The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, June 02, 2014


News coverage of the Obama administration's actions leading to the release of a US POW, Bowe Bergdahl, at first reported events in a manner that seemed like a clear victory for the president. Sure, Obama's people traded six hardened Taliban senior officers housed in Guantanamo (including a few who were accused by the UN of war crimes) for the lone POW, but we got our soldier out. The administration's spokespeople and their trained media hamsters spun it as an indication of the president's toughness and resolve.

And then, the story got complicated. For those who were unaware of the facts surrounding the case, reports began to emerge that Bowe Bergdahl was hardly a hero. He was not captured during battle, or on patrol, or even from his forward operating base.

Nathan Bethea provides a first-hand account in The Daily Beast :
It was June 30, 2009, and I was in the city of Sharana, the capitol of Paktika province in Afghanistan. As I stepped out of a decrepit office building into a perfect sunny day, a member of my team started talking into his radio. “Say that again,” he said. “There’s an American soldier missing?”

There was. His name was Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, the only prisoner of war in the Afghan theater of operations. His release from Taliban custody on May 31 marks the end of a nearly five-year-old story for the soldiers of his unit, the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. I served in the same battalion in Afghanistan and participated in the attempts to retrieve him throughout the summer of 2009. After we redeployed, every member of my brigade combat team received an order that we were not allowed to discuss what happened to Bergdahl for fear of endangering him. He is safe, and now it is time to speak the truth.

And that the truth is: Bergdahl was a deserter, and soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.

On the night prior to his capture, Bergdahl pulled guard duty at OP Mest, a small outpost about two hours south of the provincial capitol. The base resembled a wagon circle of armored vehicles with some razor wire strung around them. A guard tower sat high up on a nearby hill, but the outpost itself was no fortress. Besides the tower, the only hard structure that I saw in July 2009 was a plywood shed filled with bottled water. Soldiers either slept in poncho tents or inside their vehicles.

The next morning, Bergdahl failed to show for the morning roll call. The soldiers in 2nd Platoon, Blackfoot Company discovered his rifle, helmet, body armor and web gear in a neat stack. He had, however, taken his compass. His fellow soldiers later mentioned his stated desire to walk from Afghanistan to India.

The Daily Beast’s Christopher Dickey later wrote that "[w]hether Bergdahl…just walked away from his base or was lagging behind on a patrol at the time of his capture remains an open and fiercely debated question.” Not to me and the members of my unit. Make no mistake: Bergdahl did not "lag behind on a patrol,” as was cited in news reports at the time. There was no patrol that night. Bergdahl was relieved from guard duty, and instead of going to sleep, he fled the outpost on foot. He deserted. I’ve talked to members of Bergdahl’s platoon—including the last Americans to see him before his capture. I’ve reviewed the relevant documents. That’s what happened.
Deserter or not, Bowe Bergdahl has undoubtedly suffered enough. It's highly unlikely that he'll be prosecuted, even though other good men lost their lives hunting for him.

But his release is not a cause for national celebration. We traded five murderous Islamist thugs for a fool who deserted his unit, put himself at the mercy of other murderous thugs, and even worse, caused other soldiers to put themselves at great risk as they searched for him.

If the Obama administration made a straight 5 for 1 trade, even for a deserter, they probably did the right thing ... probably. But it's particularly galling to listen to the president's supporters suggest that this "deal" might open up "a dialog" with the Taliban.

That would be the same Taliban who murder little girls for attending school, behead journalists and other opponents, and terrorize the Afghani populace, not to mention apply Sharia law in the extreme. Yeah, let's establish a "dialog" and see how that works out. After all, dialog is a cornerstone of Obama's "smart power" fantasy, and after 5.5 years, the results have been spectacularly good on the foreign policy front, haven't they?