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Posted by on Jun 2, 2014 in Breaking News, Featured, International, Military, Politics, War | 52 comments

(Updates) Lone Afghanistan War American POW Released

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Update IV:

On reports suggesting that Bergdahl may have deserted his post, Obama said “Regardless of the circumstances, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop.”

The Hill:

…the president said, the U.S. doesn’t “condition” its “sacred” obligation to not “leave our men or women in uniform behind.”

And Obama said charges against Bergdahl was “not something we’re discussing at this point.”

“Our main priority is making sure the transition he’s making after five years of captivity is successful,” Obama said.

The president also defended the administration’s decision to ignore a law requiring Congress is notified 30 days before prisoners are transferred from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Five Taliban fighters were released to facilitate Bergdahl’s return to the U.S.

“We have consulted with Congress for quite some time that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange,” Obama said.

Obama said the U.S. was concerned about Bergdahl’s health and that opportunity to make the swap could pass.

“The process was truncated because we wanted to make sure we did not miss that window,” Obama said.

Read more here

Update III:

American Forces Press Service reports that Bergdahl is being treated for nutritional needs at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he arrived yesterday

“Sergeant Bergdahl is in stable condition and is receiving treatment for conditions that require hospitalization,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters.

“Part of that treatment process includes attention to dietary and nutritional needs after almost five years in captivity,” Warren said.

Following his treatment at Landstuhl, Bergdahl will be transported stateside to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio for continued care, Warren added.

The former prisoner of war is in a reintegration phase that “runs the complete spectrum of both physical and psychological [issues],” the colonel said, explaining that the phase comprises being returned to U.S. control, treatment at a regional medical facility and reintegration with his family and community. A key component of this reintegration is his family, Warren said, noting that Bergdahl has not yet spoken with family members.

The Defense Department also will determine through debriefings what conditions he lived in while he was in captivity, Warren said.

There have been several looks into the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance, Warren said, adding that DOD never confirmed that the sergeant was a deserter. A key component to the investigation is Bergdahl’s story, he said.

Whether Bergdahl will return to his Army unit isn’t under consideration at this time, the colonel said.

“It’s still too soon to determine that,” he added.

Update II:

At a press briefing today, White House spokesman Jay Carney defended the decision to swap five Guantanamo Taliban militants for American POW Bergdahl.

According to The Hill:

… the state of Bergdahl’s health, that he had been held in captivity for five years and “the fact there were no guarantees the window would remain open” all played into the decision to make the prisoner swap, according to Carney.

Carney: the transfer should “not have come as a surprise” to members of Congress:

“We have been engaged in an effort for years, as we should have been, to recover Sgt. Bergdahl, a prisoner of war in Afghanistan,” Carney said. “And as part of those efforts, there have been ongoing discussions about how to bring that about. And that included conversations with members of Congress about at least the possibility of transferring these five detainees as part of getting Sgt. Bergdahl back to the United States and back with his family.”

On Republicans concerns that the president violated federal law, which requires the administration notify lawmakers a month before anyone is transferred from the Guantanamo prison, Carney said the White House had “repeatedly noted concerns” with the requirement, believing it infringed on the president’s constitutional powers as commander in chief.

Carney also dismissed “concerns that the deal would incentivize the capture of American soldiers in ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. And Carney said the decision to negotiate with the Taliban for the swap was in keeping with U.S. tradition to conduct prisoner exchanges following conflicts”:

“Prisoner exchanges in armed conflicts are hardly a new development, including in our history in the United States,” Carney said. “Whether it’s the Japanese or the North Koreans or others, we have engaged in prisoner exchanges in the past.”

On concerns that the freed Guantanamo detainees would pose a risk to the U.S:

“Without getting into specific assurances, I can tell you that they included a travel ban and information-sharing on the detainees between our governments, between the United States and Qatar…I can also tell you that the assurances were sufficient to allow the secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, in coordination with the national security team, to determine that the threat posed by the detainees to the United States would be sufficiently mitigated and that the transfer was in the U.S. national security interest.”

