Tag Archives: Afghan War

'Incomprehensible' to leave soldier behind

Secretary of State John Kerry couldn’t be more correct in validating the decision to bring Bowe Bergdahl home from his Taliban captivity.

“What I know today is what the president of the United States knows, that it would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what, to leave an American behind in the hands of people who would torture him, cut of his head, do any number of things,” he said in an interview with CNN. “And we would consciously choose to do that? That’s the other side of this equation. I don’t think anybody would think that’s an appropriate thing to do.”


The debate over Sgt. Bergdahl’s release is raging. I, too, have questions about it. I want to know if he deserted his post. I want to understand the circumstances surrounding his captivity.

We’ll get those answers in due course.

However, the notion that Americans might consciously leave someone behind as we wind down our war effort in Afghanistan chills me to the bone. Yet some of Bergdahl’s harshest critics have pronounced him guilty of treason — without due process — and said that a traitor should be left to rot.

It’s clear the Obama administration mishandled many aspects of this matter. It’s been a public relations nightmare.

The bottom line, though, is that an American soldier is safe.

If he did something wrong, then let the military adjudicate it.

Leave dad out of this discussion

While the debate flares over the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a member of the young man’s family has been pulled by the right-wing media into this maelstrom.

Bob Bergdahl has become the target of Fox News Channel talking heads because he grew a beard while his son was being held captive by the Taliban. Fox News blowhards are saying now that he, um, “looks like a Muslim.”

Some of the talking heads are suggesting further that he holds “terrorist sympathies” toward the Taliban thugs who captured Sgt. Bergdahl five years ago.

I am happy to discuss whether Bowe Bergdahl left his post and was AWOL at the time of his capture. I also am willing to debate whether the United States gave up too much — those five high-ranking Taliban militants — in return for Bergdahl’s release.

Bob Bergdahl doesn’t deserve to be dragged through the media sausage grinder.

Sgt. Bergdahl’s parents are overjoyed their son is in friendly hands. Can’t they be allowed to rejoice in their son’s return from war?

What say you, Col. North?

Allow me to stipulate right off the top that I am acutely aware that the source of this blog post is an admittedly progressive pundit who routinely criticizes conservatives on her nightly TV talk show.

However, the point made here is a valid one.


Many Americans are steamed over the terms of the deal that brought about the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. One of them — are you ready? — who’s really angry about it is former Marine Corps Lt. Col. Oliver North, the former principal character in another hostage-release deal that, um, drew a lot of attention to a Republican president.

As it is stated in the link attached here, it is almost beyond comprehension that this guy, of all people, would have anything to say at all publicly about a deal that involves “negotiating” with enemy agents. He was involved up to his armpits in precisely such a deal. It brought shame and, yes, scandal to President Reagan’s administration. He also was actually convicted of a crime, although his conviction was overturned on appeal.

Still, for Ollie North to weigh in … well, there’s your benchmark for absurdity.

What if we'd left Bergdahl behind?

As the feeding frenzy continues over the release of a one-time prisoner of war in Afghanistan, a lot of key questions have arisen.

I’ve covered some of them already in this blog. Another one has popped up.

What would the reaction have been had the United States — knowing the history of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s views on the Afghan War and perhaps suspecting he had left his post, as has been alleged — left him behind?


The demands for answers have been loud, clear and largely justified.

Bergdahl was released by his Taliban captors after he’d been held for five years. In exchange, we released five high-ranking Taliban thugs from Gitmo on the condition they be restricted from traveling out of Qatar for a year. After that, well, it’s anyone’s guess, I suppose.

Bergdahl reportedly opposed our Afghan War effort. He said so in emails back home. Those views allegedly were known by the Army. We went after him anyway. President Obama said Americans “don’t leave soldiers behind” in war.

What we gave up to get him and the allegations that he “deserted” his comrades have raised a huge uproar.

Some of my very own friends here in the Texas Panhandle have called Bergdahl a traitor. They want him punished, thinking they know all the facts already. One fellow even said we ought to send him back to his captors.


Still, the question remains: What would be the tone of the criticism if we’d turned our backs on a soldier who some Americans already believe committed an act of treason? Would those people who today are critical of the recovery effort applaud an abandonment?

