Bashing the Bergdahls

Bergdahl

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

A week ago U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was released after five years of captivity by the Taliban. Since then you’d have to be a cave dweller to have missed the firestorm that’s erupted.

President Obama invited Bergdahl’s parents to a reception in the Rose Garden to make the announcement and I think that was a mistake. He shouldn’t have tried to make political hay from it. I suppose the fact that Bergdahl was the last U.S. soldier released from captivity made it a notable occasion, but given the controversy that should have been expected, I’d have kept it low key. And I wouldn’t have let National Security Advisor Susan Rice appear on TV saying Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction.” We don’t know yet that he did. Or didn’t.

The media have gone nuts, as they are inclined to do, with speculation about Bergdahl, whether or not he deserted his post, whether five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo should have been released in exchange, whether Obama broke the law by not giving Congress 30 days advance notice of the release, whether Bergdahl’s father did or should have become a Muslim, grow his beard, learn to speak Pashto, etc.

I agree 100% with the “no man left behind” doctrine of the U.S. military, and Obama needed to get Bergdahl back; a prisoner exchange is a common way to accomplish that. I don’t have a problem with the prisoners who were exchanged. Guantanamo should have been closed long ago, with every prisoner there tried and released, exchanged, or convicted and moved to a U.S. prison.

The media’s speculation about whether Bergdahl deserted has been reprehensible. Pending Bergdahl’s own explanation, or a report from some official military investigation, no one knows for sure what happened, why, or how. The speculation has amounted to an unmitigated, unjustified, and grossly unfair smear of Bergdahl. Likewise all the negative things said about Bergdahl’s parents, particularly his father. I would do anything I could — anything — to get my son released if he were a prisoner somewhere. That a man grew a beard and learned a new language to get his son back isn’t even worthy of comment

We have a lot of mean-spirited, hateful, self-centered people in this country. It’s a shame so many of them are given high visibility, microphones, and generous compensation to express their views.



Categories: Guantanamo, International, Law, Media, Politics

26 replies

  1. Based on reports confirmed and debated for more than four years in the responsible press, it is inconceivable to me that Bergdahl could be blameless in the matter. His discontent with the Army and its mission in Afghanistan are well established, documented in letters to his family. It is clear that he voluntarily left his post without permission. I read now that he left a note behind, probably an important piece of evidence, the withholding of which only raises more suspicion.

    I agree that the matter has been handled badly by the administration. The president doesn’t seem to have any good military advisers in his inner circle and that’s got me wondering why that is.

    The latest edition of Time Magazine has a cover article on Bergdahl by a reputable reporter, David Von Drehle. It is damning. You and I can agree that Sgt. Bergdahl is entitled to due process regarding the odd circumstances of his capture, but the more I learn the worse it seems about this guy. Yes, public opinion is running amok, as it is wont to do, but that is the price of free speech.

    I have further expressed my own (preliminary) views on the matter in a post.

    • I hope you noticed I never said I think he’s blameless or innocent of desertion. The evidence seems overwhelmingly against him. But you still don’t leave him behind, and you don’t declare him guilty without a proper hearing, and you don’t attack his parents.

  2. Granted Obama seems to have a tin ear at times with presentation…. but the crazed media certainly jumps on anything they can sink their teeth into. I think he could use some better advisors. He doesn’t claim credit when it’s actually due and then he totally botches this thing. I can’t help but wonder what difference it would have made if he hadn’t done the Rose Garden or the Susan Rice thing. There are plenty out there just looking for ANYTHING to pounce on and in this instance there’s actually a valid reason to do so.

  3. Concerning this matter, the jury is certainly still out where I am concerned. It is way too soon to start scheduling hangings and the like, although one would surely presume that opinion to be in the minority given the current level of rhetoric.

    Should Bergdahl’s release have been secured? No question – absolutely!

    At what price? Whatever accomplishes the goal after warranted and thorough deliberations and considerations of the options available.

    Will the specific decision made in the end to accomplish his return be the correct one? We only gain answer to that with hindsight as has been the case with the many decisions made down through history in matters of war, both large and small.

