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Danger Zone: Bergdahl disaster dishonors true heroes

By Richard W. Carlson

In a White House Rose Garden ceremony earlier this summer, President Obama described United States Army Private Bowe Bergdahl as a prisoner of war and hero. It was nothing more than a stage-managed public relations stunt featuring the president and Bergdahl’s grateful parents.

Against strong objections from military advisors, President Obama released five very dangerous senior Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for Private Bergdahl. This was in direct defiance of both congress and the law according to a report from the General Accounting Office. These men “are the worst of the worst,” said Sen. John McCain.

Released (and flown to luxurious quarters in Qatar) were: The former chief of staff of the Taliban Army, Mohammad Fazi; the former Taliban minister of the interior and a major heroin trafficker, Khairullah Khairkhwa; Norullah Noori, a Taliban governor of two provinces, wanted by the United Nations for international war crimes including the murders of thousands of Shia Muslims; Mohammed Omari, chief of Taliban communications; and Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy chief of the Taliban Intelligence Service, also a notorious mass murderer.

Paul Sperry of the Hoover Institution recently wrote a smart and authoritative article on Bergdahl in the New York Post. He said the exchange has “become a political powder keg for President Obama.” Sperry builds a convincing case to support the headline of his piece, “Is Obama Whitewashing a Traitor?”

On the day of Obama’s ridiculous Rose Garden spectacle, news that Bergdahl was actually a deserter began to leak. The next day, incompetent National Security Advisor Susan Rice countered by saying that Bergdahl had “served the U.S. with honor and distinction.”

By every account I have heard privately in Washington or read in the media, Bergdahl did nothing honorable and served without any distinction in Afghanistan — unlike what Rice claimed, despite her access to voluminous evidence to the contrary. One wonders if there is any issue involving America’s interests that is not made political by these Obama toadies. Is everything a manipulated con-job? Do they ever speak truthfully, except by occasional coincidence?

Bergdahl’s Army team leader Sergeant Evan Buetow and some of the other men in his platoon then came forward despite a politically motivated Pentagon gag order. All knew Bergdahl well. Buetow was present when Bergdahl disappeared and said “Bergdahl is a deserter — not a hero. He needs to answer for what he did.”

Other soldiers in Bergdahl’s platoon also say he deserted his post, first shipping most of his belongings home to his parents, then leaving his weapon and body armor behind, taking only a compass and then intentionally surrendering to the Taliban in Paktika province, Afghanistan.

According to secret documents compiled by a high-ranking former CIA officer acting as a contractor to the Pentagon, at various times during his five years with the Taliban, Bergdahl fraternized with his captors, converted to Islam, declared himself a “mujahid” and, at times, even carried a loaded AK-47 they had given him.

Media interest has now waned in Private Bergdahl. Last we knew he had been promoted to sergeant E-5 while in captivity.

An army investigation into Bergdahl’s disappearance and conduct was to be conducted by a Major General named Kenneth Dahl, described by critics as “a yes-man” and was to be completed by August 15. It has not been. Gen. Dahl is dragging his feet for reasons unknown.

His interview with Bergdahl at Fort Sam Houston in Texas last month was described by Bergdahl’s lawyers as “ entirely non-confrontational.”

Paul Sperry says that he was told by a Pentagon source that a court martial of Bergdahl, surely called for under the military’s own rules, is unlikely because it would “make President Obama look bad.”

Retired Marine Special Forces Operator, Lt. Col. Bill Cowan, the Fox News military analyst, talked to me by telephone about Bergdahl from his home in North Carolina. Bill and I co-host a weekly radio show on foreign policy and terrorism and are good friends. He said this:

“This case has its facts twisted to save face for Obama and his lying administration. They know nothing about the military. They harbor secret contempt for them. Having the parents of a military deserter to the White House and celebrating their son while trading him for five terrorist leaders is an insult to all the men and women who have risked their lives, or given their lives, for our country. Incredible. It seems to me they are dragging this out to after the November elections. They are fearful of blowback against Democrat candidates.”

I also suspect they are trying to set up Bergdahl for POW benefits. Consider that he was never declared a POW in the five years he was gone because the Pentagon knew that he deserted. If they declare him a POW now, he is eligible for lifetime benefits —thousands of dollars a month, tax free and better educational and medical benefits (no co-pay, for instance) than any one who actually served honorably.

Six young U.S. soldiers were killed by the Taliban while searching for Bergdahl in Afghanistan and many others were seriously wounded. The dead include paratrooper Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtis, 27, of Murray, Utah. He left his wife Elizabeth and two small daughters. Also killed was Lt. Darryn Andrews, 34, of Cameron, Texas, who left a two-year-old son and a wife pregnant with their second child.

Lt. Darryn Andrews’ father said that the U.S. Army lied to the family about the mission in which their son was killed in Paktika Province on September 4, 2009: “They told us he died seeking to capture a Taliban commander.” Five years later the Andrews family learned that their son and his radio operator, Pfc. Matthew Martinek, 20, of DeKalb, Illinois, who died of wounds from small arms fire, were on a search for Bergdahl when they were ambushed and shot. Darryn Andrews was credited with saving the lives of six other men in his squad before he died, for which he was awarded the Silver Star for extraordinary bravery.

Pfc. Morris Walker, 20, of Hillsboro, Missouri, was also killed in Paktika Province on a later foray, possibly to find Bergdahl — reports about the objectives of the mission conflict — along with Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen, 29, of San Antonio, Texas and Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey, 25, of Snyder, Texas, who left behind his wife Ashley and two small children. All three men were killed by explosives in an ambush.

None of the loved ones of these six sons, brothers, husbands and fathers were invited to a White House ceremony or received any expression of gratitude from President Obama or praise from his national security advisor.

Richard Carlson is a retired United States ambassador and former director-general of the Voice of America. He and Lt. Col. Bill Cowan host the Danger Zone radio show in Washington. They have written a satirical novel, soon to be published, called, “Snatching Hillary” about a kidnapping before the New Hampshire primary in 2016. He may be reached at

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