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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Morning News: The Complicated Story of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

Posted by on Wed, Jun 4, 2014 at 8:59 AM

Here is a Taliban video of the handover of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who has been held as a prisoner of war for five years and is being "traded" for five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. They were reportedly released shortly after the Black Hawk helicopter in the video took off:

Reporters at the New York Times narrate and translate: "As an American Blackhawk helicopter approaches, one of the insurgents is heard telling Sergeant Bergdahl: 'Don’t come back to Afghanistan. If you do, you won’t make it out alive next time.' Other insurgents standing nearby laugh at the warning... Much of the video clip’s audio track consists of an interview with one of the Taliban fighters who is described as having taken part in the handover. He talks about the arrangements that were made with the Americans, and then narrates how the American forces arrived by helicopter, with warplanes circling in the sky above." You can almost hear the spinning wheels in the minds of literary agents, wondering how long they should wait to descend on Sgt. Bergdahl for his my five years with the Taliban memoir. If they hit too soon, they'll be brushed off as insensitive. If they're too late, they might have lost their catch.

But the story is complicated: Sgt. Bergdahl reportedly "voluntarily walked off his post" in Afghanistan in 2009, was promptly captured by the Taliban, and is blamed for the deaths of other soldiers who were looking for him. (The facts are disputed.) “We don’t leave soldiers on the battlefield under any circumstance unless they have actually joined the enemy army,” John B. Bellinger III, chief lawyer for the State Department during the George W. Bush presidency, told reporters. “He was a young 20-year-old. Young 20-year-olds make stupid decisions. I don’t think we’ll say if you make a stupid decision we’ll leave you in the hands of the Taliban.” But he also said Sgt. Bergdahl "will have to face justice, military justice."

And if you really want to know more about this strange soldier, Democracy Now! has interviews with reporters who interviewed him: "He first tried to enlist with the French Foreign Legion, but was rejected. He was deployed to Afghanistan just after President Obama ordered the first troop surge in the Spring of 2009. Bergdahl reportedly told a soldier in his unit, 'If this deployment is lame … I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Pakistan.' And on June 30, 2009, he may have done just that, leaving the base with just a knife and water, along with a digital camera and his diary. Within 24 hours, he was captured."

Mayor Murray tells city to give rival-then-endorser Peter Steinbrueck a $98,000 consulting contract: "Steinbrueck, who handed Murray a key political endorsement in last year’s mayoral race after placing third in the primary, received the no-bid contract with the city Department of Planning and Development (DPD) in March... Murray said he’d wanted to hire Steinbrueck as a full-time employee but ran into budget constraints. He said Steinbrueck will help him revamp the way the city does planning — making 'very disconnected' departments work together better."

Grumpy cops made grumpier about the SPD's semi-playful distribution of Doritos—with informative stickers about the state's new marijuana laws—at Hempfest: Dom linked to it yesterday, but you should go skim the complaint report—it's a long exercise in not understanding the community you're working with (and, technically, for).

You are the company you keep: The governments of China and Vietnam support the Thai military's coup, though protesters have adopted the three-fingered salute from The Hunger Games to show their disapproval.

The bones of 796 babies found in a former septic tank outside of an Irish-Catholic orphanage for the babies of unwed mothers: "County Galway death records showed that the children, mostly babies and toddlers, died often of sickness or disease in the orphanage during the 35 years it operated from 1926 to 1961. The building, which had previously been a workhouse for homeless adults, was torn down decades ago to make way for new houses."

The arbitrariness of where you can afford to live: After reports about a sadly tiny apartment—you can't open the kitchen counters if there's a bed in the room—that quickly went for 170 pounds ($285) in London, the Guardian looked around England to see what else a person could rent for that amount. Some nice deals, it turns out.

Alex Ross on opera's current "fat-shaming controversy": "When, on May 17th, the young Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught performed the role of Octavian in a Glyndebourne Opera production of Der Rosenkavalier, an ugly controversy erupted in the British press. A posse of London critics, all male, unleashed some remarkably harsh reviews, focussing more on her appearance than on her singing. She was described as a 'chubby bundle of puppy-fat,' as being 'stocky' and 'dumpy of stature,' as possessing an 'intractable physique.'"

The etymology of "fat" sounds like a history of plenty and rich liquids: "Old Frisian fatt, Old Norse feitr, Dutch vet, German feist), from PIE *poid- 'to abound in water, milk, fat, etc.' (source also of Greek piduein 'to gush forth'), from root *peie- 'to be fat, swell' (cognates: Sanskrit payate 'swells, exuberates,' pituh 'juice, sap, resin;' Lithuanian pienas 'milk'..."


