Sunday, June 1, 2014

POW or Deserter? American President or Muslim Traitor?

It has long been the foreign policy of the United States that she never negotiate with terrorists.  Period.  The reasons are obvious.  Such negotiations would embolden further acts to kidnap Americans overseas and reward their abductors.  We can see just how well negotiating with criminals has worked with the Somali pirates.  They've actually turned piracy and the kidnapping of a Captain and crew into a viable business model.  Once you negotiate with an aggressor, once you have "set a price" on the lives of your citizens, there's no going back without a great deal of strife and bloodshed.  And, the price keeps going up until you are forced into saying "Enough!" and then the strife and bloodshed ensues, anyway.  In the long run, it's a lose-lose situation.

The country is all abuzz today about the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only prisoner of war taken by the Taliban during the Afghanistan war.  His release was obtained by the Obama administration's agreement to the release of 5 high-level Al-Qaida affiliated Taliban prisoners held at Gitmo.  These are not simple guerrilla fighters taken on the battle field.  These are some of the most dangerous enemy combatants held.  To release them back (to Qatar, of all places!) is to insure their return to the business of terrorism against the United States.  There have been several reports documenting the recidivism rate of release detainees.  With these five, it's not supposition but a guarantee.  Qatar promises to hold them for at least one year, after which, they'll be under "travel restriction".  Whatever that means.

Let's break this story down into it's parts.  What did we get? and what did we give up?

What we got was the return of a POW.  Let's examine the circumstances of his "capture".  There seem to have been several irregularities.  This report is from dated July 20th, 2009, shortly after the Sgt. was reported missing/captured:

"On July 2, two U.S. officials told the AP the soldier had “just walked off” his base with three Afghans after his shift. He had no body armor or weapon and they said they had no explanation for why he left. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
On July 6, the Taliban claimed on their Web site that five days earlier “a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison” and was captured by mujahadeen.
In the video, Pfc. Bergdahl said he was lagging behind a patrol when he was captured."

