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To the Rear March

June 2nd, 2014 - 8:50 pm

The narrative in the Bowe Bergdahl saga has changed from heroism to one of compassion, skipping over everything in between. Time Magazine, that reliable bellweather of establishment media opinion, has jumped straight to the question of whether or not Bergdahl should be formally charged with desertion. In writer Mark Thompson’s narrative the accusations seem more or less informally admitted, though of course nothing has been proved.

As Army veterans who served with Bowe Bergdahl continued to denounce what they described as desertion — an act that reportedly led to the death of some of the GIs who tried to find him after his disappearance in Afghanistan — senior military hands took a more measured approach to his ultimate fate at the hands of military justice….

“I think he abandoned his post while the other four soldiers were asleep,” Greg Leatherman, Bergdahl’s former squad leader, tells TIME. “He was a loner, he didn’t like to share much with anyone. Read the Koran quite a bit, which I respected. I saw it as him trying to be a better soldier, learning more about the people we were going to work with. Turns out he was preparing.”

Attentive readers will notice there’s is a missing chunk in this movie as if nobody wants to talk about how the heroic scenario was set up in the first place. Be that as it may, the new narrative fast forwards to what happens next to Bergdahl. The consensus presented is that if the charges of desertion are substantiated then he should be lightly punished, inasmuch as he has suffered enough. John Keane, who retired as a four-star general, and the Army’s second-ranking officer, in 2003 is quoted by TIME as saying:

“If he indeed left his post without authority, and there are no extenuating circumstances, then he must be held accountable for his actions … charged, tried and separated [from the Army] without prison time.”

Eugene Fidell, a lecturer on military law at the Yale Law School takes a similar view. He “doubts the case will get that far, even if warranted”.

“It’s utterly discretionary as a matter of clemency, a matter of judgment, and indeed even as a matter of politics. The authorities can decide this is not a case that they want to do anything about,” he says.

“Let’s assume that the facts demonstrate that he left with an intent to remain away permanently — that is desertion,” Fidell says. “Will the cognizant general officer decide, ‘Look, this guy spent five years [as a prisoner] and we’re just not going to put him through the wringer again?’ No prosecution is mandated by the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” he adds.

The sole contrary voice is that of retired Colonel Ralph Peters, who not only feel that Bergdahl has been used to send the wrong message but thinks the real focus of the story should be on the White House.

“This is just so grotesque,” argues retired Army officer and author Ralph Peters. … He says part of the anger over Bergdahl’s release rests at the doorstep of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “Check out the fury — fury — of his fellow soldiers and veterans,” Peters says. “The big mistake was for the President and his gang to imply that Bergdahl is a hero. …What military people fear is a whitewash that will let him walk with an honorable discharge and full benefits. That would be an insult to every person who’s ever served honorably in uniform — giving [an alleged] deserter full lifetime benefits.”

The gist of Peters’ argument is that the military can’t incentivize desertion and denigrate those who’ve done their duty.  But that raises another question: who’s doing the incentivizing?

It would be a mistake to think that Bergdahl — assuming he in fact deserted his post — performed no service. Had he stayed with his unit no one would even have remembered his name. As it was he handed his commander-in-chief, Barack Obama, the unequaled opportunity to reach out to the Taliban by handing them a bargaining chip in the person of himself — a chip Obama promptly played against Congress. For were it not for Bergdahl, Obama would have lacked any pretext to spring five senior Taliban members, in despite of the process required by law. As it was the Taliban were simply whisked out of jail and sent to a heroes welcome in Qatar.  The reason given was exigency; the assertion that Obama had to save Bergdahl.

Wittingly or unwittingly he served as a pawn to advance the wishes of his commander in chief. Obama owes him one.

Whether Bergdahl will in fact be repaid for his accidental service to the administration remains to be seen. The narrative dreamed up by the president’s media people didn’t survive even 48 hours. The Guardian notes what Ralph Peters has already observed: many in the military community are angry — livid in fact — at what is being perceived as a travesty. The relatives of those died looking for Bergdahl are understandably upset. There are even petitions on the Internet demanding military justice. There are cries for heads to roll. This puts the commander in chief in an awkward spot, for ordinarily there is nothing he does half so readily as throw people under a bus.

If past behavior is any indication president Obama will now come forward to say he read about the accusations against Bergdahl in Time, the same as anybody else, and that he’s “madder than hell.”  Then he’ll find some scapegoat.

Or maybe for once, just once, he’ll stand at the lectern, man up and say: “yes I let the Taliban go because I WANTED TO LET THEM GO and I used this guy as an excuse.”

Bowe Bergdahl himself appears to be a rather helpless person suffering from personal issues. There is not much in him to hate, even assuming he were guilty. As Ralph Peters noted, much of the outrage generated by this is really the result of the idiotic messaging from the White House. Bowe and his bearded father seem almost tailor made to take the heat. Obama dumped the stolen goods on them and the duo happily showed it to cops.

