Friday, June 06, 2014

The Reporter Who Provided The Definitive Account On Bowe Bergdahl

The definitive account on U.S. Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl and the debate over whether he should be exchanged for Taliban terrorists was written two years ago, not this past week following news of his release in exchange for five top Taliban commanders. The FBI would launch an investigation of the reporter because that story was written. That was also the same reporter whose reporting ended the career of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was the Commander in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan responsible for conducting the early search for the missing Army soldier who had deserted his unit. And that was the same reporter who would later die in a bizarre automobile crash that former U.S. counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke said had all the hallmarks of a remotely controlled cyber attack. I'm talking about investigative reporter Michael Hastings and his June 7, 2012 story, "America's Last Prisoner of War." The story began:
Three years ago, a 23-year-old soldier walked off his base in Afghanistan and into the hands of the Taliban. Now he’s a crucial pawn in negotiations to end the war. Will the Pentagon leave a man behind?
You think that sounds eerie? Read the top secret discussions Pentagon officials wanted to keep hushed that Hastings revealed in his story, which included discussions on Capitol Hill of releasing five Taliban members Sen. John McCain had described as "the five biggest murderers in the world" in exchange for Bergdahl's release:
In what appears to be an unprecedented move, the Pentagon also scrambled to shut down any public discussion of Bowe. Members of Bowe's brigade were required to sign nondisclosure agreements as part of their paperwork to leave Afghanistan. The agreement, according to Capt. Fancey, forbids them to discuss any "personnel recovery" efforts – an obvious reference to Bowe. According to administration sources, both the Pentagon and the White House also pressured major news outlets like The New York Times and the AP to steer clear of mentioning Bowe's name to avoid putting him at further risk. (The White House was afraid hard-line elements could execute him to scuttle peace talks, officials involved in the press negotiations say.) Faced with the wall of official silence, Bob and Jani [Bergdahl] began to worry that the Pentagon wasn't doing all that it could to get their son back. As Bowe's sister, Sky, wrote in a private e-mail: "I am afraid our government here in D.C. would like nothing better but to sweep PFC Bergdahl under the rug and wash their hands of him."  . . .
The Pentagon insists that it is "doing everything possible" to get Bowe home, and a large photo of the captive soldier hangs in CENTCOM headquarters, a daily reminder to those working to free him. Last year, according to officials close to the negotiations, Bowe's name took center stage during peace talks with the Taliban. The negotiations are being handled by an interagency team comprised of representatives from the State Department, the Defense Department and the White House, who have traveled to Germany and Qatar to meet with the Taliban. (One of Obama's top advisers on national security, Denis McDonough, has been intimately involved in the talks.) In return for Bowe, U.S. officials have offered to swap five of the 3,000 Afghan prisoners being held by American forces. At least one of those prisoners, according to a senior U.S. official familiar with the talks, is more or less a moderate. "I've seen the files, and it's slim," says the official. "Things like, he used to meet with Iranian officials when he worked in the government of Herat. That's nothing." . . .
The tensions came to a boil in January, when administration officials went to Capitol Hill to brief a handful of senators on the possibility of a prisoner exchange. The meeting, which excluded staffers, took place in a new secure conference room in the Capitol visitor center. According to sources in the briefing, the discussion sparked a sharp exchange between Senators John McCain and John Kerry, both of whom were decorated for their service in Vietnam. McCain, who endured almost six years of captivity as a prisoner of war, threw a fit at the prospect of releasing five Taliban detainees.
"They're the five biggest murderers in world history!" McCain fumed.
Kerry, who supported the transfer, thought that was going a bit far. "John," he said, "the five biggest murderers in the world?"
McCain was furious at the rebuke. "They killed Americans!" he responded. "I suppose Senator Kerry is OK with that?"
McCain reluctantly came around on the prisoner exchange, according to those present at the meeting, but he has continued to speak out against negotiating with the Taliban. Opposition has also come from Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia who won election with a vicious smear campaign against former Sen. Max Cleland, a decorated Vietnam veteran who lost three limbs in the war. Chambliss, according to Bowe's father, has insisted that America shouldn't make a prisoner trade for a "deserter." . . .
Some top-level officials within the administration, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are very wary about making a swap for Bowe. "Panetta and Hillary don't give a shit about getting him home," says one senior U.S. official involved in the negotiations. "They want to be able to say they COINed their way out of Afghanistan, or whatever, so it doesn't look like they are cutting and running." (Both Clinton and Panetta, by law, would have to sign off on any exchange.) As with Vietnam, many in the military are resisting any attempt to end the war. "Even after Robert Bales" – the Army staff sergeant charged with massacring 17 Afghan civilians in March – "they are making the argument that the war is turning a corner," says this official. "They don't realize that the mission is changing. We don't need all those U.S. soldiers there anymore."


Flogger said...

