Bowe Bergdahl: Traitor to American Exceptionalism and White Supremacy

This was published in Common Dreams last week.

Bowe Bergdahl: Traitor to American Exceptionalism and White Supremacy

“There is no forgiveness in this loudly and righteously proclaimed Christian nation, only the scapegoating of a young man and his family for the failures of immoral and unwinnable wars.”

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s guilty plea begins the end of this phase of an embarrassing, sad and morally absurd saga of American history. Sergeant Bergdahl, who was dismissed from the Coast Guard because of mental illness, recruited into the Army in spite of such issues, and then sent to the frontlines of Afghanistan where he walked away from his base and was captured, kept as a prisoner, and tortured by the Taliban for nearly five years, has been offered almost no compassion, sympathy or forgiveness by large swaths of the American public, political classes, veterans and the media.

The shameful blood-crazed calls for vengeance against Sergeant Bergdahl, screamed across Fox News, talk radio and Twitter, by millions of Right Wing Americans have begun again today with Sergeant Bergdahl’s guilty plea. Despite an army investigation finding no Americans were killed by Sergeant Bergdahl’s departure of his unit; despite the Pentagon admitting it was known that Sergeant Bergdahl was in Pakistan within a few days of his capture, thus negating the validity of the Right Wing talking points of continuous search missions for Sergeant Bergdahl that jeopardized American lives; despite the general who led the investigation of Sergeant Bergdahl’s disappearance stating Sergeant Bergdahl should not be punished and the colonel who led the Army’s version of a grand jury trial recommending the same; despite the United States military’s top prisoner of war expert testifying that Sergeant Bergdahl endured more torture at the hands of the Taliban than any American prisoner of war has endured since the Vietnam War, undoubtedly due to his multiple escape attempts and unwillingness to cooperate with his kidnappers; and despite repeated calls made by President Trump for Sergeant Bergdahl to be executed, as well as calls for retaliation against the military if Sergeant Bergdahl is not sent to jail by Senator John McCain, clear and blatant forms of wrongful and illegal command influence prohibited by military law against a defendant, Sergeant Bergdahl finds himself today having entered a guilty plea and putting himself at the mercy of a US Army judge.

In time, Sergeant Bergdahl may become just a footnote to America’s wars in the Muslim world, wars that have killed well over a million people since 2001, but his individual story relays the fundamental truths of these American wars against Sunnis and Shias, and Arabs, Africans and Pashtuns, (nearly all the people we have killed, maimed and made homeless have been Muslim and dark skinned) that there is no logic to our violence, only the unending and insatiable requirement for more war and more destruction, and there is no forgiveness in this loudly and righteously proclaimed Christian nation, only the scapegoating of a young man and his family for the failures of immoral and unwinnable wars on the murderous altar of the twin godheads of American Exceptionalism and White Supremacy. Sergeant Berghdal’s story does not just inform us of the madness of our wars overseas, but highlights our wars here at home; for our wars abroad come from the same root causes as our wars at home.

It was Sergeant Bergdahl’s parents standing outside the White House with President Obama that began the rage against him and his family. This was the treason that so angered and upset the white conservative audiences of Megyn Kelly and Rush Limbaugh. Sergeant Bergdahl’s white parents standing at the White House with that black president and thanking him for freeing their son began the scorn, the vitriol and the outrage against Sergeant Bergdahl, his mother and his father. The audacity of Jani and Bob Bergdahl, released themselves from the captivity of the unimaginable nightmare of the imprisonment and torture of their son for five years by the Taliban, to stand with Barack Hussein Obama and to give him thanks was a betrayal to the usurped, rightful and white structures that underlie so many white Americans understanding of United States history and society.