Carney “ sidestepped questions about reports Bergdahl may have deserted his post before he was captured in Afghanistan. Some troops have expressed anger over efforts to recover Bergdahl and the prisoner exchange”: “The Defense Department will obviously — has been and will continue to be the lead in terms of evaluating all of the circumstances surrounding his initial detention and his captivity…”

The Hill: “A spokesman for the Pentagon has said the Defense Department still does not fully understand the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance.”

Read more here

Update I :

Some additional information on Bergdahl from the American Forces Press Service:

bERGDAHL

Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, in a U.S. Army photo taken before his capture.

Bergdahl, at the time a private first class, went missing from his post in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. He was the only U.S. service member known to be held captive there.

The now 28-year-old soldier was thought captured by the Haqqani network. He appeared in a proof-of-life video that surfaced last January and military officials said at the time they believed the video to be recently made.

One of Hagel’s first acts upon taking office in February 2013 was to call the Bergdahl family about their son’s situation, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said during a January press conference.

In June 2011 the Army announced that it had promoted Bergdahl to the rank of sergeant. Bergdahl, now 27, is assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson, now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in Alaska.

That was Bergdahl’s second promotion since he was listed as Missing-Captured on June 30, 2009. He was promoted to the rank of specialist in June 2010.

“Sgt. Bergdahl’s return is a powerful reminder of the enduring, sacred commitment our nation makes to all those who serve in uniform,” Hagel said in a statement.

The U.S. government never forgot Sgt. Bergdahl, he added, and the Defense Department and other federal agencies never stopped working to bring him back.

“I am grateful to all the military and civilian professionals -¬ from DOD and our interagency partners -¬ who helped make this moment possible, and to all those Americans who stood vigil with the Bergdahl family,” the secretary said.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey also commented on Bergdahl’s return today. The chairman said in a written statement, “It is our ethos that we never leave a fallen comrade. Today we have back in our ranks the only remaining captured soldier from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welcome home, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.”

For Secretary of Defense Hagel’s full statement, please scroll down

bERGDAHL RELEASE 1

President Barack Obama announcing the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in an address from the Rose Garden at the White House, May 31, 2014, accompanied by the soldier’s parents. (DOD screen shot)

Original Post:

As reported by the New York Times and by our own Patrick Edaburn, the U.S swapped five Taliban prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay for the lone Afghanistan War American prisoner of war who has been held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for nearly five years.

In announcing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the president said in a statement, among other:

Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for nearly five years. On behalf of the American people, I was honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal. Today we also remember the many troops held captive and whom remain missing or unaccounted for in America’s past wars. Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield. And as we find relief in Bowe’s recovery, our thoughts and prayers are with those other Americans whose release we continue to pursue.

.
For his assistance in helping to secure our soldier’s return, I extend my deepest appreciation to the Amir of Qatar. The Amir’s personal commitment to this effort is a testament to the partnership between our two countries. The United States is also grateful for the support of the Government of Afghanistan throughout our efforts to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s release.

In a brief address today in the Rose Garden, standing alongside Bergdahl’s parents, the president said:

“The Qatari government has given us assurances it will put in place measures to protect our national security,” and “While Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten…His parents thought about him and prayed for him every single day… The United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.”

Secretary of State John Kerry also issued a statement, which reads in part:

The responsibility to make sure all of our men and women in uniform return from battle, especially those taken prisoner and held during war, is deeply personal to me as someone who has worn the uniform of my country – and as someone who was deeply involved in those efforts with respect to the unfinished business of the war in which I fought. Our nation has a sober and solemn duty to ensure that every single American who signs up to serve our country comes home. The cost of years of captivity to Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and his family is immeasurable. Today, we are heartened that Sergeant Bergdahl will soon by reunited with his family and friends, from whom he has been apart for far too long.

As expected, Republicans are blasting the president for “negotiating” the release of the American POW.

Statement from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

A few hours ago, the family of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was informed by President Obama that their long wait for his return will soon be over. Sgt. Bergdahl is now under the care of the U.S. military after being handed over by his captors in Afghanistan. We will give him all the support he needs to help him recover from this ordeal, and we are grateful that he will soon be reunited with his family.
.

