Weighing In On Bergdahl’s Return to Duty

Earlier this week, I appeared in two San Antonio TV interviews about Bowe Bergdahl, as the recently-returned-from-Afghanistan Army Sergeant has returned to active duty at Fort Sam Houston.

In an interview with KSAT, San Antonio’s ABC affiliate, I pointed out the particulars of the Bergdahl case — particularly, his desertion from the ranks — that makes this different from typical POW cases. I noted, “We don’t leave soldiers behind, but Bergdahl left us behind, and people died trying to find him.”  I also added that, based on what we know, that he should face desertion charges, and it appears that there are efforts being made to downplay this — in part, by allowing him to return to active duty — that are undoubtedly motivated by politics.

I also spoke to WOAI Radio, specifically answering their questions about should Bergdahl be facing a court-martial, rather than be sitting behind a desk at Fort Sam. The summary of the article, which is here, includes my reminder that desertion of one’s post is punishable by death, and given that five soldiers lost their lives trying to bring him back, there were very real and measurable consequences resulting from his decision.

What’s more, as I pointed out in the interview, there’s a disconnect between what the Obama Administration is telling us and what I believe a court-martial would reveal. As I noted, “We have the narrative from the Obama Administration that he ‘served his country with honor and distinction, which is false. Leaving your post in a war zone is not honorable.”

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What Should We Do About Iraq? (Now That It’s Too Late)

What should the United States do about the pending collapse of much of Iraq into the hands of al-Qa’eda linked radical Islamic extremists?

In short, the debate is this: Do we use our military to stem the tide, or do we sit back and watch? Before addressing this matter, it is important to understand America’s military involvement and the mistakes of both the Bush and Obama Administrations vis a vis Iraq.  Prior to the 2003 American-led military campaign against Iraq, which was authorized by the U.S. Congress (including then-Senator Hillary Clinton), the Bush Administration attempted to expand the meaning of the phrase “War on Terror” to include those rogue states who posed a threat to the United States by means of possessing or seeking to possess weapons of mass destruction.

For instance, in 2002, President Bush said, “The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.” Most certainly, the 2003 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was waged with this maxim in mind. This was a mistake as it turns out – for Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were wiped out in the 1991 Gulf War. Nevertheless, soon after the obliteration of Hussein’s military, the United States and coalition partners were faced with massive sectarian violence from a variety of terror groups inside Iraq (some directly funded and trained by Iran). After much folly, the Bush “surge” of American military might in 2007 absolutely crushed them – we killed over 7,000 in Fallujah alone – and an acceptable degree of stability was brought to the country.

When President Obama took office in 2009, the expectation from the American military was that a status of forces agreement (SOFA) would be hammered out by his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and a significant American military force would remain to provide additional time for the fledgling Iraqi government to take root. Everyone knew the Democratic Party had long demonized Bush and the Iraq War, but it was unthinkable that President Obama would simply pull everything out.  Campaign rhetoric is one thing, but reality is quite another.

Indeed, after the sacrifice of 4,000 American lives, stability had been achieved and Iraq might have emerged as a partner and ally of the United States in a very troubled area of the world. To use a football analogy, in 2011, we were in the fourth quarter of the football game and two touchdowns ahead, when President Obama literally pulled all our players off the field – Obama order the immediate departure of all American forces. The result was predictable: The country fell apart.  The excuse that Hillary Clinton could not get the Iraqi government to agree to a SOFA rang  as hollow then as it does now. Obama’s mantra all along was that Iraq was the “bad” war and had to be abandoned, and so it was. Instead of Iraq turning into a pivot of hope in the region for the spread of human rights and democratic ideals, the al-Qa’eda have returned with a vengeance.

But that was then and this is now.  What to do?

We must approach the matter of military intervention from the perspective of the best interests of the United States of America. While we can all wish that other nations embraced our love for freedom and justice, this is simply not the case. To the serious student of military history, the use of the armed forces is to destroy those  enemies that attack us, period. In the case of Iraq, we cannot undo what has been done. Add into the equation that the vast majority of the people in the United States are opposed to going back into Iraq, unless Iraq physically attacks the United States or a close ally of the United States, and the bottom line is that we will do nothing. As long as the orgy of violence is restricted to the borders of Iraq, nothing will be done. Furthermore, in case the “internationalists” have not discovered the truth about the United Nations, here it is:  the United Nations is absolutely worthless without the United States leading the way.