My strong suspicion is that they would be screaming themselves hoarse at the notion that the United States actually would leave one of our warriors behind, in the hands of a ruthless enemy.

Perhaps that takes us directly into the excruciating decision made at the White House, the Pentagon, the CIA, the National Security Council and the Oval Office itself.

It hardly, therefore, seems fair for peanut-gallery pundits to draw premature conclusions about a delicate matter about which they know next to nothing.

Yes, there are many questions to answer. How about first getting those answers?

Here comes 'impeachment' talk

Wait for it. Here it comes. Are you ready for it?

Some talking heads in both the left- and right-wing media are talking about impeachment as it regards the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Oh … brother.


Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — who knows a thing or two about impeaching a president of the United States — now warns that President Obama could face impeachment if he releases any more prisoners from Guantanamo Bay without consulting first with Congress.

The United States turned over five Taliban detainees in exchange for Bergdahl. The exchange reportedly took place without the White House advising Congress of it in advance, under federal law. Republicans are outraged — outraged, I tell you — that they weren’t so advised.

The White House has apologized for what it calls an “oversight.” That hasn’t stopped the uproar.

Sen. Graham — himself an Air Force reserve lawyer — once helped prosecute President Clinton during the 42nd president’s 1998 impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. The Senate acquitted the president and Republicans ended up paying dearly for it politically at the next election.

Some left-wing media pundits — notably MSNBC’s Ed Schultz — believe Republicans are waiting for the results of this year’s mid-term election before commencing impeachment proceedings against Barack Obama. The idea, according to Schultz, is that the GOP could gain control of the Senate and tighten their grip on the House, particularly with tea party Republicans winning elections across the country.

I’m hoping Schultz is just hyperventilating and will calm down once he catches his breath.

We’ll need to get some answers to questions about Bergdahl’s release and, just as importantly, his capture five years ago. Was he AWOL? Did he abandon his post? If he did walk away, should the Army court-martial him? Let’s sort all that out first.

As for the release, the president and the Pentagon brass were determined not to leave an American behind once we leave the Afghanistan battlefield. Bowe Bergdahl was the lone U.S. service member being held captive. The brass felt it was worth it to exchange five Taliban officers for Bergdahl.

Did they do it by the book? That, too, remains to be determined definitively.

Good grief. Let’s can this impeachment talk until we get all the facts on the table.

Whether to court-martial Bergdahl

The rhetoric is getting pretty heated now about the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and whether he should be tried for desertion.

Some of his combat “buddies” are saying Bergdahl left his post before being captured in Afghanistan by the Taliban. He was held captive for five years until his release this weekend in an exchange of prisoners; the Taliban got five of their leading militants in return for Bergdahl.

So, what’s the next course of action?

How about letting the Army interrogate everyone with knowledge of what happened when Bergdahl was taken by the Taliban? The Army has a pretty capable judge advocate corps of lawyers who can get to the heart of what went down.

If it’s decided that Bergdahl did desert his post, that he left his comrades in the lurch, that he committed what some are calling an act of treason, then he ought to be court-martialed.

The initial word from the Pentagon was that the Army likely wouldn’t court-martial the young man, believing apparently that he’d suffered enough.

I’m not so sure about that. I’d like to see the Army investigate this matter fully and make a careful, studied determination of what happened five years ago.

Yes, there have been comments made. To date, none of them has been corroborated. Let’s look for the truth.

Ex-POW begins long journey home

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is coming home.

After five years in captivity at the hands of Taliban terrorists, Bergdahl is coming home to Hailey, Idaho. He’ll get there in due course, probably soon.

However, based on what the world heard today, his journey back to what he used to know as “home” will require much patience and as much perseverance as the soldier and his family demonstrated in trying to get him released.


In a brief ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, with President Obama standing with them, Bowe’s parents — Bob and Jani Bergdahl — asked for the media to give them some privacy and distance.

Their son, it is believed, might have trouble relearning the English language, as he had been held captive by Taliban fighters who spoke only their own tribal dialect. Indeed, Bob Bergdahl today uttered a few sentences to his son in some dialect, hoping his son would hear him.

The release is part of an exchange with five Taliban guerrillas being held at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay. The Taliban prisoners are being turned over to officials in Qatar, who helped broker the deal. They’re supposed to be under some sort of travel restriction, along with other security measures being taken to keep them on a short leash. It remains to be seen, of course, whether those restrictions will hold up. The men going back to the Middle East are known to be highly dangerous murderers.