Commanders use soldiers to send messages. And those messages change depending on the circumstances. In November, 1944 the US Army was encountering hard going against a still unbroken German Army. Morale — desertion in particular — had become a problem. Private Eddie Slovik left his unit and hid out among Canadian troops for six weeks. He was one of several men among the hundreds of thousands who found himself unable to continue. But his commanding officer sent him back to the front whereupon Slovik deserted again. This time he made a crucial mistake.

Slovik defied the system in writing.

“Slovik walked several miles to the rear and approached an enlisted cook at a headquarters detachment, presenting him with a note which stated: I, Pvt. Eddie D. Slovik, 36896415, confess to the desertion of the United States Army. … AND I’LL RUN AWAY AGAIN IF I HAVE TO GO OUT THERE.”  Faced with this bald refusal and facing a crisis that would culminate in the Battle of the Bulge the problem became: could they let him get away with it?

Slovik had to be tried by … staff officers from other U.S. Army divisions, because all combat officers … were fighting on the front lines. … the nine officers of the court found Slovik guilty and sentenced him to death. The sentence was reviewed and approved by the division commander, Major General Norman Cota. General Cota’s stated attitude was. “Given the situation as I knew it in November, 1944, I thought it was my duty to this country to approve that sentence. If I hadn’t approved it—if I had let Slovik accomplish his purpose—I don’t know how I could have gone up to the line and looked a good soldier in the face.” …

On 9 December, Slovik wrote a letter to the Supreme Allied commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, pleading for clemency. However, desertion had become a systemic problem in France, and the surprise German offensive through the Ardennes began on 16 December with severe U.S. casualties, pocketing several battalions and straining the morale of the infantry to the greatest extent yet seen during the war.

Eisenhower confirmed the execution order on 23 December, noting that it was necessary to discourage further desertions. The sentence came as a shock to Slovik, who had expected a dishonorable discharge and a jail term (the latter of which he assumed would be commuted once the war was over), the same punishment he had seen meted out to other deserters from the division while he was confined to the stockade.

Eisenhower felt he had to send a message so Slovik was executed, “the only American soldier to be court-martialled and executed for desertion since the American Civil War.” It was a case of  pour encourager les autres.

In the matter of this latest scandal and even in the larger issue of the good — or bad — faith with which the war in Afghanistan has been prosecuted, Bowe Bergdahl is at best a co-defendant. He is probably less than that, simply an extra in a vast political game. The real defendant in this drama is Barack Obama. And as we all know, he is going to walk. Who gets to hold the bag? The floor is open for nominations.


Recent items of interest by Belmont readers based on Amazon click-throughs.

Absence Of Malice
Children of Arbat
Rethinking Innateness: A Connectionist Perspective on Development (Neural Network Modeling and Connectionism)
Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality
Barack Obama’s Rules for Revolution: The Alinsky Model


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Top Rated Comments   
Something has blown a gasket. The Bergdahl narrative is backfiring on the president, big time. Personally I have been taken aback by the vehemence of the reaction and believe that the White House spin doctors never saw it coming.

This issue by itself may not be fatal to Obama's political fortunes, but it comes as part of a string that looks an awful lot like a cascade. Someone put it succinctly on Twitter. Bergdahl overwrote VA which overwrote Ukraine which overwrote NSA which overwrote the IRS which overwrote Syria which overwrote Obamacare which ...

Dense pack.

But the thing is, all those catastrophes are out there and they are cumulating.

Cumulating. Adding up. Spreading.

And for the first time Obama is behind the curve and falling further. He's dropped Shinseki, dropped Carney. Sebelius is gone. Hagel and Kerry are ... well where are they? And Hillary, well she's a loose cannon, a cavern of secrets, a bane unto herself, cruising the political seas.

He's losing it. Unless he can stem the tide all the pent up demons are going bust out of their cells. We might be watching the beginning of the end.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
As I argued in the Ten Ships, the enemy's center of gravity is the Middle East. That's where the money comes from, where the ideology springs. That's why the Taliban have gone to Qatar. That's where the nest is, round them parts.

To defeat the enemy, you beggar them. You wage mental war against their ideology. You hit them in the hive. But in 2008, Obama sold the electorate on the idea that the center of gravity of al Qaeda was in Afghanistan. So began a campaign to "end the war where it began".

This was either an act of supreme stupidity or brazen dishonesty. But he sold the concept and took over as president. He has either been waging a useless war these last 5 years or consciously exiling the ground forces to a landlocked wasteland where they are now dependent on Pakistani or Russian supply routes.

This is such an imbecility it is almost hard to articulate with a straight face. And now he wants to portray it as a victory. So he has to bribe the Taliban into "talks" to give him his decent interval. Bergdahl is a little cog in this huge clanking machinery of dishonesty.