The grand mythology of American militarism, a key pillar of both American Exceptionalism and White Supremacy, does not allow for figures such as Sergeant Bergdahl. The greatest military in the history of the world is a required statement of faith for all American politicians and public persons, even though the American military has not achieved victory in war in over seventy years, so an explanation of collusion and cooperation with anti-American and anti-white forces is necessary to provide the causation of such an undermining. Of course, once Bob and Jani Bergdahl stood with President Obama, the racially fueled reactionary political anger appeared in Facebook posts and twitter rants and the lies needed to sustain that anger and turn it into a useful political tool arrived: Sergeant Bergdahl attempted to join the Taliban, Sergeant Bergdahl gave information to the enemy, Sergeant Bergdahl got Americans killed, Sergeant Bergdahl had anti-American beliefs, Sergeant Bergdahl’s father is a Muslim…all claims that were untrue and disproved over time, but such a straightening of facts is almost always inconsequential to those whose identity is an abominable mix of race, right wing politics and nationalism. People of such a type as those who believe Jesus is ok with them carrying handguns into church, demand that Santa Claus can only be white, and that the Confederate flag is a symbol of a proud heritage, have little time or consideration for the particulars of anything that triggers the base tribalism that dominates and informs their lives.

The fundamental aspects of Sergeant Bergdahl’s disappearance were well known and documented years prior to that White House announcement of his release. Veterans organizations called for his rescue and return at rallies and Republican senators enacted legislation to help release him . “Bring Him Home” and “No Man Left Behind” were echoed repeatedly by Republican politicians and pundits, and even Ronald Reagan’s most famed acolyte and Fox News hero, Oliver North, wore a Bowe Bergdahl POW bracelet. However, to be white and to stand tearfully and gratefully alongside that black president is unconscionable and unforgivable to many “true Americans” and so the parents’ sins became the son’s and Sergeant Bergdahl’s treason was a dog whistle to those who believe anti-whiteness and anti-Americanism are inseparable.

For the man who used race so overtly and effectively to become President of the United States, calling during his campaign for a traitor like Sergeant Bergdahl to face the firing squad, or be thrown out of a plane without a parachute, was a rudimentary requirement in order to Make America Great Again. Even General James Mattis, who hung outside his office a horseshoe that had belonged to Sergeant Bergdahl and had been given to the general by the sergeant’s father, understands the political importance of Bergdahl’s treason. General Mattis who previously had supported the soldier and given great comfort to the family, now, as Secretary of Defense, is silent. I believe Secretary Mattis to have higher ambitions than simply running the Pentagon and keeping that white base of support in his favor is not anything such a savvy and cunning careerist, such as James Mattis, would imperil.

We will soon know what, if any punishment Sergeant Bergdahl is to receive. Hopefully, he and his family will be spared further pain and they can begin rebuilding lives that were shattered by the unending war in Afghanistan and then shattered again by the race-fueled partisan politics of the unending war against people of color in the United States. For Bowe Bergdahl, a young man who never should have been inducted into the Army to begin with, his suffering is testament to the viciousness, callousness and hate that dominates American actions both at home and abroad. We deserve no forgiveness for what has been done, and may still be done, to him and his family.

March of the Imperial Senators

Kelley Vlahos of The American Conservative was kind enough to quote me a number of times in her latest article on the war in Iraq and the frenzied desire by many of our politicians, generals and pundits not just for more war, but for the need to rewrite the ignoble histories of the wars we have already fought.


March of the Imperial Senators
John McCain and Lindsey Graham try to rewrite history to vindicate the Iraq war, and blame Obama for ISIS.

Revisionist history is en vogue among Republicans this summer.

As Ramadi falls, hawks offer comfort in the argument that at least Iraq’s current troubles with ISIS can all be laid at President Obama’s feet. In the face of well-documented Iraqi reality, they are reviving the stale Vietnam-era trope to say that—if only the United States had the conviction to stay a little longer—it would have “won.”

The reviser-in-chief is none other than Sen. John McCain. McCain was Washington’s greatest advocate for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and he hated that the U.S. ever left. No doubt he dislikes President Obama, who thwarted the elder man’s bid for the White House in 2008, even more.