As for Sgt. Bergdahl, a grateful nation will welcome him home as the only American POW from the Afghan War that is now winding down.

He need not be smothered, though, with our collective affection. As his parents indicated today, the young man has been through hell that no one else even can imagine. He needs a lot of space.

Time to end the Afghan War

President Barack Obama said it succinctly today: It is harder to end a war than to start one.

With that, the nation’s longest war now appears to be drawing to a close.

I’m glad about that.


The president’s critics were quick — as they have been all along — to blast him for setting a well-chronicled timetable for withdrawal. The United States, Obama said, will leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan in an “advisory” capacity by the end of this year; we’ll draw down to that level from the current level of 30,000-plus.

Our combat role will end. Afghans will be responsible for their own country’s security. Our war effort will be over.

The critics say the timetable gives the Taliban time to plan, strategize and hit back hard at the Afghan government that seeks to cement its control.

That’s an interesting view, to which I have a single-word response: Vietnam.

President Nixon did not set a timetable for the “Vietnamization” effort he began shortly after taking office in 1969. But by the time he left office in August 1974, our combat role had diminished to near zero. Fewer than nine months later, in April 1975, the North Vietnamese communists had mustered enough firepower to overrun South Vietnam.

My point is this: With our without a timetable, the other side is going to keep fighting. The task, then, is to prepare our allies in power to defend themselves adequately against an enemy that’s been degraded significantly over the course of the past dozen years.

As the president noted, al-Qaida isn’t extinct. Its leadership has been decimated, Osama bin Laden has been eliminated, its organization has been scattered. Is it still operational? To a large degree, yes. Our forces, though, continue to hunt down and kill bad guys when and where we find them. That effort will — and should — continue.

It’s time to end this war.

Could this memoir have waited?

John McCain isn’t exactly a friend of Barack Obama. I’ve had this nagging notion that McCain hasn’t gotten over getting drubbed by the then-young senator from Illinois in their 2008 campaign for the presidency.

The Arizona U.S. senator, though, posits an interesting thought about a memoir that is critical of his former campaign adversary. He said today the author of “Duty,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, should have waited until the end of the Afghanistan War to release this tell-all tale.


It is puzzling, some have argued, that a former defense chief — who was asked to stay on when the new commander in chief took charge in 2009 — would be so harshly critical of his former boss at this time in history.

These kinds of memoirs do reverberate around the world. The United States is seeking to wind down its longest-running war, seeking to hand combat operations over to the Afghans who have everything to gain and lose in this struggle.

Does this memoir undercut that effort? Does it place men and women in harm’s way in additional peril at some undefined level?

I’m not sure when it’s ever right to publish a memoir that criticizes the commander in chief while military operations are still on-going.

I do respect John McCain’s view on these matters, given his own extensive and distinguished military career.

Now that the book is out and the full-throated chatter on it has commenced, time will tell if it does any damage in the field.

What’s so new about Gates’s memoir?

Robert Gates is a great American patriot.

He served two presidents with honor and distinction as defense secretary. He’s an expert in national security issues. I honor his service and thank him for it.

His new book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” has the political class all a flutter in Washington.


My question is this: Why is this such a huge deal?

Yes, he criticizes President Obama’s alleged lack of commitment to the Afghanistan War; he says Vice President Biden has been wrong on every decision the White House faced; he says the West Wing’s grasp on national security power is tighter than since the Nixon years.

Gates’s book is no different than many memoirs written after key government officials leave office. They have this habit of spilling the beans on their bosses once they’re clear of the place. Presidents of both political parties have fallen victim to this kind of remembrance.

Gates is no different.

What’s been interesting has been the emphasis certain media have placed on the book.

Conservative media, for instance, have devoted many hours and column inches to Gates’s criticism of President Obama and Vice President Biden. Other media outlets take note that Gates saved arguably his harshest criticism for Congress, half of which is controlled by Republicans, the other half by Democrats.

Gates has been pretty thorough in his trashing of the political establishment in Washington, now that he’s gone.

I’ll stipulate that I haven’t read the book. I plan to read it once I get through the other books I received as Christmas gifts.

I’m betting I won’t see anything I haven’t read before.