He's a throwaway in line in a narrative, part of the news cycle. That's all the flesh and bone and blood of men are to the cynics, just grist for news mill, for the talking points.

I suppose there might be some sanction for desertion. But consider: where does the real cowardice, the vile perfidy lie? Is it with Berghdahl, in the event he walked out of his perimeter, or does it lie with those cynical, self-satisfied insiders who know the price of everything and the value of absolutely nothing?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Desertion in the face of the enemy [UCMJ Article 85], abandoning squadmates who were sleeping and depending him to be on watch. Adhering to the enemy, and it is credibly reported that he engaged in combat operations against Americans alongside the Haqqani. One could argue that meets the "Levying War against the United States" definition of Treason.

COL Peters, who I respect greatly, does not go far enough. I would specify a rope and not a firing squad. And I am not averse to going with a Royal Navy version of the use of the rope.

I mentioned the Haqqani. There is a lot to this not explained.

And I expect more to come out of this. I suspect that we have given a lot of American weaponry to the enemy for this deal. Why?

Afghanistan is a tribal area. Our enemies are split into different groups that really do not like each other. Bergdahl was captured by, and reportedly later fought alongside, the Haqqani, a Muslim group that is NOT Taliban and hates them. Yet for some reason, they traded Bergdahl for 5 Taliban leaders. Taliban. WTF?

Especially since there is at least one Haqqani leader held in Gitmo, who was not traded for. What did they get out of this.

Our enemies only care about weapons, drugs, and Islam. They have an ally of Islam in the White House already. Their interest in drugs is to sell them. While it is conceivable that Obama would agree to import Haqqani drugs into this country for sale, that involves a lot of people in the know who could talk. And they use the money from drugs to buy weapons. It is easier for Obama to just give them the weapons, and he has a history of giving American weapons to foreign enemies of this country.

I just thought of another possible pay off. What if Obama agreed to let Haqqani Jihadi's into the country to operate? Obama's enemies get attacked, and he has an excuse for a state of emergency. Yeah, admittedly, it sounds really out there, but in these times, and with this regime it cannot be dismissed out of hand. Which says a lot about what our country has become.

Further factor. Over Memorial Day Obama "accidentally" blew the cover of the CIA Chief of Station in Afghanistan. What if the CoS found out about and opposed what was being done with Bergdahl? If Obama gets him at least removed and maybe killed, it removes a threat.

Once again, out there in the old America, but with the number of people Obama has thrown under the bus ....

Subotai Bahadur
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (158)
All Comments   (158)
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Hello Subotai! The Haqqini-Taliban nexus strikes me as perfectly logical.

Remember this war is not about us per se but about who shall control all Islam. That is why the different groupings try to one-up the other.

Mullah Omar now has street creds. He got his lieutenants back while his rivals had to give up their prized prisoner and their man in Gitmo has to stay there.

Win-win-win for Mullah Omar and the Taliban. Their people released, their rivals man still in the clink and POTUS publicly kissing Taliban posteriors.

How all this got arranged I do not know but the fact of a terrorist-desired outsome seems very apparent.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Reichstag Fire, with Lots of casualties.

No one has forgotten how many profound changes and actions were justified by the events of September 11, 2001.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hmmmm...Bergdahl the Macguffin...

The same old question comes up, just like with the Benghazi attackers: What's so special about these guys?

"The question of the release of the five Taliban leaders was a recurrent subject of debate in the administration and was a key element of the behind the scenes effort by the State Department and the White House to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban. The transfer of the five was discussed as a possible confidence-building measure to pave the way for a deal. The debates over their release were contentious, officials familiar with them say."

http://time.com/2818827/taliban-bergdahl-pow-release-objections-white-house/

12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Excerpt on the Haqqanis, from http://www.understandingwar.org/report/haqqani-network

Thanks SB for jogging my memory.

Executive Summary

Key Findings

The Haqqani network, which has the backing of elements within the Pakistani security establishment, is one of Afghanistan’s most experienced and sophisticated insurgent organizations.


Although the Haqqani network is officially subsumed under the larger Taliban umbrella organization led by Mullah Omar and his Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqanis maintain distinct command and control, and lines of operations.

Siraj Haqqani, the son of the famous anti-Soviet fighter Jalaluddin Haqqani, is the current leader of the Haqqani network. Siraj is more extreme than his father and maintains closer ties to al-Qaeda and other foreign extremists in Pakistan.


The Haqqani network maintains a safe haven in North Waziristan, Pakistan, across Afghanistan’s southeastern border. The Pakistani Army has consistently refused to launch a military operation in North Waziristan despite the presence of al-Qaeda senior leadership.
Elements within the Pakistani security establishment continue to view the Haqqani network as a useful ally and proxy force to represent their interests in Afghanistan. To this end, Haqqani forces have repeatedly targeted Indian infrastructure and construction projects in Afghanistan.

