Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Tell me what you know; Tell me what you don’t know; Then tell me what you think"

Colin Powell said there are four rules for good intelligence:  “Tell me what you know. Tell me what you don’t know. Then tell me what you think. Always distinguish which is which.”
I wasn't an Intelligence Officer during my time in the service, and several of my squadron-mates might even question my intelligence in general, but I know what I know, what I don't, and the difference between the two.

As for Bowe Bergdahl, I'm not sure what to think.

I know he was a deserter.  So does the US Government.

"A Pentagon report clearly indicates that as early as 2010, the Department of Defense knew that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had, in fact, deserted his fellow soldiers by walking away from his post. Calling the proof “incontrovertible,” a Pentagon official detailed that Sgt. Bergdahl was a deserter."

I don't know what he was thinking when he walked off the base and into the arms of the Taliban.  At least not specifically.  

I know he's probably not your typical Soldier.  He was raised on a farm in Idaho without TV, but surrounded by thousands of books.  He was home-schooled, taught the works of religious thinkers like Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.  He was a ballet dancer and sometime Buddhist.  At 20 he went to France and failed in his attempt to join the French Foreign Legion. Deploying to Afghanistan in 2009, he learned Dari, Arabic and Pashto- before being captured.  

I know that when he deserted, he left a note saying he had become disillusioned with the Army, didn't believe in our mission in Afghanistan, and was leaving to start a new life.

I don't know if a guy like that deserves to be rescued.  And because I can count, I know there are 7 Soldiers in the picture below.

From left, PFC Matthew Martinek, SSG Kurt Curtiss, PFC Morris Walker, SSG Clayton Bowen, 2LT Darryn Andrews, SSG Michael Murphy. 

I also know that 6 of them died trying to rescue the other.  I know the US believes in never leaving a man behind, but I don't think 6 lives are worth one deserter.  I also know we're not hearing anything about these men from the Administration, spin or otherwise.

What a second, maybe  I do know some specifics about what Bergdahl was thinking: 

"I am sorry for everything here," Bergdahl wrote to his parents in an email reported by Rolling Stone. "These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live." He signed off with an ominous final message. "There are a few more boxes coming to you guys," he said, referring to his uniform and books, which he had already packed up and shipped off. 
Three days before his disappearance and capture, Bob Bergdahl, Bowe’s father, responded with these words: “OBEY YOUR CONSCIENCE!”
Considering all that, I know he's not worth the lives of those 6 men.  I admit that that's pretty subjective however, especially since the mission was a failure.  It failed because the Taliban had hidden him too well, our intelligence was too weak, or Bergdahl didn't want to be found.

I hope that once he's healthy, he comes out and says he knew immediately after being captured that he had made a horrible mistake, then it might take the sting out of their deaths.  It reminds me of that last scene in Saving Private Benjamin when Matt Damon's character questions whether or not he was worth the lives of that team sent to find him.  I don't know if anyone in Washington feels any sting about it.

You all probably know who that is.  He's the former, or soon-to-be former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

I know that when questioned about the precedent that is being set by releasing 5 Taliban Terrorists in exchange for Bergdahl, if this was negotiating with terrorists, he said the following:

“Well, I caution anyone against buying the propaganda of terrorists, first of all,” Carney shot back, pointing to a “long history and precedent” of the United States exchanging prisoners during armed conflicts.  
I did a little research into our long history and precedent of prisoner swaps.  Afghanistan?  He's the only one. Iraq?  None.  I know MSNBC tried to do some research on the subject to shore up Carney's statement, but could only come up with this completely irrelevant comment:  
"Prisoner exchanges for individual soldiers are not uncommon among heavy militarized U.S. allies."

The article then follows that up with another irrelevant point about the Israeli trade of 1000 Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli Soldier. Link here.  I think MSNBC is a lousy place to get news.
How about trading prisoners during Viet Nam?  None that I can find.  Here's a sobering list from that war, mainly because of its length, showing that nearly every POW came home only after the war had ended: Complete List 
Doug Hegdahl
Navy Sailor and American Hero Doug Hegdahl came home early, but only after being ordered to do so by his cell-mate and Senior Ranking Officer, LCDR Richard Stratton.  However, no prisoners were exchanged for his release.  
In fact, one has to go back to the Civil War to find the history and precedent that Jay Carney speaks of, with swaps being fairly common back then.  Since then?  Not on the American side of our wars.
But back to Sgt. Bergdahl.
I think that the Administration has muddled up our Foreign Policy once again, with Susan Rice, the National Security Advisor and other top officials saying:
“Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage, he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield.”  
If we claim that he's a POW captured on the Battlefield, how is that any different from what we've done to all those Taliban scum we have down in Gitmo?  We've captured them on the Battlefield, and if they're POWs, the Geneva Convention applies.  Whoops!  We've opened a very nasty Pandora's Box with that one.
What else do I know?  President Obama violated the law once again in not informing Congress about the exchange.  I think that Obama ignoring the notification provision required by the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, isn't unexpected.  When he signed the act, he used a "Signing Statement" saying he thought the notification was potentially unconstitutional.