Just last week he told reporters that President Obama’s strategy for curbing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, was “one of the most disgraceful episodes in American history.” McCain’s widely known and tolerated flair for the dramatic now places an “episode” that most Americans could not rightly pin down, much less explain without the aid of Google, alongside slavery, the Trail of Tears, the federal crackdown on World War I-era Bonus Marchers, and the entire Vietnam War.
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Senators Graham and Menendez’s Iranian Black Comedy

From today’s Huffington Post: Whenever I sit down to write something about war, particularly about the lust for war so often found in the halls of Congress, I have to stop myself from utilizing phrases such as “hard to believe” or using words like “inconceivable.” As the United States has not waged a successful military campaign of greater than a few weeks in almost 60 years, I continue to choke on these thoughts, but, time and again, military force, with all its attendant death, loss and ineffectiveness, is promulgated by members of both political parties as a remedy for overseas ills, real or imagined. The repetition of Washington’s call to arms manifests as a form of black comedy: it is funny until you realize its horror. Iran, and its civilian nuclear program, is a continuing target for the self-stylized warrior-diplomats of this Capitol Hill farce. The folly and uselessness, let alone the blood, cost and counter-productivity, of recent U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, plus the seemingly endless U.S. targeted assassination campaign, primarily through a fleet of drones that kill far more innocents than actual terrorists, have obviously had little effect on the reason or intellect of the war-crazy in both the House and Senate. Several times a year, various members of Congress, prompted by the consistent and substantial donations of the Israeli lobby, rise to denounce a non-existent Iranian nuclear military program, offering pieces of legislation that would bind the hands of American negotiators and ultimately force us into military confrontation with Iran’s nearly eighty million people. Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) latest letter to President Obama, occurring as our professional diplomats negotiating with Iran are reaching an important point, signal Senators Graham and Menendez’s willingness for war and rejection of any sane or intelligent attempts at peace. Now the Iranian people are cursed with a regime that is oppressive and authoritarian. Iran must reform, but it also must be brought back into the community of nations. Likewise, Israel has a right to exist in peace, absent of fear. These conditions are not contradictory in peace, but are impossible to attain in war. A war with Iran would unleash circumstances within the Middle East that would greatly threaten Israel’s well being, eliminate opportunity for democratic development in Iran, cost countless American lives, and engender global economic collapse. Attacking Iran would set into motion events beyond our control. War is a breeding ground of unintended consequences; please see Afghanistan and Iraq if you have any doubt. Such desire for war in our nation’s capital is rooted in the pursuit of power, wealth, resources and because many in Washington, DC believe in the romantic fairy tale of war: a modern myth of smart war conducted with precision missiles and bombs, governed by all knowing intelligence systems and led by camera friendly generals with PhDs. Of course, war, albeit only initially, polls very well with voters, and there are no greater attacks against a political opponent than to insinuate he or she does not support the troops or that he or she is somehow weak-kneed and unable to measure up to America’s frontier, John Wayne, tough guy persona. Needless to say, many of the most vocal in the push for war have never been to war or, if they have, have been billeted in such outposts as military law offices. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), with actual combat experience, is one of the few exceptions to this Capitol roost of chicken hawks. But to understand Senator McCain’s passionate and personalized fever for the imaginary glory of war, I must fall back on the all too discerning, simple and perfect final words of David Lean’s Academy Award winning war epic, The Bridge Over the River Kwai: “Madness.”

However, as we saw last year, when the Sunday morning talks shows fought with one another to host one politician louder than the next arguing for American entry into the Syrian civil war, public opposition, in the way of phone calls, emails and letters to members of Congress, stopped American bombers from taking off towards Syria, Marines wading ashore its beaches, and American paratroopers from landing among Syria’s multitude of fighting factions. War, as much as politicians want it, is by no means a certainty. The daftness that blankets members of Congress and their war junky enablers residing in the media, in think tanks and in industry, does not extend to the American people. You do not need to have served in Afghanistan and Iraq to know those wars were worthless, and to say so, nor do you need to possess any special title or degree to know a war with Iran would be ruinous. After you read this, do as you did with Syria, step forward and tell Washington, DC, we are not going to war with Iran. Peace and prosperity lie in negotiations and diplomacy and not in the black comedy of Senators Graham and Menendez. Call your members of Congress and tell them today: Enough. No to war.