I finally got round to reading the entire Michael Hasting's article on Bowe Bergdahl from 2012 and noticed something odd.
Things soon got worse. Ralph Peters, an action-thriller writer who serves as a "strategic analyst" for Fox News, took to the air to condemn Bowe as an "apparent deserter." The Taliban, he declared, could save the United States on "legal bills" by executing him. Horrified by such comments, Bob and Jani told their military liaison that they didn't want the Army to mount an operation to rescue Bowe, fearful that he'd be killed – either by accident, or even on purpose, by an aggrieved soldier or the U.S. military itself. There have certainly been soldiers who have joined the drumbeat of hatred against Bowe: A recent Facebook post from one soldier in his unit called for his execution. Worried that any further public attention might put Bowe at greater risk, his parents decided to remain silent, releasing a statement to their local newspaper asking the press to respect their privacy.This was two years ago. Two years ago people on Fox News were saying that we should let the Taliban execute one of our soldiers without a trial and in order to protect his safety and the security of the negotiations to prevent members of the Taliban from doing exactly that in order to perpetuate the War the Pentagon had members of Bergdahl's Brigade sign NDA's which legally prevented them from talking about his capture and efforts to recover him?
In what appears to be an unprecedented move, the Pentagon also scrambled to shut down any public discussion of Bowe. Members of Bowe's brigade were required to sign nondisclosure agreements as part of their paperwork to leave Afghanistan. The agreement, according to Capt. Fancey, forbids them to discuss any "personnel recovery" efforts – an obvious reference to Bowe. According to administration sources, both the Pentagon and the White House also pressured major news outlets like The New York Times and the AP to steer clear of mentioning Bowe's name to avoid putting him at further risk. (The White House was afraid hard-line elements could execute him to scuttle peace talks, officials involved in the press negotiations say.)
So how come these guys are now on Fox News complaining that several of their fellow soldiers died in the search for Bergdahl, isn't doing that something that would now put them in Jail?
I'm not going to say these guys aren't telling the truth as they know it. Hasting's article states that the search for Bergdahl "consumed" them for several months, so most of the losses they suffered over that time period may have occurred during official and even unofficial search operations.
Here's Video of Bergdahl's unit from the Guardian which shows just what their, and his, state of mind in regards to the war may have been at the time of his capture. Which is I would say - "Not Good".
The behavior, attitude and complete lack of respect and professionalism shown in this video - which apparently got the entire unit in hot water as Hastings writes - shows directly what Bergdahl was complaining about in his emails home. Some in his unit may in fact hold a grudge against him for his criticism, but it's not like it wasn't justified as we can all plainly see. Is that why they're so desperate to trash Bergdahl now, not just because of the soldier they (probably) lost in search of him but always because he broke the "Bro Code" of telling the truth, even when it's an ugly truth?
I don't think there's enough yet on the table to be certain of that - but I can certainly understand that if you've lost people because of someone else's Fuck Up in getting captured, you'd be pretty mad too.
The main question which remains to be resolved until Bergdahl himself has a chance to be interviewed and his intentions made clear is how was he captured? The Army has determined that he left the base - but what hasn't been made clear is why?
Hastings reports that Bergdahl was a huge fan of TV Survivalist Bear Grryls and his "live off the land in the rough" philosophy. He'd spent quite a bit of time doing exactly that in Idaho. He loved adventure. In fact, before joining the Army he had tried to join the French Foreign Legion - even moving to France and learning the language - all for the thrill and adventure of it, but was rejected. He read the Philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, he was interested in culture and nature. He's learned Pashto and had become friendly with some of the locals as he actually tried to believe in the mission of of winning "Hearts and Minds", only to see that slowly ground down by harsh realities and difficult circumstances and lost lives. He was not your average grunt, he was looking for something a lot bit out of the ordinary - but that doesn't necessarily mean he would desert or defect to the Taliban.
Subsequent reports have shown that this wasn't his first off-base trip, but his second while in Afghanistan and his third overall. He was not reprimanded for either of those two trips, so exactly how was he suppose to expect that he had violated the "rules?"
