Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bowe Robert Bergdahl

Bowe Robert Bergdahl (born March 28, 1986) is a United States Army soldier who was held captive by the Taliban-alignedHaqqani network in Afghanistan from June 2009 until his release in May 2014.[2][3][4][5] The circumstances under which Bergdahl went missing and how he was captured by the Taliban have since become a subject of intense media scrutiny.
Bergdahl was released on May 31, 2014, as part of a prisoner exchange for five Taliban members who were being held at thedetention center at Guantanamo Bay. This exchange quickly became a political controversy within the United States.
According to The New York Times, a former senior military officer briefed on the investigation into Bergdahl's disappearance said that on the night he went missing, Bergdahl left a note in his tent that said he was leaving to start a new life.[17] Fox News reported that the letter said that Bergdahl wanted to renounce his citizenship.[18] According to SenatorSaxby Chambliss, the White House said there was no note during a meeting with Congress on the release of Bergdahl.[19]

Bergdahl went missing on the night of June 30, 2009, near the town of Yahya Kheyl in Paktika Province.[20] Accounts of his capture differ. In a video, Bergdahl stated that he was captured when he fell behind on a patrol.[2] Taliban sources allege he was ambushed after becoming drunk off base; U.S. military sources deny that claim, stating, "The Taliban are known for lying and what they are claiming [is] not true".[4] A Department of Defense spokesperson said, "I'm glad to see he appears unharmed, but again, this is a Taliban propaganda video. They are exploiting the soldier in violation of international law."[2][3] Other sources said Bergdahl walked off base after his shift[21] or that he was grabbed from a latrine.[22][23] According to an AP article from 2009, theU.S. Department of Defense attributed his disappearance to "walking off his base in eastern Afghanistan with three Afghan counterparts and was believed to have been taken prisoner".[24]
General Nabi Mullakheil of the Afghan National Police said the capture occurred in Paktika Province.[2] Other sources say that he was captured by a Taliban group led by Maulvi Sangin, who moved him to Ghazni Province.[3] He was held by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group affiliated with the Taliban, probably somewhere in Pakistan.[20]
Bergdahl was a private first class when captured; he was promoted in absentia to specialist on June 19, 2010, and to sergeant on June 17, 2011.[25]

Circumstances of Bergdahl's disappearance

A Pentagon investigation in 2010 concluded that Bergdahl walked away from his unit.[26][27][28] Bergdahl wrote e-mails to his parents in which he reported having become disillusioned with the war effort and bothered by the treatment of Afghans by American soldiers. He said in his e-mail he was ashamed to be American.[18] Some sources say he left an explanatory note before leaving, though this was denied.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said: "The questions about this particular soldier's conduct are separate from our effort to recover ANY U.S. service member in enemy captivity" and that the military will investigate how Bergdahl was captured. "Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty.[...] Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family."[29][30]
Some soldiers who served with Bergdahl have called him a deserter.[31][32][33] Nathan Bradley Bethea, a member of Bergdahl's battalion wrote a Daily Beast article stating that there was no patrol the night that Bergdahl went missing, and that Bergdahl had talked about his desire to walk to India. Bethea wrote that the brigade received an order not to discuss Bergdahl due to safety reasons, but now that he has been found there is not a need for further silence.[34] Cody Full, a member of Bergdahl's platoon, said "He knowingly deserted and put thousands of people in danger because he did. We swore to an oath and we upheld ours. He did not." Full said that Bergdahl had mailed his computer and other possessions home prior to his disappearance.[17]