Between 2002 and 2004, the Haqqani network reconstituted their operations in their historical stronghold of Loya-Paktia, which encompasses the provinces of Khost, Paktia and Paktika in southeastern Afghanistan.

The Haqqani network was able to expand beyond Loya-Paktia towards Kabul from 2005 to 2006, providing the network with the ability to execute attacks in the Afghan capital.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe if Chris Stevens had ordered Rosetta Stone and learned Arabic well like Mr. Bergdahl and son, he would not have been left behind.

Did Private Bergdahl use Arabic to better communicate with his mates or the Pashto speakers in country, or to brush up on Pashtunwali Night Life?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
From Ace, the conclusive smoking gun of Treason for Bergdahl:

"Former Army Sgt. Evan Buetow was the team leader with Bowe Bergdahl the night Bergdahl disappeared.
"Bergdahl is a deserter, and he's not a hero," says Buetow. "He needs to answer for what he did."

Within days of his disappearance, says Buetow, teams monitoring radio chatter and cell phone communications intercepted an alarming message: The American is in Yahya Khel (a village two miles away). He's looking for someone who speaks English so he can talk to the Taliban.

"I heard it straight from the interpreter's lips as he heard it over the radio," said Buetow. "There's a lot more to this story than a soldier walking away."

Nothing less than an execution would be just now.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
How much did we pay the illegal who caused Mr. Hastings "accident" ?
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
If we had a real Congress guess who would be impeached?
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Real (Republican) Scandal:

Chris Murphy ✔ @ChrisMurphyCT

Really sad to watch Obama haters attack this kid who CHOSE to fight to protect the rest of us, just to score political points.
Here's the story: "GOP Strategists Arranged Interviews With Angry Members Of Bergdahl's Platoon"

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/gop-strategists-interviews-bergdahl

Republican operatives apparently believe there's something to be gained by painting Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as a deserter.

TPM Brings us the state of "mind" of the left.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Deranged.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Drudge Front Page seems to indicate that Barry and Sue were deep into Berghazi Mode once again. (always, it's pathological)

Qatar allowing released Taliban men to move freely in country...
Reintegration: Military hides Bergdahl from public view...
FLASHBACK: 'Converted to Islam And Taught Captors Bomb Making Skills'...
NYT: Left note explaining desertion before going AWOL...
Wanted to Renounce American Citizenship...
Team Leader: 'A lot more to story than soldier walking away'...
Death sentence 'in the realm of possibilities'...
Pentagon knew whereabouts but didn't risk rescue...
14 SOLDIERS WERE LOST Searching for Bergdahl...
Never Officially Listed as POW...
White House apologizes for 'oversight' in notification failure...
FATHER: 'I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners'...
MAG: White House Overrode Internal Objections To Terrorist Release...
Anger explodes...
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
More:
MAG: White House Overrode Internal Objections To Terrorist Release...
'Suck it up and salute'...
Rubio: Obama 'Believes He's Become Monarch Or Emperor'...
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Since we won't be executing Bergdahl, could we at least put him up against a wall with a cigarette for a Photo Op?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
A Cigarette would be dangerous to his health! For SHAME!
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Subotai Bahadur (far below):

And how does the RN use a rope--tell us.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Their procedure for a hanging used to be to reeve a line through a block on a yardarm, running it back down to deck level. Put a noose on one end, and apply to hangee. Working party takes up the unoccupied end of the line, and walks away, slowly, hoisting the guest of honor very visibly[*] to near yardarm level.

[*] they did not have pay-per-view in those days, or they would have broadcast it, the purpose of the procedure being an object lesson.

Subotai Bahadur
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
The correct nautical term for "the unoccupied end" is "the bitter end."
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
TLR, thanks for the reminder, which I suspect is un-needed by Subotai...

Likely he was using poetic license as Bond James Bond might have.

In the case of the gentleman celebrated in the transaction he describes, the guest of honor is truly at the "bitter end." Thus, Subotai's more descriptive if less conventional usage... >;0)
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'd recommend flogging 'round the fleet instead, but with our diminished Navy...
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm guessing he's referring to keel hauling. Or does my sarcasm detector need tuning?
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
Short rope.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
From the last paragraph: "The real defendant in this drama is Barack Obama. And as we all know, he is going to walk."

He will walk now, but he will pay amply in the future. Look at the retirement programs for such men in other countries in the past and try to say you'd want the legacy President Obama will have when he leaves office.

Even here, with some of the best writing and thinking on the 'net, we are acting as if the future will be a linear extension of the present. The odds of that are less than Obama deciding to accept responsibility for his actions.
13 weeks ago
13 weeks ago Link To Comment
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