To be fair, Reagan and George W. Bush uses signing statements to challenge a large number of provisions.  What I don't know is if those men ever willifully violated those same laws.  But in 2007, Candidate Obama criticized Bush for his "clear abuse" of executive power.  The American Bar Association agreed, stating "The President's constitutional duty is to enforce laws he has signed into being unless and until they are held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or a subordinate tribunal.  The Constitution is not what the President says it is" (emphasis is mine).

I think the President doesn't seem to care much about the Constitution however.

Lastly, I know that until Saturday when Bergdahl's release was announced, the Administration was being battered by the VA debacle, despite Shinseki resigning.  

Now?  Squirrel!  There's a new scandal, although that's probably not what the Administration thought would happen.  They probably thought they'd get a big win, looking good with their foreign policy and strong in defense circles, bringing one of our boys home.  They did, for about 30 seconds, until the facts started coming out.  It did get us talking about something else though, didn't it?  What VA scandal?  That was so last week!  

So I've told you what I know, what I don't, and what I think, but it might be a tall order to distinguish which is which.

What's the difference between the VA issue and Bergdahl's release?  In the first one, untold number of veterans died.  In the other?  Maybe just 6.  Both are bad, both reek of political incompetence, but only the latter seems like it's due to political expediency.
Their timing is impeccable.


  1. Fair and balanced. It seems we gave up two bishops, two nights and a rook for a pawn. A pawn who intentionally put himself in that position. Probably a troubled pawn.
    Now could we get our Marine out of Mexico? Maybe we could swap a million landscapers for one Marine.

  2. Ya know Tuna, I think you struck just the right balance on this topic.

    Political expediency, aye.

  3. It seems to me that a mentally ill Bergdahl took off to find the wizard, and that six or more good soldiers died as a result of trying to help him. What concerns me more is that the present dictator, made this unlawful action without due notification of Congress, thus freeing five men who could launch another 9-11 just a short time after they bask in luxury for a year with their families in Qatar before being freed to parts unknown. I ask again, whose side is Mr. Obama on ?

    1. Just out of curiosity, being a psychologist and all, is Bergdahl "mentally ill" because... he deserted? ...because he had an interest in ME languages prior to deserting? ...because he seems weird? ...because his actions appear inexplicable at the moment? Maybe he BECAME mentally ill after 5 years with the Taliban, but there doesn't seem to be much evidence that he was not mentally competent prior to that point. Seems a shame to dismiss someone as "mentally ill" because we don't like/understand his decisions, as opposed to, say, those who are struggling with properly assessed and diagnosed mental illnesses but whose actions/decisions are more understandable then Mr. Bergdahl's.
      Just sayin.

  4. The Qatar aspect of that? No WAY can we dictate what Qatar does with these prisoners now. We have no constitutional authority there and our ability to keep them from traveling is non-existent. The Administration claimed that due to Bergdahl's declining health, they had to act quickly without notifying Congress. See, they DO care about the health of Veterans!

  5. Tuna, a truly excellent blog! Very well said. I'd like to add a little footnote here: although I haven't been able to confirm this anywhere else, apparently the administration may have previously released 5 terrorists from Gitmo just to get the taliban to negotiate so it may be 10 terrorists for one deserter. See link -

  6. Well said Tuna.

    And Jane...I think Obama made it clear what side he's in when he declared that there is no sound more beautiful than the Muslim call to prayer

  7. One of the best pieces I've read so far on the whole Bergdahl fiasco.

  8. A major blunder by tone deaf elitists who spend too much time talking with people who already agree with them.

  9. This is an excellent synopsis of a really troubling incident, which even this Canadian can understand. I have very little real insight into American politics, but it seems like Obama is just about the worst thing ever to happen to the US in general and to Foreign policy and the military in particular. Aaaaaaaaaaaand he's yours for another four years. Ugh.

    1. Aaaaaaaaaaaand thanks for reminding us of that Susannah. ;-)


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