I recently came across an article written by Time Magazine concerning an upcoming book by Lt. General Daniel P. Bolger (Retired). The name of the book is "Why We Lost A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars." The book is to be published this November. One quote is telling, " “Don’t be so arrogant and think you’re going to reshape the Middle East,” Bolger says. “We’ve basically installed authoritarian dictators.”

Bolger further says: "I was in a military that was planning for deployments forever, basically. An all-volunteer force made it easy to commit the military to a long-term operation because they were volunteers.”

It will be an interesting read.

I have no inside information on Bowe Bergdahl and his motivations. I was a Combat Soldier in Vietnam Draftee Type. If the Army for some reason would have tried to send me back to Vietnam after my tour of duty, I would have crossed the border into Canada. A soldier makes the assessment at some point is my "cause" worth dying for.

The fate of Michael Hatings was perhaps a warning bell to another reporter Glen Greenwald who was allied with Eric Snowden is breaking the story on our mass spying by our Government.

local landlord said...

We have known for quite a while that the Berdahl recovery would necessitate a balance between “no American soldier left behind” and “no negotiations with terrorists.” I’m fine with the outcome. Guantanamo is a dinosaur and its prisoners are an administration albatross. Prisoner swaps are humane and I like them. Republicans can jump all over the messy details if they like and make it their new Benghazi; Greg Garrison was wetting himself with excitement this morning over Susan Rice and Hegel saying Bergdahl served with distinction, although Bergdahl’s military record doesn’t reflect any problems with his service and many are now questioning the fairness of the blaming 6 subsequent soldier deaths solely on Bergdahl’s recovery. The entire story isn’t yet known. If he was my son I would willingly give up the Taliban 5 for his return. We’ll probably chip those guys anyway and track them on gps, so I suspect there is more to that story as well. The recovery of Bergdahl heals a mighty wound.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The actual network of Taliban that was holding Bergdahl captive was a group originally funded by our own CIA so whatever bad the 5 Taliban terrorists did was made possible by our own government. That's a fact you will never see Greg Garrison admit. He believes all of the propaganda about the war on terrorism being waged against real enemies as opposed to straw men set up as an excuse for waging pointless wars to fuel the military/industrial complex.

Hoosier in the Heartland said...

You're right, Gary.

The US funded the Taliban for years, even bringing their leaders to the US for tours of America in the 1980s.

The terrorist "organization" is Al Qaeda.

Check out David Brooks' column in today's NYT (and he's no "liberal apologist").

Anonymous said...

ou can count me among the people who believe Michael Hastings was murdered and that his death was not accidental. He told the truth about matters best left untold in the opinions of those who favored concealment. He ruffled so many feathers its difficult to guess who killed him. After he broke the Bergdahl story and spilled out the controversial issues still being talked about this hour, that story escalated into an FBI investigation and then morphed into an international terrorist manhunt. Hastings was a patriot and a truth teller. His death, like the Bergdahl story, the Snowden story, the NSA story; they are all inextricably linked to one another. We are not supposed to know the truth. Guys like Garrison are pawns. They see opportunities to spin stories into political advantage, no matter the truth. The truth is that if a Republican president had exchanged Taliban for Bergdahl, Garrison would be extolling his virtues. But Michael Hastings was not a hypocrite or political shill. And he died for telling his truths.

Anonymous said...

I’ve always liked John McCain, and I voted for him for President instead of Obama, probably because I grew up in a military family and I respect military men. John McCain has spent much of the past week denying that he changed his position about exchanging Taliban prisoners for American soldier Bowe Bergdahl. So he probably wasn't happy this morning, when the Washington Post's official fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, sided with the people who think McCain flip-flopped on Bergdahl.
McCain told Jake Tapper on Thursday that, although he previously expressed his willingness to exchange prisoners for Bergdahl, he would never have done so if he'd known exactly which prisoners would be exchanged. Kessler, though, poked some big holes in that argument:
“… since the deal was announced, he (McCain) has suggested that the question of trading the Taliban Five for Bergdahl was a surprise—and that’s certainly not the case. These five men were always part of the prisoner swap, so that is not a detail that can be in dispute. Indeed, only a day after The Washington Post revealed a deal was in the works to trade the five men for Bergdahl, McCain appeared on television with what was billed as a “new position.”

McCain may have thought he left himself an out when he said his support was dependent on the details. But then he can’t object to the most important detail–the identity of the prisoners–that was known at the time he indicated his support. McCain earns an upside-down Pinocchio, constituting a flip-flop.”

So the moral is that Republicans and Democrats are the same. But Republicans consistently win the prize for being the biggest hypocrites. Sorry. Don’t shoot the messenger. Its like getting your daily lecture from Rush Limbaugh on family values from a guy who can’t hold onto a wife. These are your Republicans today. They drone on and on about their values. But in the end, no.

Gary R. Welsh said...

It's time for McCain to retire. His days of usefulness have long since passed. He knew about the potential for the release of these five Taliban prisoners two years ago when Hastings wrote his story. He huffed and puffed and then said he would go for it. Now he's singing a different tune.