We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them."
Bowe concluded his e-mail with what, in another context, might read as a suicide note. "I am sorry for everything," he wrote. "The horror that is america is disgusting." Then he signed off with a final message to his mother and father. "There are a few more boxes coming to you guys," he said, referring to his uniform and books, which he had already packed up and shipped off. "Feel free to open them, and use them."
On June 27th, at 10:43 p.m., Bob Bergdahl responded to his son's final message not long after he received it. His subject line was titled: 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." He signed it simply "dad."
Of course if Bowe Bergdahl had stayed and had conformed to suit, he could have become a proper suicide. There's lots of that. He could have turned all the way round and murdered 17 in their homes. He could have joined in for the fun and murdered dozens, taking body parts for souvenirs. "Kill Team" fun, you know.
He could have killed the MRAP driver. Stabbed him with a bayonet.
Instead, Bowe walked off. His father, Bob, had a hand in that. And conscience. Gandhi thought that if you were quiet, what you might hear was God. Maybe God.
Is this "treason"? And is Bowe a "traitor"?
And do we have to read the RWNJ calls to hang the young man in the name of their Ayn Rand Jesus, paired with the Business Democrats' hushed appeals for mercy?
Then give me treason and traitors. I must regret it, that I have but a small part of one country, not really mine to give for a life governed by conscience. (Apologies to Nathan Hale.)
Conscience seems more important than country. That's just me.