Don’t just investigate Bergdahl, investigate the conduct of his entire unit
By Ray Hanania
Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2009 and became a prisoner of war. After being urged to pursue a prisoner swap by Republican members of Congress, and public pressure, Bergdahl was swapped in exchange for the release of five Taliban prisoners on May 31.
The point person in Congress pushing for Bergdahl’s release was Congressman Richard B. Nugent, representing Florida’s conservative 11th District. While many politicians jump all over the issue of “patriotism” and “defending our country,” Nugent actually has three sons serving in the U.S. Military. Most members of Congress never served in the military, and many were given passes to avoid military service when they could have fought to defend this country but chose to pursue their political careers through cronyism and favoritism.
Nugent isn’t alone. There were a dozen Republican congressmen who were jumping all over this when they thought it might benefit them to praise the release. But once the criticism happened, these Republican congressmen were scrambling to remove Tweets praising Bergdahl.
Yet after years of calling for someone to investigate the Bergdahl capture, suddenly the Bergdahl swap has been criticized with the main issue focusing on allegations by his colleagues and the parents of soldiers who died in service that he deserted his unit which resulted in capture.
There hasn’t been any trial. The mothers of several parents of killed soldiers in his unit have called for Bergdahl to be tried and given the death penalty. Their vicious attacks are based on rumors and interviews with retired members of his unit.
But what are the real facts involving Bergdahl? He was assigned to a unit which was facing intense attacks from the Taliban. Suddenly every soldier who died on July 4, 2009, the bloodiest year of the war to that point, are now being called victims of Bergdahl’s “mysterious” disappearance. It’s tragic that the politics has once again corrupted our military mission in Afghanistan, spilling over from Iraq. The outrageous assertions being made are based on incomplete, one-sided facts.
For example, was Bergdahl suffering from depression? More than 60 percent of returning Afghan and Iraq war veterans are seeking medical help for depression and other combat-related illnesses. Are we to believe that those illnesses only begin when they are discharged fromt he service. Only “honorably discharged” soldiers legitimately suffered from the war and everyone else did not?
Maybe Bergdahl was suffering a common form of combat fatigue, mental stress and depression.
No one wants to talk about that. Like Nugent, everyone wants to jump to conclusions. Everyone, mostly people who never served our country in the military, want to prosecute Bergdahl and turn this into an attack against President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who will most likely become our next president.
Like twisting and distorting the military and patriotism has never happened int his country over the years.
Was Bergdahl being bullied by his colleagues? Bergdahl, accordingt o his cadre of haters and colleagues, reportedly expressed concerns about what the United States was doing in Afghanistan and in the so-called “War on Terrorism.” Funny how everyone wants to investigate Bergdahl and just convict him without a trial, but they don’t want to talk about the repeated rumors and reporting on the war crimes that have been committed by some of our soldiers who have killed, intentionally and unintentionally through faulty procedures, civilians who had nothing to do with terrorism.
We need to investigate not only what happened to Bergdahl, but also what caused him to flee, if in fact that’s what he did as his haters allege. We need to also investigate charges from Afghani citizens who claim their loved ones were murdered by American soldiers for no reason. The number of killings seem to exceed those that happened during the Vietnam War. These war crimes don’t represent all of our American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they exist. The U.S. Military has fought hard to bury the incidents and not prosecute or investigate them. What are they afraid of?
Bergdahl served with distinction, until he disappeared from his unit. He expressed concerns about what the military was doing. He was there, talking about the killing of Afghani children. That should be investigated, too.
All you need to do is read The Nation Magazine’s Jeremy Scahill’s powerful book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, on the topic of what really happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the undeclared wars in Yemen and Somalia. We know war crimes have been committed, but no one wants to open up that can of worms. We just want it to go away.
Yet, we are so quick to jump all over Bergdahl because he expressed some views that some of his combat colleagues didn’t like or agree with. Several have said that they were annoyed by his views and his comments and they don’t mind now demanding that he be branded a deserter and that he be tried for desertion, a conviction that would lead to the death penalty.
But, where are those American soldiers demanding that the killing of innocent civilians also be investigated?
Finally, when have we ever hesitated to obtain the release of an American soldier who has fought in a combat zone? When have we ever not agreed to swap prisoners? Suddenly the haters and critics are saying that the five Taliban prisoners released in exchange for Bergdahl were dangerous terrorists. They are predicting that these five Taliban prisoners suddenly were almost as bad as Osama Bin Laden. Because they know? Or because it fits so well in our guilty until proven innocent environment that we live in today? So many Taliban prisoners have turned out to be low-level and unrelated to terrorism. So many innocent civilians have been put in prison in Guantanamo and in the secret Black Ops torture prisons that America runs in Jordan, Egypt, even Syria for a while, and in Cuba, Afghanistan and in Iraq. Torture, what was done to former Vietnam combat POW Senator John McCain, and that has been done to our enemies.
This war is a mess. It always has been. So before we jump to conclusions and cherry pick who, what, when, where and how, we should approach it equally and fairly.
The cost of Bergdahl’s release is justified in my mind. Was he a deserter? Let’s also examine his physical health, while he was serving, not waiting until discharge is is the process now. We have soldiers who have health issues who are still serving. Yet the majority of soldiers released have serious medical conditions, mental conditions and more.
The Bargdahl controversy isn’t about determining the truth. It’s about talk Television chatter-heads exploiting everything to boost ratings and sell advertising. It is about members of congress who never served this country in a military uniform or who used clout to avoid major combat assignments serving in the reserves, instead, who are hypocrites and exploited this when it suited them. It is about the American people asking themselves if the U.S. Constitution and morality and principle mean something always or only when it benefits us?
Set aside the politics. Stop exploiting “patriotism” as a political campaign strategy. Start respecting all of the American military who served this country and if there are bad apples don’t just cherry pick which to prosecute and which to ignore and hide. Prosecute any soldier who embarrassed this country by violating the highest morality that this country strives to represent. Any soldier. Bergdahl and others who might have been engaged in the killing of innocent civilians.
Stop the Kangaroo court. We’re Americans, not terrorists. Stop the rumor-mongering and political lies being spread by colleagues who clearly hated Bergdahl and have a motive to speak out and make claims that so far have not been verified or confirmed.
This is America. It’s isn’t Afghanistan. We’re not the Taliban, or are we?
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He is the managing editor of The Arab Daily News www.TheArabDailyNews.com.)
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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