Bergdahl To Be Charged

Well, knock me over with a feather:

On Wednesday, the Army announced that it was charging Sergeant Bergdahl with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion, raising the possibility that he could be imprisoned again, this time for life.

In announcing the charges against Sergeant Bergdahl, the military reignited the political firestorm that took place last summer after the sergeant was released in a swap for five Taliban detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

For President Obama, it reopens the contentious political question of whether the United States should have agreed to the exchange. Administration officials have steadfastly maintained that even if Sergeant Berdahl did voluntarily walk off his remote base in Afghanistan, it was the duty of the United States to take all appropriate steps to free him.

The president’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, was harshly criticized when she said last summer that Sergeant Bergdahl had served “with honor and distinction” at the same time that his former platoon members were appearing on television accusing him of deliberately leaving the base, an act that they said put in danger the lives of the American military members who searched for him.

Sergeant Bergdahl is charged with misbehavior before the enemy, which carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison, and with desertion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He could also face a dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank and forfeiture of the pay he was owed while in captivity if he is tried and convicted, Army officials said during a news conference in Fort Bragg, N.C.

A few things to unpack here:

First, getting Bergdahl back was justified. We don’t leave men behind and the idea, currently promulgating in liberal circles, that Republicans would rather he have been left to rot, is garbage. The criticism that Obama faced was for the way this went down — releasing five Taliban detainees in exchange for Bergdahl, not informing Congress of the deal, trying to pretend that Bergdahl served with honor and, in the case of one Administration official, branding his accusers as psychopaths.

Second, it’s amazing to watch the pretzels the sufferers of Obama Defense Derangement Syndrome are twisting themselves into. When Bergdahl was first released and the criticisms of his conduct emerged, the Left took the “how dare you!” narrative. When he was returned to active duty, they pilloried Republicans for having had the temerity to have questioned his honor. Republican criticism of the deal was labelled as placing party above country (even though many Democrats agreed that Obama broke the law in brokering the deal). Now that he’s been charged, we’re back to, “we don’t leave a man behind.”

Berdahl is innocent until proven guilty, obviously. But let’s not pretend the Republicans are the only ones who used his release as a political football. And let’s not pretend that this was a great deal. As David Burge noted on Twitter the other day, it’s becoming clear that this Administration couldn’t negotiate a 99-cent deal with a dollar store.

A Quick Thought on the Bergdahl Deal

Events are moving quickly on the Bergdahl deal. Congress is going to have hearings about whether Obama broke the law (when even noted liberal hack Jeffrey Toobin says that Obama “clearly broke the law”, I would say that Obama probably broke the law). The army is now going to investigate his disappearance. Homecoming parades have been cancelled. And the Obama people are, once again, bumfuzzled that not everyone is baking is their gloriousness.

But I wanted to peel off a question here. When discussing this case with my father-in-law today, he was puzzled that Obama would make this deal since he thought it would encourage more abductions. I said that the Obama people saw this as a straight-forward POW exchange. And then it hit me. This deal isn’t about Bergdahl. It isn’t about leaving no man behind. It isn’t about the Gitmo 5. And it’s not about distracting from the VA scandal (the lapdog media will take care of that).

This deal is about legitimizing the Taliban.

OK, that’s a bit harsh. It’s more accurate to say that this about setting the stage for post-war Afghanistan. Karzai is a lame duck and will soon be replaced. His successor may not last long after we leave. Either the Taliban will take over or they will be part of a power-sharing agreement. The United States has been negotiating directly with the Taliban for a while, trying to bring more moderate elements to the fore (the Taliban is not a monolithic organization, but is a coalition of powers ranging from somewhat moderate to absurdly extreme).

I think this is aimed directly at building a relationship with the Taliban. It is not a coincidence that this happened just after we announced the timetable for leaving Afghanistan. The Obama Administration has seen the writing on the wall — the Taliban will rule Afghanistan again. And they’re trying to establish a relationship with Afghanistan’s future government.

Whether that’s a good or a bad thing only history will tell. I don’t think we have much of a choice. We can’t stay and nation-build in Afghanistan forever. The only force that will rid Afghanistan of fundamentalism is the Afghan people deciding they don’t want it anymore. Our main priority has to be making sure that terrorist organizations are not allowed to flourish in postwar Afghanistan.

Will this prisoner swap with the Taliban help? I’m very dubious. But I think that’s what’s going on here.

Drone Groaning

Young Master Poosh asked me yesterday to check out a new study on the wisdom and effectiveness of the US’s use of drone strikes in Pakistan and other places.  I had my doubts because it sounded like something a Soros-affiliated group would come up with, but I’m always up for a good read.  Or even a bad one (send me shit!  I need ideas!).

Anyhow, I was right.  It’s a left-wing academia thing assisted by Reprieve, known to me as a progressive grievance group.   But that got me more interested in reading it, not less.  After all, the Left has been pretty quiet about US tactics in the Global War on Terror (whatever that is) since, uh, well, I’m not entirely sure when they lost their curiosity about the appropriateness of our methods.   Weird.  At any rate, these fine liberals decided to start asking some questions that Congressional Democrats and their news media aren’t.