Comments (13) RSS

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JonnoN 1
“We don’t leave soldiers on the battlefield under any circumstance unless they have actually joined the enemy army,”

Irony of ironies, John McCain apparently disagrees.
Posted by JonnoN on June 4, 2014 at 9:46 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 2
Sounds to me like the guy had one idea of what deployment would be like, and it did not match up so he left.

This is not terribly uncommon. One instance from Vietnam featured a parachute trooper from Marines First Recon who jumped with his squad, slowly began angling his chute away from the rest of the group and just floated away towards Cambodia.

When an inventory was taken, it was shown that he brought along way more medical supplies, food and water than he would have needed. He went to go be with his new girlfriend (so the story goes). He was never seen again.

It should also be noted that leaving one's post in a combat zone is not just a youthful indiscretion or a small misstep. It endangers every soldier at that post, and is one of the worst things a soldier can do.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on June 4, 2014 at 9:48 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 3
I would be willing to bet the farm those 796 babies were murdered. The Catholic church has shown absolute disdain for children in it's care. Especially in Ireland.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on June 4, 2014 at 9:54 AM · Report this
Figured it's just a matter of time before the Tea Party types start harassing the guy.
Posted by GermanSausage on June 4, 2014 at 9:58 AM · Report this
I hope The Stranger (and others) follow up on Steinbrueck's final report, which is due to the city August 31, 2014. $98,000 for five months work is a pretty healthy chunk of change. It better be worth it...and not just payola.
Posted by DOUG. on June 4, 2014 at 10:12 AM · Report this
The one obvious thought which should be taken from this video is that regardless of how much time America has spent over in Afghanistan, the Taliban still appear to be in control, or at least have far too much presence there.

Guess those missing billions (something like over $19 billion and counting) weren't particularly well spent?

Article for the day:…
Posted by sgt_doom on June 4, 2014 at 10:33 AM · Report this
Complicated my ass. Republicans have made it that way, they've manufactured this controversy because the POW in question doesn't fit their pro-war model and the president who arranged the deal is from the opposing party, and the Democrats, including the White House haven't put up a fight at all, which is disgusting. They've allowed Republicans to set all the terms of the debate.

Was Bergdahl a POW? Yes! Do we walk away from opportunities to rescue our POWs? Only if we just look at our soldiers as cannon fodder who don't deserve any sort of reciprocal commitment from us. Leaving Bergdahl behind on purpose, regardless of how he became a POW, would have been ethically worse than what's been happening at the VA. All the talk about the supposed "danger" of the Taliban leaders "returning to the field of battle" is a concern-trolling red herring meant to throw dirt on the process, because (again) the rescued soldier doesn't talk like a movie John Wayne and a Democrat happens to be in the White House, plus there's an election coming up and the whining about Obamacare is wearing thin.

It's bullshit, total bullshit, and no one's calling them on it! Congressional Democrats are running like scared mice, just like they ran away from Obamacare, because they're gutless and they're going to get their asses creamed because of it! Perhaps deservedly so. Obama showed strong leadership in his decision but he can't stand like a man behind it. It's frustrating and pathetic.

And Slog has been carefully avoiding the story. I don't know if you're a bunch of wimps too.
Posted by Grow some balls! on June 4, 2014 at 11:05 AM · Report this
Posted by sgt_doom on June 4, 2014 at 11:23 AM · Report this
So, basically, Murray wanted to hire the third-place guy in the mayoral race to do his job for him?
Posted by Avi on June 4, 2014 at 11:24 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 10
to the republicans now calling for impeachment because Obama ignored their retarded Guantanamo law, I say fuck you. you are saying that 5 old Pashtuns paroled to Qatar (where they can easily be assassinated, or detained, or denied exit visas, whatever the Emir wants) is not worth the life and liberty of an American vet because he had combat fatigue. I thought you conservatives were supposed to give a fuck about vets.

Posted by Max Solomon on June 4, 2014 at 11:32 AM · Report this
lark 11
It's not surprising Obama is on the defensive given what's slowly being disclosed. What Rice said was unnecessary too. Bergdahl wasn't "taken in battle".

It is clear to me that at the very least, I'm glad for Bergdahl's family & friends that he has returned. On the the other hand, it should have been a low key release by the Administration. Not the way it was done Sat. In addition, Pfc. Bergdahl is no hero for leaving his unit. He may or may not be court-martialed. But, he certainly needs to be held accountable for his actions.
Posted by lark on June 4, 2014 at 11:42 AM · Report this
Allyn 12
Well, no wonder the babies died of diseases. They were covered in feces. The nuns really shouldn't have let them play in the septic tank. That's not hygienic at all.
Posted by Allyn on June 4, 2014 at 11:50 AM · Report this
rob! 13
Harry Reid speaks to the rectitude of freeing Sergeant Bergdahl (not PFC, lark) on the Senate floor; criticizes senators McConnell, Toomey, Inhofe:…
Posted by rob! on June 4, 2014 at 12:22 PM · Report this

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