He even asked permission before hand.
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?This exchange which was witnessed by several people seems to be the core basis for the belief that Bergdahl went off base - because he asked if he could. Notice his team leader did not say - "What the Fuck do you mean "Leave the Base"?" - he did not say it would "Cause problems if ANYTHING - including YOU - left the base". It's not like his team leader was saying to him, "Gee, if you feel like going on a walk-about to Pakistan today, just don't take your weapon with you and it's 'CooL'"'. That shit apparently didn't happen.
Yes, his team leader responded – if you took your rifle and night-vision goggles, that would cause problems.
Now Hasting's writes about Bergdahl telling one of his platoon buddies that "if this deployement goes south he'd like to take a walk through the mountains of Pakistan" and his article seems to assume that's what Bergdahl attempted as it goes on at length to point out that he was an avid hiker through the mountains of his native Idaho. But it also includes this radio exchange from the Taliban the day after his disappearance.
The next morning, more than 24 hours after Bowe had vanished, U.S. intelligence intercepted a conversation between two Taliban fighters:Perhaps, if Bergdahl had had his weapon with him, things would have gone differently.
"I SWEAR THAT I HAVE NOT HEARD ANYTHING YET. WHAT HAPPENED. IS THAT TRUE THAT THEY CAPTURED AN AMERICAN GUY?"
"YES THEY DID. HE IS ALIVE. THERE IS NO WHERE HE CAN GO (LOL)" "IS HE STILL ALIVE?"
"YES HE IS ALIVE. BUT I DONT HAVE THE WHOLE STORY. DONT KNOW IF THEY WERE FIGHTING. ALL I KNOW IF THEY WERE FIGHTING. ALL I KNOW THAT THEY CAPTURE HIM ALIVE AND THEY ARE WITH HIM RIGHT NOW."
Then another intercept was picked up:
"CUT THE HEAD OFF"
Later that evening, a final intercept confirmed that Bowe had been captured by the Taliban, who were preparing an ambush for the search party.
"WE ARE WAITING FOR THEM."
"LOL THEY KNOW WHERE HE IS BUT THEY KEEP GOING TO WRONG AREA."
"OK SET UP THE WORK FOR THEM."
"YES WE HAVE A LOT OF IED ON THE ROAD."
"GOD WILLING WE WILL DO IT."
"WE WERE ATTACKING THE POST HE WAS SITTING TAKING EXPLETIVE HE HAD NO GUN WITH HIM. HE WAS TAKING EXPLETIVE, HE HAS NOT CLEANED HIS BUTT YET." "WHAT SHAME FOR THEM."
So the Taliban says they found Bergdahl at the head (or a dump in the wild as some have surmised), while they were mounting an attack - although it's unclear from this whether he was at the base or off base when this "attack" was supposed to occur. [Some have pointed out in the comments that the body of some Afghan locals who were friendly with Bergdahl were found just outside of the base] After his capture he attempted several escapes, temporarily succeeding in one of them and fighting off as many as five Taliban on his own. 'He moved like a Boxer". After this the Taliban kept him shackled, transfered himi to the Haqqani network in Pakistan which was being funded by Pakistan Intelligence and frequently moved him among any of a dozen safe-houses to avoid drone strikes.
What is clear is that Congress knew all the details of this possible trade over 2 years ago - and that even way back then John McCain, reluctantly, agreed to it.
The tensions came to a boil in January, when administration officials went to Capitol Hill to brief a handful of senators on the possibility of a prisoner exchange. The meeting, which excluded staffers, took place in a new secure conference room in the Capitol visitor center. According to sources in the briefing, the discussion sparked a sharp exchange between Senators John McCain and John Kerry, both of whom were decorated for their service in Vietnam. McCain, who endured almost six years of captivity as a prisoner of war, threw a fit at the prospect of releasing five Taliban detainees.And he has spoken out, most recently claiming that these five were responsible for 9/11 - when that clearly isn't the case, because only the guys who directly planned and implemented 9/11 attack - are responsible for 9/11 - and that isn't the Taliban, nor is it each and every individual member of al Qaeda.