On July 18, 2009, the Taliban released a video showing the captured Bergdahl.[2] In it, Bergdahl appeared downcast and frightened. ADepartment of Defense statement issued on July 19 confirmed that Bergdahl was declared "missing/whereabouts unknown" on July 1, and his status was changed to "missing/captured" on July 3.[35] In the 28-minute video, his captors held up his dog tags to establish that the captured man was Bergdahl.[2] Bergdahl gave the date as July 14 and mentioned an attack that occurred that day.[36][37][38]
In December 2009, five months after Bergdahl's disappearance, the media arm of the Taliban released a video of "a U.S. soldier captured in Afghanistan" titled "One of Their People Testified". The Taliban did not name the American, but the only U.S. soldier known to be in captivity was Bergdahl. U.S. military officials had been searching for Bergdahl, but it was not publicly known whether he was being held in Afghanistan or in neighboring Pakistan, an area off-limits to U.S. forces based in Afghanistan.[39] On December 25, another video was released showing Bergdahl in a combat uniform and helmet.[40][41][42] He described his place of birth, deployment to Afghanistan and subsequent capture, and made several statements regarding his humane treatment by his captors, contrasting this to the abuses suffered by insurgents in prisons. He finished by saying that the United States should not be involved in Afghanistan and that its presence there is akin to the Vietnam War.
The Taliban originally demanded $1 million[43] and the release of 21 Afghan prisoners and Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist convicted in a U.S. court on charges of attempted murder of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Most of the Afghan prisoners sought were being held at Guantanamo Bay.[44][45] The Taliban later reduced its demand to five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl's release.[46]
On April 7, 2010, the Taliban released a third video of Bergdahl, with a full head of hair and a beard, pleading for the release of Afghan prisoners held at Guantanamo andBagram. In November 2010, Bergdahl appeared briefly in a fourth video[47] and in May 2011, in a fifth video.[48]
In June 2010, Bergdahl managed to escape his captors but was recaptured after five days.[49] In August 2010, it was reported that a Taliban commander named Haji Nadeem said Bergdahl was helping to train the Taliban in bomb-making and infantry tactics. The Pentagon dismissed the reports as Taliban propaganda.[50][51]
In December 2011, it was reported that Bergdahl had managed to escape again the previous August or September but was recaptured after three days.[52] In June 2013, Bergdahl's parents received a letter from him through the Red Cross.[53] In January 2014, the United States received another proof of life video dated December 14, 2013. In it, Bergdahl mentioned the death of South African president Nelson Mandela, showing that the video had been filmed after December 5.

Search efforts

According to soldiers from Bergdahl's platoon, fellow soldiers described an increase in attacks against the United States in Paktika Province in the days and weeks following Bergdahl's disappearance.[54] Two Pashto-language leaflets were distributed by the U.S. military in seeking Bergdahl.[4] One showed a smiling GI shaking hands with Afghan children, with a caption that called him a guest in Afghanistan. The other showed a door being broken down and threatened that those holding Bergdahl would be hunted down.[4]
CNN reported that, according to soldiers involved in the operations to find Bergdahl, at least six soldiers were killed in the search.[54] A spokesman for the Pentagon said that it is impossible to confirm whether anybody's death was directly linked to the search for Bergdahl,[17][55] but said the Pentagon will look further into the circumstances of the deaths being associated with the search.[55]
Due to resources being diverted to find Bergdahl, the closing of Combat Outpost Keating was delayed, which may have led to eight American soldiers being killed on October 3, 2009, after 300 Taliban insurgents overran the base.[17][54] A former senior military officer disputed that the diversion of resources led to the attack, noting that COP Keating was in "a dangerous region in Afghanistan in the middle of the ‘fighting season’" and that "it is 'difficult to establish a direct cause and effect.'”[17] According to The New York Times, "A review of the database of casualties in the Afghan war suggests that Sergeant Bergdahl’s critics appear to be blaming him for every American soldier killed in Paktika Province in the four-month period that followed his disappearance."[17]