Also today, I informed Congress of the decision to transfer five detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Qatar. The United States has coordinated closely with Qatar to ensure that security measures are in place and the national security of the United States will not be compromised. I appreciate the efforts of the Emir of Qatar to put these measures in place, and I want to thank him for his instrumental role in facilitating the return of Sgt. Bergdahl.
.

Sgt. Bergdahl’s return is a powerful reminder of the enduring, sacred commitment our nation makes to all those who serve in uniform. The United States government never forgot Sgt. Bergdahl, nor did we stop working to bring him back. I am grateful to all the military and civilian professionals ­ from DOD and our interagency partners ­ who helped make this moment possible, and to all those Americans who stood vigil with the Bergdahl family.

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  • acolorado

    Republicans oppose the release of a U.S. prisoner of war.

    After the years they’ve spent working to block and reduce all benefits to veterans – this is not surprising. According to Republicans and the Tea Party we cannot afford to give welfare benefits to veterans just because they have served and sacrificed for this country.

    That money needs to be used to give tax breaks to rich conservative political donors. They do not have to work. They do not have to create jobs. They do not have to invest in America. It is fine if they have never done a day of work in their lives, and simply inherited their accounts and property. They can sit on their butt and do nothing. They get tax breaks for free, just because they have more money than most.

    Conservative priorities are clear.

  • acolorado

    If I sounded angry there it’s because I am.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Understandable, acolorado.

    Many of us are– and very frustrated.

  • JSpencer

    Republicans don’t believe one American serviceman is worth 5 Taliban?? Apparently they would rather have left him to rot over there. How in keeping with their character.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Thanks, JS.

    Just an additional comment:

    States and armies have been exchanging prisoners of war since warfare began.

    And a relevant fact:

    Israel and the IDF — a nation and a military Republicans admire, and so do I — have negotiated/exchanged 7,000 Palestinian prisoners during the Arab-Israeli conflict to secure freedom for 19 Israelis and to retrieve the bodies of eight others.

  • ordinarysparrow

    We are so upside down….

    When the turtle has been flipped on it’s back it dies…

    I am compelled to do what is necessary to get the turtle back on it’s feet, so that it can live.

    My proposal l for flipping the turtle…

    Give soldier the pay of Congressmen and reduce the pay of Congress to the pay of soldiers on the ground..

    All Vets are to receive the medical care package of Congress, and Congress will not go to the V.A. center for all medical care.

    School children that need free or subsidize lunches will receive them without hesitation, Congress will no longer receive free meals of any kind….

    Liveable wage will be given to all workers, except Congress, but Food Stamps will be offered for high sugar, high carb, and processed foods…Also with out exception there will be no alcohol or toilet paper purchased with the food stamps….In order to qualify for this benefit the Congress men and women must do community service for 15 hours a week cashiering at Walmart so they can keep their prices low…

    No longer will the U.S. swap prisoners for prisoners but we will release any prisoner if their presiding government agrees to take 1 dozen Republican Congress men and women as paid in full exchange… These Republican must reside in the host country for at least 12 years, and then they can make a request through immigration for visa based on loss of hubris….

    That would begin to flip the turtle….

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Hilarious, OS.

    But you know what is even more hilarious/sad, there is a lot of food(stamps) for thought in what you propose.

    As to,

    In order to qualify for this benefit [food stamps]the Congress men and women must do community service for 15 hours a week cashiering at Walmart so they can keep their prices low…

    I would add that before qualifying for such food stamps, members of Congress must be tested for the absence of drugsT.P. affiliation

  • dduck

    I’m extremely glad for his family.

    That’s one way for Obama to close Gitmo as he promised.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    @ dduck: Agree.

    BTW, I am getting worried, dduck, 🙂 I am agreeing with you more and more (perhaps vv.,too): The prisoner release, the VA ‘scandal,’ Snowden…

    Either I am changing, or you are changing or perhaps we both are. Regardless, interesting — and perhaps good.

  • Protect and defend the moral horror that is Guantanamo. That’s what matters.