Hmmm. Three different versions of the same event.  Which to believe?  If the first version is true, he's a deserter, and the United States owes him nothing in the way of efforts to secure his release.
The second version is very hard to believe.  "a 'drunken American soldier'"?  Given the twin obstacles of military discipline at a front line installation, as well as the well documented American military's policy of no alcohol in Muslim countries, I find this very hard to believe.  If it is true, then it doesn't shine a very good light on the good Sgt. and his sense of discipline and duty.
The third version is perhaps the most difficult to believe.  In the words of retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters (again quoting from the piece at,  "PETERS: On that video, he is collaborating with the enemy. Under duress or not, that’s really not relevant. He’s making accusations about the behavior of the military in Afghanistan that are unfounded, saying there are no rules. He’s lying about how he was captured, saying he lagged behind a patrol.
Julie, I’ll tell you, any 11 Bravo infantryman will tell you, that’s not how it works. In a war zone, any soldier is aware of where all his buddies are. If it’s a night patrol, you’re sure of where the guy in front of you and behind you is. So we know this private is a liar. We’re not sure if he’s a deserter. But the media needs to hit the pause button and NOT portray this guy as a hero…"
So which version is the truth?  Is it some combination?  Who were the three Afghans he reportedly walked off the base with?  As reported on,  Rolling Stone magazine quoted emails Bergdahl is said to have sent to his parents that suggest he was disillusioned with America's mission in Afghanistan, had lost faith in the U.S. Army's mission there and was considering desertion.
Bergdahl told his parents he was "ashamed to even be American." Bergdahl, who mailed home boxes containing his uniform and books, also wrote: "The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong."
One further disturbing fact has come to light just today.  Sgt. Bergdahl's father, Bob, had posted, then deleted, a rather provocative tweet:  View image on Twitter
Not exactly what you would expect from a patriotic American parent proud of their serviceman son.
Then there's this post on Twitter of a report from someone who was there:
Embedded image permalink
Beginning to seem more and more like an AWOL who stumbled into being a POW and thus a convenient propaganda tool.  Of course, given his father's apparent anti-American views, there's always the possibility that the Sgt. went into the war zone with the intent to desert to the other side.
As for what we gave up:  Five extremely dangerous high-level Taliban terrorists with strong Al-Qaida connections.  From an article on
Mohammad Fazl, the former Taliban defense minister during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, chief of staff of the Taliban army, and commander of its 22nd Division. According to [the] U.S. Department of Defense, Fazl is believed to be an associate of Supreme Taliban Commander Mullah Omar and was “wanted by the UN for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiites.”
Mullah Norullah Noori, a former Taliban military commander and Taliban governor of two Afghan provinces, who led Taliban forces against U.S. and coalition troops and was also “wanted by the United Nations (UN) for possible war crimes including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims” 
Mohammed Nabi, another senior Taliban official with ties to al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, and other anti-U.S., Taliban-allied groups, according to his Defense Dept. file, Nabi was involved in attacks against U.S. and coalition forces and facilitated smuggling routes for the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Khairullah Khairkhwa, a direct associate of Osama bin Laden and a senior Taliban military commander who also served as the Taliban’s minister of Interior and the governor of Herat.  He represented the Taliban at meetings with Iranian officials seeking to support actions against U.S. and coalition forces after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s former deputy minister of intelligence, had direct connections to Taliban leadership and was “central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups” to fight against U.S. and coalition forces.
Just how big a potential threat do these five men represent to America, her interests around the region, and her citizens?  Impossible to say.  One thing is certain, these five men are not going to ride off into the sunset and retire to contemplate the error of their ways.  The government would be wise (I know, I know) to hold Sgt. Bergdahl for a thorough debriefing on both the particulars of his capture, his possible desertion and the details of the last 5 years spent with his Taliban captors.  If it is determined that he did voluntarily walk away from his post, in direct violation of his duty, the minimum penalty should be dishonorable discharge and loss of pension.  If it is determined that he acted to aid and abet the enemy, he should face court martial as a traitor, as defined by 18 US Code (sub-section) 2381-Treason.
The actions taken by President Barack Obama are nearly as troubling as the circumstances surrounding the capture of Sgt. Bergdahl.  Aside from his break from traditional American policy concerning negotiating with terrorists, there's the not-so-little matter of the apparent violation of American law.  Last year, Congress passed, and Obama signed into law, a revision of the rules regarding the potential release of prisioners at Gitmo.  In short, the law requires the administration (any administration) to  notify the relevant Congressional committees at least 30 days prior to the release of any detainees and to detail steps taken to prevent their eventual return to combat against American forces.
The administration's spokespeople acknowledge their failure to follow the letter of the law, claiming exigency as their excuse and pointing to a "signing statement" of Obama's at the time of his signing of the law that he believed the law an unconstitutional restriction of the powers of the Executive Branch and reserving the right to act without such notification if it was deemed necessary.  In other words, he agreed to follow the law just as long is it didn't prove too inconvenient.
This is the same Barack Obama and his supporters who decried the use of signing statements by George W. Bush.  The same Barack Obama and supporters who claimed outrage over supposed "torture" and mistreatment of detainees at Gitmo, while US service members were routinely denied basic and life-saving medical care at the VA for years (they're now blaming Bush for that, as well).
This is a direct quote from 18 US Code:
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
People have claimed that Obama has committed "high crimes and misdemeanors" in the past over his usurpation of Congressional legislative power, his administration's acts in contravention of Constitutional provision and his administration's refusal to submit to proper Congressional oversight.  Many of these same people also claim that Mr. Obama's true allegiance is to the Islamic faith he was raised with and that he is more than sympathetic to the views of Muslims extremists. I wonder where on the scale of "aid and comfort to the enemy" the release of 5 high value, "extremely dangerous" Taliban, Islamist, Al-Qaida affiliated terrorists would fall?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Our Continuing National Dishonor

"The Congress Shall Have Power To....Declare War....Raise and Support Armies....Provide and Maintain a Navy....make Rules for the Government of land and naval provide for the calling for of the provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States of America..."

--United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8

Notice the recurring theme here?  Raise and Support; Provide for.  Congress has the sole power to send America's citizen soldiers into conflict.  In granting itself that authority, it also obligated itself to see to the needs of those soldiers in return for their service.  Largely, and repeatedly, it has failed it's obligations under the Constitution.  The American soldier is underpaid and unappreciated by many whose decisions obligate them to undertake life-threatening risks for sometimes vague and questionable objectives.

As I'm sure you've seen and heard, there is (another) scandal at the VA concerning the medical treatment of our wounded veterans.  At first dismissed as a problem with one local VA healthcare facility, the problem has grown to include dozens of facilities all across the country, with whistle blowers recounting stories of abuse, sub-par care, non-sterile facilities, and inordinately long wait times.  Unfortunately, and to our national disgrace, these stories aren't new.  Word of the poor treatment many of our bravest receive at their exclusive government-run healthcare program has been out there literally for decades.  What's new, and even more despicable (if possible), are the new claims that, in order to make themselves look good and win bonus pay veterans needing the most care and those with chronic illnesses were put on separate, secret waiting lists.  The purpose of such lists was to enable the facility in question promulgate the illusion that they were seeing service members in a timely manner.  To be specific, law requires that a veteran seeking care be seen within 14 days.  In reality, the wait times often extended to months, and in some cases, even more than a year!

To date, it has been claimed that more than 40 American soldiers, men wounded in combat fighting for their country, have DIED waiting for an appointment with a doctor or specialist.

Contrast this with how those on welfare and even convicted felons are treated.  Law requires that inmates be given medical attention within 24 hours of any injury or complaint.  Welfare recipients and those on medicaid can go to any emergency room and be seen 24/7/365.

Where is the justice in that?