You can read all about it in this PDF called Living Under Drones.  It’s lengthy, but the major points are:

1. Drone strikes are killing civilians

2. They are terrorizing the civilians who don’t get killed

3. They don’t really work that well

4. They’re probably illegal

I think their research is actually quite good, assuming that their anonymous sources aren’t lying or fabricated.  I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt though.  At any rate, I am pleased to see that Obama and the press aren’t getting a pass from the same people who used to scream about Bush doing things like this.  On that basis alone, I take it on good faith.

If I have one problem with the report, it’s that it offers no alternatives to using drones to hunt militants in Pakistan.  The entire report criticizes their use, but spends no time saying what (if anything) might work better.   What they ironically failed to note is that the same reasons why drones are the only option for knocking off militants in Pakistan are the exact same problems that hindered their own research for the report.

Primary research in FATA is difficult for many reasons.

First, it is very difficult for foreigners physically to access FATA, partly due to the Pakistani government’s efforts to block access through heavily guarded checkpoints, and partly due to serious security risks.

Second, it is very difficult for residents of Waziristan to travel out of the region. Those we interviewed had to travel hundreds of kilometers by road to reach Islamabad or Peshawar, in journeys that could take anywhere from eight hours to several days, and which required passing through dozens of military and police checkpoint stops, as well as, in some cases, traveling through active fighting between armed non-state groups and Pakistani forces.

Third, mistrust, often justifiable, from many in FATA toward outsiders (particularly Westerners) inhibits ready access to individuals and communities.

Hmm.  It’s almost as if an area where the host government is uncooperative, road travel is insanely difficult, and the populace loathes outsiders might be ideal for covert, unmanned air operations.

What the authors really want is more transparency on this program, so they say.   How are targets being selected?  Who are we really killing?  How did the Administration come to the conclusion that this was allowed by international law?  Good questions, but there’s no way that either the Obama Administration or Pakistan’s government can answer those questions and still have the program work effectively since we’re officially not really doing it to begin with.

The drone program is one of those few things that the Obama Administration has done that I like.  When you blow the bad guys up, you get no messy problems that go with capturing them like indefinite detention, interrogation, and trials.  The same people who complained about those activities were either unaware of or willing to accept the fact that killing suspected terrorists on sight was the only thing that could be done if we were to keep the GWoT going.

Unfortunately, this method may be too perfect for the US government, you know?   Total secrecy, no risk of losing any pilots and having to explain why one is on Pakistan television with a gun to his head, no explanations of who was killed or why; just an assurance that “he was a militant and we totally didn’t kill any innocent people.”   Note that this has even been done to an American citizen (and total dirtbag, but still).  I don’t think we should give the Administration a complete license to kill on the soil of countries we’re not at war with (yet) with so little accountability or oversight.

Above all, I’ll say that the report has me convinced that the drone strikes probably have killed plenty of innocent people and are both legally and ethically questionable.  However, I don’t think we’re anywhere close to being able to stop doing them.  Americans approve of drone strikes–and the rest of Obama’s counter-terrorism strategy–in principle, like it when al Qaeda and Taliban guys get zilched out, and see no risk in doing any of it.   But at least somebody’s asking questions.  Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what we’re hoping to accomplish over there and how we’re doing it.  When you ask me to believe that this Administration should be trusted on terrorism matters, remember that Benghazi has shown us that it simply cannot.

The E-mail Was Probably a LOLcat

Once again, we see that good will always triumph because evil is dumb:

In a Dilbert-esque faux pax, a Taliban spokesperson sent out a routine email last week with one notable difference.He publicly CC’d the names of everyone on his mailing list.

The list, made up of more than 400 recipients, consists mostly of journalists, but also includes an address appearing to belong to a provincial governor, an Afghan legislator, several academics and activists, an Afghan consultative committee, and a representative of Gulbuddein Hekmatar, an Afghan warlord whose outlawed group Hezb-i-Islami is believed to be behind several attacks against coalition troops.

In recent weeks, the Taliban have increased the number of emails they send out, growing from just a handful every week, to several per day. Most of the emails are sent from Ahmedi’s account. The increase coincides with the end of the annual Taliban fighting season, prompting one local journalist to joke, “I guess when fighting season ends, emailing season begins.”

I don’t know how much help this will be in the War on Terror. My impression is that the journalists are not sympathizers but people the Taliban has chosen to send their declarations to. Still, I would not be surprised if some surveillance comes down on those on the list.

I Want My Money

Once again, we see that good will always triumph because evil is dumb:

Mohammad Ashan, a mid-level Taliban commander in Paktika province, strolled toward a police checkpoint in the district of Sar Howza with a wanted poster bearing his own face. He demanded the finder’s fee referenced on the poster: $100.

Afghan officials, perplexed by the man’s misguided motives, arrested him on the spot. Ashan is suspected of plotting at least two attacks on Afghan security forces. His misdeeds prompted officials to plaster the district with hundreds of so-called “Be on the Lookout” posters emblazoned with his name and likeness.

This is one of the advantages of fighting an enemy who think education and literacy are evil. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of terrorists being done in by extreme stupidity. There have been reports of Taliban suicide bombers accidentally detonating during group hugs.

Time to print up some more posters. Maybe we can get the guys who poisoned schoolgirls.