"They're the five biggest murderers in world history!" McCain fumed.
Kerry, who supported the transfer, thought that was going a bit far. "John," he said, "the five biggest murderers in the world?"
McCain was furious at the rebuke. "They killed Americans!" he responded. "I suppose Senator Kerry is OK with that?"
McCain reluctantly came around on the prisoner exchange, according to those present at the meeting, but he has continued to speak out against negotiating with the Taliban.
The Five are in fact.
Khirullah Said Wali KhairkhwaSo of these five, three were former Taliban Government Officials with no combat involvement and only one is rated as "Likely to return to the fight". Not that hasn't stopped the House from trying to use this - long before the deal was finally struck - to their own political advantage.
This 47-year-old was once the Taliban's interior minister, actually helping to create the Taliban movement in 1994. His Guantanamo case file, released by WikiLeaks, described him as a “hard-liner in his support of the Taliban philosophy” and “known to have close ties to Osama bin Laden.”
Captured by Pakistani border patrol on Feb. 16 2002.
Mullah Mohammad Fazl
Also 47, Fazi was a senior commander in the Taliban army during the 1990s, eventually becoming its chief of staff. He is thought to have personally supervised the killing of thousands of Shiite Muslims near Kabul between 1998 and 2001. His Guantanamo case file also describes him as being present at a 2001 prison riot that led to the death of CIA operative Johnny Michael Spann, the first U.S. citizen killed in the Afghan war. "If released, detainee would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with ACM elements participating in hostilities against US and Coalition forces in Afghanistan," his case file reads.
Fazi surrendered to a Northern Alliance commander in November 2001, and was transferred to U.S. custody in December.
Mullah Norullah Noori
Noori, 47, was a provincial governor in several areas during the Taliban regime. He is also believed to have been present during Spann's death and may have also been involved in the Shiite massacre. His Guantanamo case file says that he "continues to be a significant figure encouraging acts of aggression."
Noori turned himself in to a Northern Alliance commander in November 2001.
Abdul Haq Wasiq
Wasiq, 43, was the deputy chief of intelligence for the Taliban. According to his Guantanamo case file, he “utilized his office to support al Qaeda” and was “central to the Taliban’s effort to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups.”
Wasiq was detained in November 2001.
Mohammed Nabi Omari
Omari, 46, was a member of a joint al-Qaeda-Taliban cell in eastern Khost province, according to his case file, and “one of the most significant former Taliban leaders detained” at Guantanamo.
"The Hill is giving State and the White House shit," says one senior administration source. "The political consequences are being used as leverage in the policy debate." According to White House sources, Marc Grossman, who replaced Richard Holbrooke as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was given a direct warning by the president's opponents in Congress about trading Bowe for five Taliban prisoners during an election year. "They keep telling me it's going to be Obama's Willie Horton moment," Grossman warned the White House. The threat was as ugly as it was clear: The president's political enemies were prepared to use the release of violent prisoners to paint Obama as a Dukakis- like appeaser, just as Republicans did to the former Massachusetts governor during the 1988 campaign. In response, a White House official advised Grossman that he should ignore the politics of the swap and concentrate solely on the policy.Never mind the politics, bring our soldier home.
"Frankly, we don't give a shit why he left," says one White House official. "He's an American soldier. We want to bring him home."
That makes me proud to have Barack Obama as my President, because that's the right answer.
And no, the President didn't let Congress know 30 Days in advance that a deal had been struck and he and his cabinet had authorized the trade, partly because the Taliban had warned that if news of the deal leaked early - They would Kill Bergdahl. So their issue wasn't just his apparently deteriorating health, it was a concern that he'd be executed in retaliation for our not honoring our word.
Yet again, I'm glad the President made this call and not Congress because if it had been up to them Bergdahl would have been beheaded, just as Fox News argued he should be two years ago for "Desertion".