  • ordinarysparrow

    You are right Dorain…. It is further indication of how upside down we are… Food stamp recipients are not allowed to buy TP yet the Supreme Court rules in favor of two very powerful men whose main thrust is to buy politicians and the country through the sale of toilet paper….

    Okay, no more free Angel Soft,Quilted Northern Ultra Plush, Quilted Northern Soft and Strong, Soft’n Gentle,Coronet, or MD Bathroom for Congress…

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Hi OS,

    By T.P. affiliation, I meant Tea Party affiliation.

    Curious as to what you mean by TP 🙂

    @dduck, thanks for your ‘feedback’

    I guess that’s the risk of extending an olive branch.

    Oh well, back to the trenches.

  • ordinarysparrow

    hahahaha…..I was referring to Toilet Paper… in which the Koch brothers have a near monopoly…Actually the list of Koch Brothers Industry is amazing in their diversity and range, but i am betting their TP sales each year is more than enough to fund the Tea Party and the politicians…. Will try to find those figures…

    Tea Party funded by TP sales (toilet paper) Oh My! I have definitely moved this conversation south, so will be quiet now… sorry

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Nothing to be sorry about, OS.

    It was a very illuminating discussion, confusing toilet paper for the Tea Party, and vice versus. 🙂

    Oh well, I am sure the TP has been called worse things

  • What a beautiful outcome for the Bergdahl’s.

    The synchronization at the highest levels of top secrecy, and by whom, will be fascinating to understand in greater detail. Truly history made; history that will be told over and over in our time and for decades to come.

    This is another one of those situations that should not be partisan but where we could discuss stuff.
    For example, every Gitmo detainee transfer is supposed to go through Congress.

    I am also told the legal conversation by those involved in recent weeks leading up to the transfer were “fascinating”. As well as the obvious concerns about negotiating with terrorists.

    Congratulations to an exhausted group of dedicated men and women who brought Bowe home.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Just a comment on “For example, every Gitmo detainee transfer is supposed to go through Congress. “:

    President Obama added a signing statement to the bill that would have required the secretary of Defense to notify Congress 30 days before any transfer of prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, claiming that executive authority vested in the Constitution gave him the right to override the law.

    Now, if we want to discuss the constitutionality of “signing statements,” that is another matter, but when doing so we should keep in mind that other presidents have used such “authority,” including President Bush who did so 162 times, including adding a signing statement to a bill with an amendment that outlawed torture. (Obama has issued less than 25 signing statements)

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Added: National Security Advisor Susan Rice explained that the Departments of Defense and Justice had reasons to be seriously concerned about the urgent state of Bergdahl’s health, and that Congress had long been informed that such negotiations were already underway.

  • dduck

    DDW, what feedback. I didn’t comment after you said you agreed?

  • Good morning, Dorian. Lots to be discussed in coming weeks … and years. I appreciate your insight. I may have some interesting things to share in the future as well from people on the ground. Much is still classified so I expect some time to pass before that happens. Incredibly interesting stuff.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Looking forward to discuss this issue when the politics have subsided and more facts are known. The facts may indeed mitigate against the judiciousness of the exchange.

    You have made me curious about the “classified” information you have been able to get from those “on the ground.” But, of course, you can not — and should not — discuss that.

    We can wait.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    No problem dduck. I just happen to answer, or at least note, when a comment is addressed to me.

    All is good.

  • sheknows

    “Top Republicans on the Senate and House Armed Services Committee criticized President Obama on”……the fact that he breathes!

    Our Republican congress seems to always be on the wrong side of every issue. It has nothing to do with reason. It has only to do with fear.

    Every time he accomplishes anything and slips a goal past them, they have to immediately attack it. Under no circumstances can he be allowed to do anything right or praiseworthy, otherwise their followers may stop believing in the moral correctness of the Republican party.

  • Sorry to mislead you. To be very clear, I don’t have classified information, Dorian. I only meant that in the years to come we will all learn more information (I am sure some of it now classified) much the way we did about the Osama mission.