    As to the backlash regarding Bergdahl’s actions preceding his capture, I personally find that the associated public outcry surrounding this event is the most disturbing part of this story. But my reason for that is due to the “lack” of public outcry on what I perceive as an even bigger issue, that being the treatment of our veterans by their own country. The latest revelation regarding the many travesties committed against these men and women over the years who have served their country, denying timely healthcare and cooking the books to cover it up? In Arizona it has been estimated that some 40 have died waiting on healthcare. Who knows where the final number will end up when looked at nationwide!

    We just spent a weekend wallowing in the glory of D-Day and showering adulation upon all those veterans who both died and conquered. But how can one not stop and wonder if just one of those D-Day veterans may have been among those who has died awaiting healthcare?

    But there are those among us who will simply say that the veteran’s matter will surely resolve itself and focus rather on being angry and irate at some young man for a presumed bad decision, at his parents for embracing the release and return of their son and at his hometown for rallying around the family. Really? It seems to me that often in matters such as these, we Americans often choose our debates in an effort to make a mountain out of a molehill while avoiding much bigger issues thus making the real mountain into the proverbial molehill.

    • I credit the media and the politicians for whipping up much of the public outrage against Bergdahl, and they all seem to want the focus on themselves.

      I couldn’t agree more that the VA mess is a far bigger travesty that warrants a very broad, thorough investigation. If we’re going to start scheduling hangings, it should be those individuals who cooked the books and played games with the health and lives of veterans. That medical care is part of the nation’s pledge to the men and women who gave of themselves to serve this country. There are few priorities higher or pledges more sacred.

      • @ PT and Alan G,

        In the midst of public outrage over the VA scandal I submit that perspective is being lost with a larger problem. There has been a tsunami of a healthcare problem brewing for many years and the VA problem is just a subset of it: an aging population bubble, a stagnant birth rate, a moribund immigration policy, exploding obesity and all the chronic problems attendant to it, and rampant mental-health issues which have long been neglected because they lack viable treatments. The tsunami is now here.

        I think I just depressed myself. 😦

        • And no wonder. It’s a depressing situation. For some years now Congress has been unable or unwilling to address the nation’s long-term problems in any meaningful way. They’re too focused on political in-fighting and getting re-elected.

          Now I’m depressed. 😦

  4. The “mountain out of molehill” thing seems to be the new way for all political parties/influencial parties (Lobbyists/multinational companies) to deal with all that’s going on these days. How long will the average citizen stand for this is uncertain.
    This idealistic kid grew up in an isolated and sheltered environment with limited exposure to other thought. And he and others suffered when he hit the brutal reality of life. He walked away voluntarily, got caught, endured whatever, and was traded. (Odd as he wasn’t captured on the battlefield – so he was never left behind…he chose to go).
    It wasn’t a trade of even value. That’s the dumb part – worrisome for future trades when needed…people will look at this and say “Hey, they gave 5 high value guys for one question mark…what can we demand?” That’s the danger I see.
    If the pres. wanted to let Gitmo detainees go, he should have gutted it up and done it through established channels – but it looks like he didn’t want to risk fighting for what he supposedly believes in. (or is it all for appearances and politics? So not good there.)
    Parents will do what necessary for a child. Understandable.
    Actually, there’s a mom very worried about her military son sitting in a Mexican prison right on our border. She must also be confused as to why the US routinely gives favors/tranfers people to MX and they do not return the “favor”. Guess he picked the wrong country to walk around in – unlike someone else
    At this time, leave the poor parents alone – and let the military handle the kid’s situation
    There are other things to do and focus on.
    But you know the media – one extreme end finds the most extreme people on the other side and screams “Look, all of them on the other side are just like these!”
    Media is the blame for many divisions and problems in society now. Pretty disgusting

    • It was pretty obvious Obama didn’t abide by the 30 days notice thing because he knew Congress would be opposed to the deal, or at least want to talk it to death. As to his choice of which prisoners to trade, I’m not sure how or why those five were picked unless Bergdahl’s captors wouldn’t agree to anything less and he felt it was urgent a deal be struck.