Letting the Taliban Win: Deserter Debate Obscures the Real Issues in the Bergdahl Case

There’s currently debate – as the details from the recent release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan come to light – as to whether Bergdahl was a deserter who willfully complicated the American mission in Afghanistan, or if indeed was a soldier who served his country with “honor and distinction,” as National Security Advisor Susan Rice asserts.

Whether he’s a deserter or not is immaterial to the latest episode in President Obama’s woeful policy in Afghanistan. The narrative Obama wants to impress upon the history books is that the country became stable following the 2010 “surge” that brought 100,000 troops to Afghanistan, and by doing so, Obama did what George W. Bush was unable to do. And yet, this is a fiction of the worst order.

In reality, the Taliban is stronger after the Obama surge than it was before it, at the expense of more than 1,000 killed or wounded American soldiers.

Those who naively believe that negotiations with totalitarian voices can achieve must realize that, all along, the Obama Administration has sought to negotiate with the Taliban in “peace talks,” regardless of whether Bergdahl was in captivity. But the Taliban had always refused to release Bergdahl, insisted on the release of the five detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

So, with Obama announcing a withdrawal from Afghanistan last week, he authorized the deal – not over concern for Bergdahl’s well-being, but with concern about negotiating some deal with the Taliban to attempt to keep them in check.

And so, with the confirmation of the long-touted, pre-announced withdrawal this year of American combat forces, it’s obvious that the Taliban will increase attacks on American forces and support personnel as we withdraw. This will advance their narrative that they were successful in driving the Americans out.

Indeed, the Taliban will certainly declare victory over the American “infidels” and thousands will flock to their banner. They are already doing their victory dance. Bergdahl was simply a means to an end to “negotiate” with the Taliban – which will never be a winning proposition for the United States.

 

Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse: My Interview with WOAI-TV

Last week, I was interviewed for a story on San Antonio’s NBC affiliate, WOAI-TV, about a Pentagon training exercise built around the idea of a zombie apocalypse. The immediate reaction that people might have to this is that it’s a waste of money. The next reaction people are likely to have is one of disbelief — rooted in the idea that the U.S. military should be focused on real threats, and safeguarding against attacks that are plausible, versus attacks from fictional undead creatures that couldn’t possibly take place.

Military exercises do have some usefulness, and as I pointed out in the interview with the reporter, there’s a political line of reasoning to using a fictional enemy. If it gets out that the U.S. military is focusing its training exercises on China, the Chinese government might regard that with some suspicion, and it could create tension between the two nations that doesn’t need to be there. If it’s zombies the U.S. is fighting, no one can be offended.

There’s also a scenario where a zombie apocalypse has some practical application — if there’s some sort of worldwide epidemic of a disease (or even a pandemic), in which people are dying and order begins to break down, there are elements of a zombie apocalypse that then translate to this scenario. There are also biological warfare scenarios where lessons learned from this sort of training might apply.

But, as I said in the interview, the effects of a cyber attack could be catastrophic, and making preparations for such an attack — and the chaos it would create — should be a priority for those charged with maintaining the safety and security of the United States. While zombie apocalypse training plans might grab headlines (and not for all the right reasons), there are very real and unpredictable dangers that we could and should be addressing with appropriate training exercises. Even a small amount of time spent on zombie attacks is probably too much, when more pressing dangers exist.

Boko Haram: A Short Time in the Public Eye; A Long History of Jihad

Over the last few weeks, Americans have learned of the horrible actions of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. The group came into American awareness as the result of the horrible kidnapping of more than 300 Nigerian girls from their school several weeks ago — about 275 are still believed to be in captivity, waiting to be sold into slavery. The #bringbackourgirls social media campaign has brought a lot of attention on the group and this particular atrocity, but it’s hardly the first horrible thing Boko Haram has ever done.

Since making itself known in Nigeria by launching an insurgency five years ago, the organization has been responsible for killing thousands of people (both citizens and tourists), bombing Christian churches, police stations, “moderate” Muslim mosques, and schools, with an ultimate goal of making Nigeria a “pure” Islamic state under sharia law.