    And am not interested in the party politics. I am interested by the depth and speed and the precision of the mission itself and it’s success!

    All the good things.

  • slamfu

    Gotta say, while I’m happy an American is back, I also don’t think that trading 5 highly ranked bad guys for one of ours makes a lot of sense. I understand they aren’t free to mix back into the ranks of the Taliban yet, but how is this not in contradiction of our policy to not negotiate with these guys? If there was a cessation of hostilities, and this was part of the deal fine, but it seems like it doesn’t affect anything outside of the scope of the deal made.

    Are there plans to release them from their new prison at some point? I’m a little fuzzy on the details.

  • Specifically, Dorian, a DJS Coin of the Week Nominee. Definitely declassified.

  • I have direct permission to share the e-mail below from CMDR. Driscoll relative to his nomination. It gives the reader an idea of how quickly things came together near the end and the number of moving parts (one being John). I could not be more proud of him and our other servicemen.

    Original Message—–
    From: Kockler, James S COL USAF JS J3 (US)
    Sent: Monday, June 02, 2014 8:57 AM
    To: Jensen, Jack J COL USARMY (US)
    Cc: Howell, Scott A BGEN USAF JS J3 (US); Carey, David M LTCOL USMC JS J3 (US)
    Subject: RE: DJS Coin of the Week

    CLASSIFICATION: UNCLASSIFIED

    DJS Coin of the Week Nominee – CDR John Driscoll, J-37 Detainee Affairs Division

    In this past week, CDR John Driscoll tirelessly planned and synchronized the Detainee Movement Operation in support of the repatriation of SGT Bowe Bergdahl. On Tuesday 27 May, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michael Lumpkin requested assistance from the Joint Staff to coordinate the arrival of a Qatari delegation to Guantanamo Bay to facilitate negotiations with Taliban interlocutors in Doha, Qatar for the release of SGT Bowe Bergdahl and the transfer of five Guantanamo detainees to Qatar. John coordinated directly with the USSOUTHCOM Deputy J3, Brig Gen Monteagudo, and the USTRANSCOM J3, Maj Gen Schatz, outlining the timing and synchronization required for this short notice detainee movement operation. During the planning phase, John in-briefed a small team of select action officers from USSOUTHCOM and USTRANSCOM that met multiple times per day on Tuesday 27 May and Wednesday 28 May. By early Thursday 29 May, the movement aircraft and crew, security personnel, Qatari delegation, and detainees were on alert and awaiting the execution order. John’s professionalism, knowledge and competence reduced a 30-day detainee movement process to just 3 days. Ultimately, the Detainee Movement Operation departed Guantanamo Bay on Saturday 31 May and landed in Qatar on Sunday 1 June. There’s no doubt John’s contributions this week helped enable General Dempsey’s official statement over the weekend: “It is our ethos that we never leave a fallen comrade. Today we have back in our ranks the only remaining captured soldier from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welcome home SGT Bowe Bergdahl.”

    v/r
    Irish

  • Apologies to Dorian by using the term declassified when I should have written unclassified. I understand your concern.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Extremely interesting.

    Thanks, Kevin.

  • You are welcome. I knew you would enjoy that. They are so professional they make my eyes misty.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    You pose some good, relevant questions, Slamfu. I don’t have the answers, but I hope those “in power” will have them sooner or later.

    There are lot of rumors and allegations regarding the disappearance of Bergdahl going around. Here’s one

    If some of these prove to be correct, some of the jubilation and boldness surrounding this exchange may be muted and tarnished, respectively.

    We’ll see…

  • Quoth Rod Dreher:

    Judging by the stuff I’m seeing on the Internet this morning, the truth of whether or not Bergdahl was a deserter depends on whether or not you approve of President Obama. Is there nothing we can look at and make our minds up about without first seeing if it fits one’s tribal orthodoxy?

  • dduck

    He may have been a jerk, or worse, but we protect our jerks all the same.

  • PATRICK EDABURN, Assistant Editor

    As the story continues to emerge it seems that there is a lot more to the Bowe Bergdahl story.