      The son in the Mexican prison … I’m not familiar with the case, but it sounds like an immigration/border type dispute, civilian rather than military, which is a whole other can of worms.

      There ought to be something that could be done about media who abdicate their responsibility to do fair, objective, honest reporting — part of the time, at least. But I can’t think of anything. Like Congress, the media are being bought up and taken over by the super rich and special interests.

      • The 30 days notice is a whole different thing – no doubt there will be tons of committee meeting over it and we will begin to gag shortly…it will all come to nothing
        The captors picked 15 men they wanted out (plus money). Resulting trade just a bad precedent and the trade itself puts kidnapping and hostage taking as profitable and a good tool for them.
        It looks like they wanted a good photo op to knock the Vet scandal off….and got very blindside by the result. Once again, looks like moves made for politics. Very concerning.
        If they rule he wasn’t a deserter and walked away on his own, then the case in MX is a twin issue. Individuals held by foreign government against their will. (At one time, all citizens could expect the US gov to come and help them if problems in a foreign country – no longer. We no longer have any respect. They do not see any reason to work with the US)
        It’s in the news a lot here.
        We have new border crossings/roads/entry gates. and this veteran got on one road to the border where he couldn’t turn around until he went across border. He immediately declared it was a mistake upon entry and that he had a permitted hunting rifle in the trunk. Border agents were in the process of getting him turned around when military officer came over and arrested him. He’s been chained, beaten, and treated as bad if not worse than in Afghanistan. He did try to escape. His MX lawyer told him to lie and misrepresented the case. In court the kid tried to correct it with the judge – who then got angry the lawyer got him to lie that he had’t ever been to MX before when he had. But this time he missed the last turn and wasn’t trying to visit. He couldn’t turn around in the newly opened guided lanes. It continues.
        Remember armed MX soldiers are constantly wandering over into TX ( for tshirts, cokes, pictures, cigarettes, just “getting lost”….) and they are politely allowed to get what they want, turn around and go home. Yet…..
        Does the rest of the country really not know about this case? That’s even more of a concern. Managed news
        Kerry was even down there partying and meeting. Yet, not one word said to authorities about this.
        Analysts are now saying MX has backed themselves into a corner and are trying to figure out how to save face.
        A mess. You can see why his mom is upset.
        We little average citizens are becoming disposable serfs

        • It’s been noted often that if we treated Mexicans who come/wander/drive into the US illegally/accidentally/intentionally the same way Mexicans treat Americans doing the reverse, the illegal immigration situation would be much, much different.

          What good is a US ambassador in Mexico if he doesn’t help Americans in trouble there? Isn’t that what ambassadors and embassies are supposed to do? Assuming we know all the facts, it sounds like the man made an honest mistake. It shouldn’t take our government 5 minutes to get him out of there. Surely we have 5 Mexican detainees we can exchange …

  5. Oh, sorry got carried away – hope the bad weather hasn’t been too rough there. Looks like it’s been ugly this year

    • No problem. The beauty of the Internet is there are no space limitations. It’s been bumpy on the plains the last few days, and south of the metro. I just sit here and grouse about all the programming that’s being interrupted or obliterated by local meteorologists who think every NWS “tornado warning” (new weatherspeak for “tornado watch”) deserves an hour of airtime.

  6. According to my only contact with Fox News, Jon Stewart, Fox people and right-wing radio folk were just about the only media people who blew the Bergdahl thing all out of proportion. I agree with you that the Obama Administration handled the aftermath poorly. I think the wisdom here would be to wait until a full investigation allows us to consider more facts than supposition. Of course, wisdom seems to becoming more rare by the day in the U.S.

    • The media can’t wait for facts. They must be first with the story — if not with facts, then with supposition, speculation, wild guesses, inane commentary, whatever, until the facts become available. And those will be delivered with whatever political spin is dictated by the owners. Add the secrecy and misinformation that frequently surround overseas military operations and we may never know the truth.

“I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” ~ Cornel West

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