This chilling article about the organization, from the BBC, gives an overview of its activity over the last five years, as well as a sense of its relentlessness:

“Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram – which has caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and now abductions – is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.

Its followers are said to be influenced by the Koranic phrase which says: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors”.

Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society. [Note: Indeed, the name Boko Haran means just that.]

This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education.

Boko Haram regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers, even when the country had a Muslim president.”

Perhaps even more alarming, in this article from The Daily Beast, is an alleged direct connection between Boko Haram and al Qa’eda:

“In 2002, Osama bin Laden dispatched an aide to Nigeria to hand out $3 million in local currency to a wide array of Salafist political organizations there that shared al Qaeda’s goal of imposing Islamic rule.

According to an overlooked report from a well-respected international watchdog, one of those organizations was Boko Haram, the terrorist outfit that’s become globally infamous for its threat to sell girls into slavery. In other words, bin Laden helped provide Boko Haram’s seed money, this report maintains.”

The report is under some dispute, and while there might only be fleeting links between the two organizations, the vision of jihad the two groups have in common is no laughing matter. Americans, in particular, are dismissive of the idea that these relatively small groups could take over their countries, and could start a domino effect that leads to a world controlled by Islamist governments. But for Boko Haram and groups like that, they believe it, and individual members are willing to risk their lives for the cause. And for Boko Haram, the cause includes all manner of crimes against humanity as they move unflinchingly toward their ultimate goal.

Though the immediate goal of returning the kidnapped girls to their parents is a laudable one, we shouldn’t lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is to fight jihadists though the means available to us through the rule of law — be it economic sanctions, assistance to nations committed to fighting jihadist insurgents (which the American government is now providing via drones, as Fox News reports), and even, if it’s prudent and there’s a cohesive strategy in place, military action. The worldwide attention that Boko Haram is attracting is indicative of how far-reaching the effects of radical Islam and terrorism are in today’s world, and the opening of the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum this week is a reminder of how close to home it can hit.

 

Looking Toward the Tsarnaev Trial with Fox News Channel

On Tuesday, to help observe the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings, I was a guest on Fox News Channel to talk about the trial proceedings for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and how it might compare to the case involving Nidal Hasan and the Fort Hood Shootings.

As a co-conspirator with his brother, Tsarnaev will be held responsible for the murders and attempted murders in the bombing and in the manhunt following the bombing. My concerns with the pending trial are twofold — the first is that his defense lawyers will do everything possible to postpone the trial and delay justice, and the second is that Tsarnaev will use the public platform the trial affords him to expound on his radical Islamic extremist views. New revelations about a message that Tsarnaev scrawled on the boat he was hiding in when captured indicates that this was an act of jihad, and that he wasn’t just pressured into the plot by his brother, as some have surmised.

I believe that Tsarnaev will be brought to justice, as there is overwhelming evidence against him, and I believe that the judge will try to move the case along as fast as possible. The case will serve as a reminder that jihad is still a very real danger to American safety and security, and it only takes the motivation of one or two individuals to carry out an act of terror.

My Appearance on Al-Jazeera America, On the Latest Fort Hood Shooting

Last night, as a follow-up to the tragedy at Fort Hood on Wednesday, I appeared on Al-Jazeera America for an interview about how to maintain safety on military bases for personnel and contractors. That’s viewable here, and covers questions about what can be done to prevent future instances like this from happening. As Gen. Mark Milley noted in his press conference yesterday, increased screening from weapons would cause Fort Hood to grind to a halt, and isn’t a viable solution to this issue.

I was specifically asked about Rep. Steve Stockman’s bill to change a 1993 law passed when President Clinton was in office — Stockman’s proposal would allow military personnel to carry weapons on base in order to protect themselves and others from active shooter situations. As I said in the interview, as long as there are safeguards to keep people with mental illnesses from possessing weapons, I think that it’s appropriate for at least officers and NCOs to be able to carry weapons. As we saw with Wednesday’s incident, an armed MP arriving on the scene just minutes after the first 911 call was able to keep Ivan Lopez from taking more lives — and by having more people on base experienced in firing weapons, in place to be able to stop active shooting situations, the likelihood for such tragedies would decrease.