    I think we should remain patient and hear all the facts but it does look like the best case scenario is he exercised incredibly poor judgement that led to the deaths of other soldiers.

    I’m not so concerned about Obama.

    He did NOT violate the law as it allows for him to do just as he did

    I also question the national security implications in that these 5 Taliban won’t sneeze without us knowing it.

    But I do think we need to know the whole story of how Bergdahl ended up where he did.

  • dduck

    Agree, but these guys can disappear into the fold unless we inserted a transmitter where the sun don’t shine, and even then they could get “lost”. This ain’t Jack Bauer, it’s the CIA.

  • cjjack

    In a way, this whole situation is like a weird bookend to our military adventure in Afghanistan – the other one being the fratricide death of Pat Tillman.

    I remember that one because I produced a radio commentary on the incident by our station’s resident (and very vocal) supporter of all things military – a decorated Vietnam vet himself – who passed away the day after we recorded what were to be his final words on air:

    “Sgt. Pat Tillman, Special Forces U.S. Army Rangers, 1976-2004, for God and country…”

    Of course at the time my late friend had no way of knowing what had really happened. Like the rest of us, he thought Pat had died a hero, as he said “in an ambush by Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists near the Pakistan border in a remote, Afghanistan province.”

    We all thought that because not only had the government more or less allowed us to believe that story, but because we wanted to believe. We needed a hero who died in battle defending his friends, not a guy who was shot by them.

    The true story (such as can be known) leeched out over years, but not before Tillman had been celebrated, marketed, and hijacked by people intent on selling the war as a noble effort…something I participated in to a small degree.

    A decade, two wars, and north of seven thousand dead soldiers later we’ve got a scenario as far removed from the Tillman escapade as possible. An American serviceman is coming home, but before he’s even left the theater his entire story has been picked apart, his compatriots are throwing him under the bus, and politicians are stepping dangerously close to saying he should have been left to rot in the hands of the terrorists.

    I wonder what my friend’s commentary on this end of the Afghan war would be had he survived to revisit the issue.

  • Sheesh, great comments, cjjack.

    If readers have not seen some of the story (not that I am saying it is the definitive story); this is a heart wrenching docu:

    http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/the_tillman_story_2010/

    “The Tillman Story, 2010”

  • JIM SATTERFIELD

    I find it very telling that Fox News used the phrase “lived among the Taliban” as though they know that he was not a prisoner.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Thanks, cjjack, the Pat Tillman episode, and the Jessica Lynch one and so many others during those dark years certainly come to mind

  • dduck

    Innuendo goes the cabbage and outuendo comes the news.

  • Pat Tillman’s brother, Kevin, had this to say about him on the eve of the 2006 elections:

    http://kikoshouse.blogspot.com/2006/11/cast-your-vote-tomorrow-for-pat_06.html

    Kevin’s perspective remains valid today in the context of the Bergdahl uproar.

  • The_Ohioan

    For years I’ve wondered why there are no American POWs unlike any other war we’ve been in. I still wonder if there is really only one or if the press is complicit in not reporting it. If that the case, I agree with the policy. If not, why not would be an interesting story.

    Whatever the case, here is a fascinating Rolling Stone article about Bergdahl from 2012. Along with an in depth article on Bergdahl’s life and his changes of attitude while in the military, the following could be written in 2014 instead of 2012.

    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.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/americas-last-prisoner-of-war-20120607

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Thanks for the link, TO.

    Three things strike me immediately:

    First, this story is dated June 21, 2012, so the Obamka administration was very well aware of the issues surrounding Bergdahl.

    Second, the contrast between the Taliban’s mentality:

    “I THINK HE IS BIG SHOT THAT WHY THEY ARE LOOKING FOR HIM.”

    and American philosophy and culture:

    “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.”

    resulting, thirdly — in addition to the exercise of American values — in “a White House official [advising] Grossman that he should ignore the politics of the swap and concentrate solely on the policy.

  • LOGAN PENZA

    Dorian, I attempted to send you an email, but I don’t know if the address I have is obsolete.