Torture claims

According to a senior U.S. official, Bergdahl told military officials that he had been tortured, beaten, and held in a cage by his Taliban captors in Afghanistan after he tried to escape.[56] He told medical officials that he was locked in a metal cage in total darkness for weeks at a time as punishment for trying to escape.[57]
On May 31, 2014, Bergdahl was released by his captors and recovered by Delta Force, a Special Mission Unit component of theJoint Special Operations Command in eastern Afghanistan.[58] The release was brokered by the American, Qatar, and Afghanistan governments with the Taliban, in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees transferred to Qatari custody for at least one year. On 10:30 a.m. (EDT) May 31, 2014, Bergdahl was handed over by 18 Taliban members to a special operations team[59] in eastern Afghanistan,[60] near Khost on the Pakistani border, in what was described as a "peaceful handover".[61] A video of the handover was later released by the Taliban.[62]
Bergdahl was treated by U.S. military medical staff at an undisclosed base in eastern Afghanistan. He was then transferred toBagram Airfield before being flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, for medical treatment.[63] On June 13, 2014 he was flown by military plane to San Antonio, Texas where he was taken to the Brooke Army Medical Center to complete his recovery and reintegration.[64]
The Taliban detainees – known as the "Taliban Five"[65] – who were transferred from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to custody in Doha, Qatar, are Mohammad Fazl, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Norullah Noori, and Mohammad Nabi Omari.[66] They were the Taliban army chief of staff, a Taliban deputy minister of intelligence, a former Taliban interior minister, and two other senior Taliban figures.[67]
Some U.S. lawmakers have said that the prisoner swap that led to Bergdahl's release may have been illegal.[68] The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014mandates that all prisoner transfers from Guantanamo Bay require 30 days' notice to Congress, which was not done in this case.[69] Though U.S. federal law states that the president must inform Congress at least 30 days in advance of any transfers at Guantanamo Bay, no notice was given.[69] When President Barack Obama signed the bill, he released a signing statement saying that the restriction interfered with the president's executive power as commander-in-chief.[70] The White House released a statement acknowledging that the release of the Guantanamo prisoners did not comply with the law but cited the president's signing statement, and "unique and exigent circumstances" as justification.[71][72] One year earlier, Jay Carney (then-spokesperson for the White House) had assured the press that the decision to free Bergdahl would only be made after consulting Congress, in accordance with said law.[73]

Release efforts

For months, U.S. negotiators sought to arrange the transfer of five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay detention camp to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. The transfer was intended as one of a series of confidence-building measures designed to open the door to political talks between the Taliban and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government.[74]That move – at the center of U.S. strategy for ending the long, costly conflict in Afghanistan – was supposed to lead directly to Bergdahl's release. The Taliban has consistently called for the United States to release those held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for freeing Western prisoners. But the Guantanamo transfer proposal ground to a halt when the Taliban rejected U.S. conditions designed to ensure transferred Taliban would not slip away and re-emerge as military leaders.[75] Ultimately, the Obama administration agreed to the prisoner exchange, allowing Bergdahl to be released on May 31, 2014.[76]

Debate over negotiations

Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said he was "extremely troubled" and that "This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages".[77] This sentiment was repeated by Congressmen Buck McKeon and James Inhofe, who released a joint statement saying that terrorists now have a "strong incentive" to capture more soldiers.[78]
Anderson Cooper asked White House spokesman Jay Carney if it can "still be said that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists" to which Carney replied:
It can be ... because when you put on the uniform of the United States and you go and fight on behalf of your country in a foreign land at war, and you’re taken captive by the enemy, the principle that we don’t leave our men and women behind doesn’t have an asterisk attached to it depending on who’s holding you.
Cooper followed up by asking "Even if it was a group like Al Qaeda, there would be negotiations with them?" to which Carney replied:
What I’m saying is he was a prisoner in an armed conflict, and we were engaged in an effort for five years to try to recover him. As an admiral said on TV today, he said when one of your shipmates goes overboard, you go get them. You don’t ask whether he jumped or he was pushed or he fell. You go get him first and then you find out.[79]
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Bergdahl was a "prisoner of war" and that "We didn't negotiate with terrorists".[80]
Time magazine published an article stating that the Taliban are:
[N]ot really a 'terrorist' enemy as we commonly understand the word. The group is not on the State Department’s official list of terrorist organizations and has long been a battlefield enemy in the ground war for control of Afghanistan. It is not plotting to, say, hijack American airplanes—even if it does have sympathies with people who are. Ditto the Taliban leaders released over the weekend.
Time pointed out that the United States and other countries have "negotiated with terrorists" multiple times in previous years.[81]
In February 2014, CNN published an article discussing the possibility of releasing Bergdahl in exchange for the five Taliban, and concluded that "discussions about the release of Bergdahl with the Afghan Taliban are not directly with a terrorist organization per se, but instead with an insurgent group that has a terrorist wing".[82]


Thursday, June 19, 2014

how can we fight an ideological war with weapons?

