October 23, 2013

Pakistan, $1.6 billion in aid, and POW Bowe Bergdahl

October 23, 2013. Washington. It’s a simple equation. America has one lone POW from the Iraq and Afghan wars – Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Intelligence suggests he’s being held in Pakistan by Taliban allies. Pakistan’s new Prime Minister will be at the White House today where the US will announce $1.6 billion in foreign aid to the country. So, why isn’t President Obama demanding the release of our nation’s lone POW as a condition?

POW Bowe Bergdahl, pictured with his captors, shows obvious signs of beatings and abuse. Image courtesy of Veterans-Coalition.org.

For ten years, America searched high and low in Afghanistan for Osama bin Laden. We found him living the high life in Pakistan. Most Americans believe the Pakistanis knew all along he was there. Those same Americans believe Pakistani intelligence also knows where America’s lone POW Bowe Bergdahl is. And it’s also in Pakistan.



Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

On June 30, 2009, the US Army Private was captured in Afghanistan by fighters from the Haqqani Network, allies of the Taliban. They have since released five videos showing the captive 27-year-old American soldier. In the first few videos, he looks worn and weary, but with a physical strength that is still present. In the later videos, Bergdahl’s physical appearance is noticeably worse. The obvious assumption is that being held by your enemy as a prisoner of war for over four years will eventually take its toll.

Bergdahl’s captors have repeatedly offered to make deals with the US for the release of Bowe. Sometimes they demand payments such as $1 million. Other times they demand the release of a handful of their fellow prisoners being held by US forces in Guantanamo Bay. For a time, the Bergdahl family thought Bowe’s release was near. President Obama had promised to close down Guantanamo and US officials had already cleared most of the prisoners for release.

But in a stunning and still unexplained reversal, President Obama broke his campaign promise and has left the semi-secret off-shore political and military prison open. Making matters worse, the President has reportedly walked away from negotiations for a prisoner exchange. Just when it seemed Bowe Bergdahl’s captors couldn’t wait to get him off their hands, President Obama ended all discussions. The Taliban has since said they’re going to kill Bowe Bergdahl if a prisoner exchange isn’t agreed to.

US foreign aid to Pakistan

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is meeting with US President Barack Obama today at the White House. The topic of discussion will mainly be the announcement of $1.6 billion in US taxpayer dollars being given to Pakistan. Most analysts agree that the large sum is a virtual thank you present for Pakistan’s decision to allow US troops to use its land to evacuate from Afghanistan. Pakistan cut off support to the US immediately after US special forces briefly invaded the country to assassinate Osama bin Laden, and then again when US forces accidentally killed two dozen Pakistani troops a short time later.

While US officials insist they don’t know where Bowe Bergdahl is being held captive, they also admit they’re not sure if he’s even in Afghanistan. But one thing is for certain. Pakistan is the state sponsor of the Taliban and its anti-US allies in the region. If Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif wanted to, he could probably find America’s lone POW in a matter of five minutes, regardless of whether he’s being held in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Hurtful rhetoric

Bowe Bergdahl’s family and friends are no strangers to heartache and pain. If you monitor any of the many Facebook pages and groups dedicated to bringing Bowe home and keeping his plight in the spotlight, you’ll see that these people – regular Americans from across the country – spend every day fighting to spread the word and get him home.

While President Obama and the White House continuously act like they’ve never heard of Bowe Bergdahl, a glimpse into just one day of the US Army POW’s supporters gives new meaning to the phrase blood, sweat and tears. Yesterday, just one day, shows how heartfelt their struggle is.


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In the morning, one Facebook group titled, ‘Captured in Afghanistan – Bring Bowe Bergdahl Home’ published an alert that an obscure ‘God, Guns and Vets’ type Facebook group was calling Sgt. Bergdahl a traitor. How hurtful and heartbreaking that must have been for his family and friends. The accusation isn’t new, but it typically comes from wild conspiracy theorists or political extremists – not fellow veterans.

The accusation has been thoroughly checked out by veterans groups, the Pentagon and news outlets like CNN. They’ve all said the same thing – nobody knows how Bowe Bergdahl was captured. Alleged eye witnesses tell stories that vary in every detail. One says he was walking with three allied Afghan soldiers. Another says he went to the latrine unarmed, which is located just outside the security perimeter. And another says he simply walked away from his post, heading aimlessly into Afghanistan.

The fact remains, Bowe served and continues to serve honorably. He never sided with the enemy in words or in deeds. The only evidence of any frustration on Bowe’s part come from some of the last communications he had with his family back in Idaho before he was captured. He reportedly voiced skepticism in America’s mission in Afghanistan and what it was exactly we were trying to accomplish there. Whether that’s true or not, it’s worth noting that 12 years into the longest war in US history, it’s difficult to find a veteran of the Afghan War who hasn’t questioned the mission lately.

The other issue some critics point to are the Taliban-linked videos that parade America’s POW around in tattered clothes, malnourished and obviously terrorized and most likely tortured. With as many wars as America’s had, we’ve all seen videos like them. Each time, the US prisoner is made to say that he’s being treated well and America should end the war, whichever war it happens to be. Often, the POW is made to say statements in support of the enemy. Bergdahl’s captors tortured him until he said on camera that he was helping the Taliban make bombs.

The Pentagon dismissed the video and statement as typical torture-induced propaganda that is perpetrated on many POW’s. Officials also reminded the US Army Sgt’s captors that using him the way they were is an international war crime. But that didn’t stop the occasional rare news organization like Fox News from jumping on that image and accusing Bowe of joining the enemy. And yesterday, a small Facebook group claiming to support veterans publicly called Bowe Bergdahl a traitor. That was the last straw. The campaign to stop the slander mounts as we speak.

Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI)

With their hearts trampled on and Bowe Bergdahl’s supporters scrambling around Facebook to mount an effort to stop the antagonizing group from slandering America’s POW on the social media platform, a ray of hope brightened everyone’s day. A letter from US Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) showed Bowe’s friends, family and supporters that not everyone in Washington has forgotten about America’s lone POW.

The first half of her letter to Bergdahl’s supporters reads like a typical return letter from a typical Congresswoman. It reiterates the facts and details of Bowe’s circumstances, as if the organizers of his support groups weren’t already aware. These are the dedicated individuals who continue to painstakingly write to their Representatives in Congress on the American POW’s behalf.



But the second half of Rep. Miller’s letter confirmed her passionate and unwavering support for the effort to bring Bowe home. Mentioning the Haqqani Network by name, the Congresswoman goes on to write, ‘the group has demanded the release of detained Afghan insurgents in exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl. On September 20, 2013, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel included in his Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Day remarks a statement of commitment to never leaving a service member behind, specifically including Sgt. Bergdahl.’

Rep. Miller went on to assure Bergdahl’s supporters that she’s quite serious in her remarks. ‘I strongly support the men and women who risk their lives to protect our nation,’ she wrote them, ‘As a former member of the House Committee on Armed Services and a current member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, I take the welfare of our service men and women very seriously, including Sgt. Bergdahl.’

From the slanderous remarks on Facebook to the supportive letter from a US Congresswoman, these friends, family and grassroots activists show exactly what they’re going through each and every day. It sure would be nice if President Obama put an end to it all by simply telling Pakistan that America wants Bowe Bergdahl back, then we’ll give them the $1.6 billion. 

For more information, visit SupportBowe.org.

 

Related Whiteout Press articles:

On Memorial Day, remember America’s lone POW-MIA

Benefit for US POW Bowe Bergdahl

Don’t forget America’s Lone Current POW

Americans Abandoned – POW/MIA’s in Vietnam

 

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