    Regarding Bergdahl, there is no question in my mind that it was appropriate to rescue him. Concerns about providing an incentive for future captures ignore the fact that the Taliban already have very sufficient incentive to capture U.S. soldiers. Also, I would rather provide incentives to keep our soldiers alive (in hopes of trading them later) rather than incentives to kill them on a grotesque Daniel Pearl-style video.

    There is also no question in my mind that, if he deserted or went AWOL prior to his capture, Bergdahl should be charged under the UCMJ. Any punishment should be minimal (unless evidence emerges that he helped the enemy while in captivity), but the principle should be reaffirmed that it is morally and legally wrong to endanger your comrades by abandoning them in a war zone and by necessitating a search that endangers lives.

  • STinMN

    Comment

    “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.”

    Sadly much of the commentary we’re seeing just being an American soldier is no longer sufficient for us to expend assets to bring him home. Now they must have the right qualifications to be considered an American soldier worth saving.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Got your e-mails, Logan. Will reply shortly.

    Thanks for your (and others’) comments.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    excellent article and updates, excellent thoughtful discussion. Thanks. As one off to the VA hospital today, one that says they have NO adequate facility for treating women veterans…. there is much. MUCH. to be discussed about the actual realities in many directions.

  • Best regards, dr. e. I bet you find freaking services!

    <><><>

    Like I said earlier, I am deeply impressed by the successful mission and less interested with the partisan politics.

    In the e-mail I shared above about CMDR Driscoll’s part in the detainee exchange, he worked directly with Maj Gen Schatz, the J3 (Director of Operations) at US Transportation Command.

    My brother Rear Admiral Purcell (ret) was his counterpart (Plans and Strategy, the same directorate EUCOM).

    So I enjoy his opinions/insight on the mission and remember that the military is not a philosophical monolith.

    Not surprisingly to me his response was measured. He had a couple questions that may become more clear with time. From what I can gather most non-partisans and some partisans feel the same.

    One question I have after some thought, does the exchange equate a terrorist to a uniformed combatant operating under International norms and the Geneva Convention? I don’t know the answer. That would be a significant precedent.

    To quote my bro:

    “It’s done now. Time will be the best judge of this one.”

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    @ Kevin

    does the exchange equate a terrorist to a uniformed combatant operating under International norms and the Geneva Convention?

    To be honest, I have no idea under what parameters or (international) conventions the administration did the exchange.

    Perhaps other readers can shed some light.

    The whole issue/status/rights of the Guantanamo detainees is/are so murky and the issue has been bounced from court to court (I believe, including the SCOTUS) under both Bush and Obama, that it would take a lot of research to come up with a satisfactory answer.

    Again, perhaps some readers can give a simple, definitive answer.

    Section 3 of this article has a lengthy “answer” to the question “Are the [Guantanamo] Detainees Prisoners of War?”

    Very long and convoluted…

    The authors’ conclusion:

    (Keep in mind, the authors of this opinion are ’The ASSER Institute, Center for International and European Law,” NOT the U.S. government nor any impartial US law center.)

    Particularly important for the situation of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay is the wording of Article 5 of Geneva Convention III, the latter part of which reads as follows:

    ‘Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.’

    On the basis of this provision, the detainees at Guantánamo Bay whose status at the time of their capture was not clear, should be given the same treatment as that given to POWs. According to this rule, a decision not to treat a person as a POW has to be made by a competent tribunal and not by the executive or other military person.

  • Again, perhaps some readers can give a simple, definitive answer.

    Thanks Dorian. You are a wise man who knows when to say ” I don’t know”.

    I respect that about you.

    You have raised my curiosity. What reader could possibly know?

    I will be staying tuned.

    That would be something.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    i like that term kevin, very much : “measured response”

    if only all persons…

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    I get the distinct sense that gov’t wants all info this soldier gathered during his five years. I wonder if that alone is /would be worth return of 5 former prisoners in US, to their home country.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    @ Kevin:

    I don’t know about “wise” — perhaps prudent — but thanks anyway.

    I am also staying tuned. Perhaps some of our legal experts can step in.

    @ Dr. E.

    You raise an interesting possibility — now that is wise. 🙂

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