As a peaceful American Muslim, I would like to think I’m not that irrelevant

Nour Saman, the angry woman in the video, had her life destroyed by Muslim militias. Her hatred and intolerance of Muslims is understandable and even compelling. But what actual Islamic government is actually behind the growth and spread of Islamic extremism? That’s clearly Saudi Arabia. The 9-11 terrorists were Egyptian and Saudis supported by Saudi money. What governments are behind the rise of the Taliban? The Saudis provided money for indoctrination and the United States provided weapons and military training to use them as a weapon against the Russians in Afghanistan. When the Russians left Afghanistan the US just let the Taliban run amok. Yet while the US seeds hate against itself in Pakistan by drone killings, to this day Saudi Arabia and the United States continue to support Islamic extremism to use them as a weapon against Syria and Iran. This is a good reason to dislike Obama’s government.

Brigitte Gabriel (a.k.a. Nour Saman, born October 21, 1964), is an American journalist, author, social commentator and activist.[1][2] Gabriel says that Islam keeps countries backward,[3][4] and that it teaches terrorism.[5][6][7] To promote her views, she founded the American Congress For Truth and ACT! for America, a citizen action network that promotes "national security and the defense of American democratic values against the assault of Radical Islam."[8]
She frequently speaks at American conservative organizations such as The Heritage Foundation, Christians United for Israel,Evangelicals and Jewish groups. In her own words, she gives voice to "what many in America are thinking but afraid to say out loud, for fear of being labeled a racist, bigot, Islamophobic, or intolerant."

In her first book Gabriel discusses her experiences as a Maronite (Eastern Catholic) Christian living in Lebanon during the civil war in the 1970s.[26] She describes the story of her family and her childhood, hiding in a bomb shelter. She details her opinions that her country's inherent multicultural acceptance of all faiths and cultures including the then dominant Lebanese Christian phalangists, led to Lebanon's ruin by the continuous attacks from indigenous Muslims, other Christian groups and migrant Palestinians.[27]
Gabriel comments that "anyone who voices his or her opinion contrary to 'politically correct think' is immediately tagged a "racist" or "bigot" and that this has resulted in a "social paranoia which discourages free thought and expression."[28] Moreover, she states that societies and cultures must be held accountable for their actions and that "by not judging others... we have helped create the monsters we are dealing with today."[29]
The book made The New York Times hardcover best seller list.[30] The introduction of the 2008 edition of Because They Hate claimed that the book was put on the reading list at the FBI Academy and that it was assigned as mandatory reading for Navy SEALs heading to the Middle East.

Gabriel is critical of Islam and believes that "the degraded state of Arab societies is caused by Islam",[3] and that Arab Muslims are "lagging behind" because of social and religious values.[4] She considers "Islamic terrorists" simply as devout followers of Islam,[7]following an example set by Muhammad's behavior.[5][6] According to the New York Times, she portrays radical Islam as "thoroughly bent on destruction and domination" and her message is anti-Islam.[1]
It is not politically correct to say that our Western societies are better than the Muslim Arab societies, but we are, we have been, and we always will be.
Because They Hate[33]
Stephen Lee, a publicist at St. Martins Press for Gabriel's second book, has called her views "extreme",[30] and Deborah Solomon of the New York Times Magazine, who interviewed Gabriel in August 2008, described her as a "radical Islamophobe".[34] According to Clark Hoyt from The New York Times, over 250 people wrote in to protest that label in the days that followed.[30]
Gabriel is critical of Americans who "find all sorts of things wrong with America", who "badmouth and put down our culture, government, and country", while having "never experienced life in an oppressive culture or under an oppressive leadership such as is found in the Middle East."[33] She believes that Americans should "acknowledge that our Western culture is better than others."[29]
In viewing America as "a powerful and great nation" possessing "superior culture and values", Gabriel sees the entitlements thatAmerican Western culture has bestowed through "the Judeo-Christian value system" and the ideals of the Founding Fathers, who "worked to establish rights for the individual, rights that did not exist under other forms of government at that time."[35]
According to Gabriel, since Radical Islam views the destruction of Israel alongside the United States as "a parallel strategic objective",[36] she therefore sees the survival of Israel as being of paramount importance as a vanguard of Western culture and as "the only Western-style nation in the Middle East, one that Arabs despise, feel threatened by, and vow to destroy."[35]
In a symposium held in January 2009 titled "Homegrown Jihadis" by FrontPage Magazine, she stated Islam itself "promotes intolerance and violence", and that "Moderate Muslims must organize and engage those enlightened, educated and westernized Muslims in the community to begin a dialogue to discuss the possibility of reform in Islam just as Christianity and Judaism have been reformed."
Gabriel views the Arab–Israeli conflict as being "intractable because the Arab world refuses to accept the right of a Jewish state to exist." This animosity, having once been rooted in Pan-Arabism has evolved, according to Gabriel, into the more sinister spectre of "radical Islamic supremacism" which now appears to seek "bigger game in the West." She cites examples such as the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the rise of Hamas as bringing to the forefront radical Islamic ideologies that are rooted in "religious hatred, humiliation, and resentment" of Israel and the West.[38]
Gabriel believes this can be seen in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict where, in her view, Palestinian nationalism has largely been replaced by "holy obligation" motivating adherents to commit "terrorist murder."[39] She states that the legitimization of Palestinian suicide attacks within Israel has now evolved to where, "Islamists believe that they may commit mass murder anywhere in the world to advance their holy cause." As a result, she believes the world now suffers "from a plague of Islamic terrorism... authored and perfected by the Palestinians."[40]
With regard to the two-state solution, Gabriel states: "Forcing Israel to accept a two-state solution is not going to work unless the Palestinians first are forced to clean up their act and eliminate hatred from their schoolbooks, teach tolerance to their people, and preach acceptance of Israel and the Jews as a neighbor."[12]