President Barack Obama has declared that he is "madder than hell" at these revelations and has demanded that an investigation quickly be conducted to determine the truth of these allegations.  When pressed by news reporters to answer questions about how much the administration and it's department heads have been aware of the issue, he demurs, saying he only recently became aware of this situation.

Really?  He only just now has become aware of big problems at the VA?  Isn't it odd? As a Senator, Obama served on a committee dealing with veterans and their healthcare issues.  He also made the treatment of our veterans a major theme of his initial campaign for President back in 2008.  In many speeches, he declared that he would reform the institutions that serve our disabled and wounded veterans, increase funding, shorten wait times, and improve care for those who receive injury while serving their country.  How has he done?  Let's see:

In 2009, there were about 423,000 claims at the VA, with 150,000 pending for more than four months (the "official" wait time it takes a claim to be considered "backlogged").  By 2012, claims had exploded to more than 883,000--and 586,540 of those sat on the VA's backlog list.  This, despite a promise by the President to reduce wait times to a statutory goal of no longer than 14 days and an increase in the VA's budget from just under $100B in 2009 to $154B in 2012.  Don't forget, this doesn't--and can't--account for the discrepancy  between the "official" wait times reported by the VA and the actual wait times recorded on their second, secret set of books.  Problems with wait times at the VA were reported during the middle of the second Bush term and an attempt was made to address them at that time, with an IG's investigation and recommendation of policy changes to deal with the situation and prevent it from continuing or getting worse.  In spite of those efforts, nothing really improved for veterans seeking care.  In fact, the Bush administration informed the incoming Obama transition team of the problem, warning them that the reports of wait times coming from the VA weren't to be relied upon.

To be fair, while the problems at the VA have exploded under the ineptness of the current Obama administration, the problems with the VA, in fact, with America's treatment of it's veterans overall, go way back.

In 1999, the average wait time for claims processing for veterans (including claims for disability declarations) was 166 days.  By 2002, the middle of the first George W. Bush administration, it took the VA an average of 224 days to complete claims.  In 2013, it was up to 923 days, an increase of 37% from 2012!  Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that our veterans have to wait up to three years before being treated.  These wait times are an aggregate of all veteran's services, including disability claims and appeals.  It does, however, give a clear indication of which direction we're headed in.  In spite of the Obama-signed legislation directing the VA to see patients withing 14 days (the "official" wait time) waits of several weeks or months are routine and waits of more than a year not uncommon.

As I said earlier, such poor treatment of our veterans isn't anything new.  During World War II, many combat veterans returning with psychiatric disorders (now called PTSD) were lobotomized.  The U.S. government lobotomized at least 2000--like hundreds more--soldiers during and after WWII.  According to memos recently unearthed by the Wall Street Journal, the VA, besieged by psychologically damaged troops returning from the battlefields of North Africa, Europe and the Pacific, performed the brain-altering operation on former servicemen it diagnosed as depressives, psychotics, and schizophrenics (and, occasionally, on people identified as homosexuals). 

During the Civil War, soldiers on the Union side were induced to sign up by the offering of "bounties".  Essentially, promises of grants of property (land) in return for agreeing to join the fight.  Once they signed up, they were paid a wage commensurate with their rank.  Soldiers were supposed to be paid every two months in the field, but were lucky to get their pay in four month intervals.  Authentic instances have been uncovered where they went as long as six and eight months.  Pay in the Confederate Army was even slower and less regular.

We can take this back even further, to the Revolutionary War itself.  In the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783.  George Washington's soldiers threatened to wipe out the entire Continental Congress over the issue of their not being paid for their service in winning the war with the British.  General (and eventual first President) Washington acted swiftly to prevent such an atrocity.  On June 17, 1783 members of the army sent a letter to Congress demanding they be paid for their services.  Congress ignored them.  On the morning of June 20th, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia found themselves surrounded by as many as 400 soldiers demanding payment, blocking the doors and refusing to allow delegates to leave.  Alexander Hamilton persuaded the soldiers to allow the delegates to leave, promising to meet later to address their concerns.  Instead of addressing those concerns, however, a secret group of delegates, headed by Hamilton himself, drafted a petition to the State of Pennsylvania demanding that they act to protect Congress from the soldiers, threatening that, if the state refused to act, they would move the capital elsewhere.

We can see by these examples that the government of the United States hasn't ever really held all that closely to it's obligation to Support and Provide for those whom it chooses to send into harms way.  This needs to change.  We treat convicted criminals better than we do our heroes!  We actually have families of active-duty soldiers serving in war zones subsisting on welfare and food stamps!  This is no way to repay these men and women for their great, and in many cases, ultimate sacrifices.  Perhaps, finally, on this Memorial Day we can all collectively wake up and begin to honestly respect and honor those who stand between our peaceful lives and the chaos and violence of the rest of the world.

If we don't, we have no right to cast blame on government and the VA alone.  It will (continue to) be our national disgrace.