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Cross-posted from Consortium News
For me, the Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl affair brings back angry memories of how, in 2009, President Barack Obama caved in to be-medaled and be-ribboned generals like David Petraeus and ordered a modified-limited-hangout-type "surge" of 33,000 troops into Afghanistan. Consequential cowardice at work -- trading lives for political advantage -- as bad as it gets.
Bergdahl was quick to discern that he and his comrades were pawns of a policy doing far more harm than good in terms of helping the Afghans. Emailing from Afghanistan in late June 2009, Bergdahl pointed out the main problem in these words: "In the US army you are cut down for being honest... but if you are a conceited brown nosing sh*t-bag you will be allowed to do what ever you want."
But how far up the line did this behavior go? Did it include Petraeus, described by CENTCOM commander Admiral William "Fox" Fallon as "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" after a meeting at which Petraeus fawned over Fallon, then his superior? (Why is it that the Fox Fallons are the ones who get sacked? Although Petraeus's charmed government career was finally done in by a sex scandal in December 2012.)
Do Fallon's epithets toward Petraeus apply equally to commander-in-chief Obama who ordered the "surge" into Afghanistan, which -- like its first still-born twin "surge" in Iraq two years earlier -- predictably did little more than get a lot of folks killed and buy some time for the architects of the two misguided adventures to get some distance between their original decisions and the ultimate failures.
Those "decent intervals" achieved by the two "surges" were purchased with the lives of about 1,000 U.S. soldiers each, not to mention the many more deaths inflicted on the Iraqi and Afghan people. But the "surges" allowed Official Washington's still-influential neocons to maintain the fiction that -- if only -- the "successful surges" had been extended indefinitely, everything would have worked out fine.
On May 28, for instance, the neocon-flagship Washington Post denounced President Obama for not maintaining U.S. military forces in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan apparently forever.
"You can't fault President Obama for inconsistency," the Post's editors wrote snidely...
"After winning election in 2008, he reduced the U.S. military presence in Iraq to zero. After helping to topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, he made sure no U.S. forces would remain. ... And on Tuesday he promised to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. The Afghan decision would be understandable had Mr. Obama's previous choices proved out. But what's remarkable is that the results also have been consistent -- consistently bad."
Yet, while pretending that the two "surges" were super-successful may give the Post's editors and other advocates for endless war some talking points at elegant Washington dinner parties where otherwise they might be invited or dismissed as "losers," the price for those more pleasant evenings was paid by the pawns -- the Bergdahls of this world -- who never seem to matter.
Bergdahl's disenchantment with the Afghan War and his subsequent five-year captivity at the hands of the Taliban -- ending only with a trade of five Taliban leaders from the Guantanamo Bay prison -- have prompted right-wing talk shows and even some members of Congress to decry Bergdahl as a "deserter" who betrayed his country and his comrades.
But the real betrayers were the ones who devised and prosecuted the two failed wars -- killing hundreds of thousands of people in the two countries and wasting the lives of nearly 7,000 U.S. soldiers (not to mention the tens of thousands maimed and otherwise damaged). Yet, the war architects and the shills remain respected members of Official Washington with their op-ed columns still read with great admiration and their sage advice sought on current crises in Syria and Ukraine.
Expecting Too Much
In 2009, as Obama was first getting rolled on the Afghan "surge," I admitted that I had expected too much from the young President who struck me as bright albeit inexperienced. In an article entitled "Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President" on March 28, 2009, I wrote:
I was wrong. I had been saying that it would be naïve to take too seriously presidential candidate Barack Obama's rhetoric regarding the need to escalate the war in Afghanistan.
I kept thinking to myself that when he got briefed on the history of Afghanistan and the oft-proven ability of Afghan "militants" to drive out foreign invaders -- from Alexander the Great, to the Persians, the Mongolians, Indians, British, Russians -- he would be sure to understand why they call mountainous Afghanistan the "graveyard of empires."
And surely he would be fully briefed on the stupidity and deceit that left 58,000 U.S. troops -- not to mention 2 million to 3 million Vietnamese -- dead in Vietnam.
John Kennedy became President the year Obama was born. One cannot expect toddler-to-teenager Barack to remember much about the war in Vietnam, and it was probably too early for that searing, controversial experience to have found its way into the history texts as he was growing up.