Controversy at speaking engagements

When Gabriel was invited to speak as part of a lecture series organized by Duke University's Jewish community in October 2004, many in attendance were angered by her referring to Arabs as "barbarians." The Freeman Centre for Jewish Life at Duke University later apologized for her comments.[20] Following her speech at women's campaign event for the Jewish Federation of Ottawa (JFO) in November 2008, many in attendance registered their protests, leading Mitchell Bellman, president and CEO of the JFO, to write a letter in which he acknowledged that Gabriel made, "unacceptable gross generalizations of Arabs and Muslims," distancing his organization from her views.[34]
In 2007 at the Christians United For Israel annual conference, Gabriel delivered the following speech:
The difference, my friends, between Israel and the Arab world is the difference between civilization and barbarism. It's the difference between good and evil [applause].... this is what we're witnessing in the Arabic world, They have no soul, they are dead set on killing and destruction. And in the name of something they call "Allah" which is very different from the God we believe....[applause] because our God is the God of love.
Christians United For Israel annual conference 2007[41]
This speech was subsequently criticised by journalist Bruce Wilson as being "hate speech" and stated that Brigitte Gabriel "paints a wide swath of humanity as subhuman", comparing her to Goebbel's Reich.[41]
In March 2011 while being interviewed by Eliot Spitzer on CNN, Gabriel defended the speech stating:
I was talking about how Palestinian mothers are encouraging their children to go out and blow themselves up to smithereens just to kill Christians and Jews. And it was in that context that I – that I contrasted the difference between Israel and the Arabic world, was the difference between democracy and barbarism.[42]
She further added:
How easily journalists, or people and comments especially now with the Internet age, can take few words and either paste them together or edit them together to basically express their own point of view.[42]

References to Nazi Germany are at best an indication of lack of arguments and at worst a scoundrel alarm. I do not want to apologize for Islam. I do believe religion is a bad thing. Islamic extremism is a problem for Muslim countries. Compare the angry diatribe to the courageous words of a girl fighting Islamic extremism at the risk of her life: http://arnulfo.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/malala-yousafzai/

The Heritage Foundation hosted a Benghazi panel on Monday that took a turn for the worse when a Muslim law student asked the panel a question about their portrayal of Islam as universally bad. Their answers, detailed in Dana Milbank'sWashington Post column,
it is perhaps not so surprising when you know that two of the Foundation's panelists were Brigitte Gabriel of ACT! for America, and Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy. Gabriel is a prominent anti-Sharia activist who is a regular commentator on Fox News. Gaffney is one of the architects of a conservative approach to national security that advocates for the profiling and surveillance of Muslim Americans.