Back to Iraq? One Soldier’s View

“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” – Chris Hedges

That opening quote from “The Hurt Locker,” the Academy Award wining best picture of 2008, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and staring Jeremy Renner, is a truism that most soldiers who’ve been in combat can relate to.

Soldiering in general can be addictive, but even more so in a war zone. To be ultimately effective one must resign oneself to death. Accepting one’s death is an emotionally significant event that finds one mourning and going through the typical stages of accepting death and dying.

Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Bargaining. Acceptance.

For some each stage is distinct and vivid. For others, they blur. For soldiers, reaching the final stage, acceptance, can mean the difference between life and death, for oneself and/or for one’s comrades.

The addictive part is truly the essence of the culture of soldiering. Life is simple. You don’t have to worry about what you will be eating, where you will be going, or what you will be doing.

You have your uniform, your gear, and your weapon. Also known as your skin, your stuff and your best friend.

Every day is so similar that it’s difficult and even superfluous to count days or pay attention to the calendar until you get “short” and have very little time left. Time-wise, the battle rhythm in combat is the only thing that matters. Being on time and hitting start points and checkpoints is mission critical. And make no mistake; the MISSION isn’t just EVERYTHING it is the ONLY thing.

This is the root of the devastating pain of having left Iraq BEFORE THE MISSION WAS COMPLETE. We are still in Germany and Japan nearly 70 years after the end of WWII because the objective of the mission was LASTING PEACE. Those two countries, former deadly enemies, are now more prosperous and peaceful than nearly any other on earth.

The eradication of the enemy, unconditional surrender, and the taking away of the will and means for the enemy to resist, were military and political goals in the 1940’s. Today, the military and political goals of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) are polar opposites. Our president and his administration of rookies with respect to military and foreign policy matters are at war with our own military – ideologically speaking.

Barack Hussein Obama is completely ambivalent to the military mission in the GWOT, and even denies that it exists. He, cavalierly stated upon the exit of the last of the U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, “Anyone trying to derail the progress in Iraq will fail,” a completely impotent and foolish statement.

Today we are looking at an Iraq that has politically and militarily failed. Mozul and Tikrit have fallen to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), an Al Qaeda off-shoot of Sunni Muslims, or, more accurately, Islamists, who claim responsibility for the taking of these Iraqi cities and forcing over half a million resident Iraqi citizens to flee for their lives.

The Islamists are threatening the capital city of Baghdad, now vulnerable and exposed.

Who will save Iraq?

Will the U.S. go back to finish the job it started and then abandoned?

I would; were I not married with five children, 52 years old and retired six years from the military, my addiction would have its way with me. The burning desire to FINISH the mission in Iraq would take me over and draw me back to the smoldering heat, dust, and infectious smiles and gratefulness of the Iraqi people.

You wouldn’t know it from reports by the Mainstream Media, but the average Iraqi was quite grateful for our presence in Iraq. We had helped them rebuild and then improve the entire infrastructure we destroyed upon entry in 2003.

We had suppressed Al Qaeda.

And then Barack Hussein Obama was elected and the whole thing went down the toilet. The military mission that had started so brilliantly, turned into SNAFU (firing of the Iraqi Army), and then was fixed (surge); and then after we left rapidly deteriorated and then just went away, like the end of a dust storm, quiet, so quiet, and clear, and still.

But, it didn’t take long for the wolves to smell the carcass and then come running for a taste. Bombing began almost immediately upon the dust settling behind the last U.S. military vehicle crossing the border back into Kuwait. And then a crescendo of killing recently when bombings murdered scores of innocent Iraqi citizens, paying the price for their ambivalence toward the lack of a deal with the U.S. for security and a lasting peace.

Everything was “fine” back in 2011, just like the eerie calm before the tornado hits. And hit it did, and hard, and it looks like the “Big One” is yet to touch down in that desolate place, a place of blood and sand.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). FB Twitter @mjgranger1

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Was Bergdahl Addicted to Heroin? Why is he Being Sequestered? Detox?

While serving at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an Army Captain, and the ranking U.S. Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, in February 2002, I was aware of a detainee we called “Wild Bill” who came to us from Afghanistan a drug addicted schizophrenic.

It took us a while to figure out what his problems were. We were distracted by his bizarre behavior: eating his flip flops, hanging objects from his genitals, making strange, random sounds, and, like many other detainees, when they got the chance, throwing urine and feces on the guards.

Once it was determined that this detainee was ill, and his story stuck, he was determined to no longer be a threat to the United States, nor of any intelligence value, so he was scheduled for release.

As it turned out, “Wild Bill,” or Abdul Razaq, admitted to me and a few of my unit mates through an interpreter while hiding from the press before delivering him to his freedom bird on the leeward side of Gitmo, that he was a heroin addict in Kandahar when the Taliban came through and offered to support his habit if he picked up an AK-47, and then fought with them against the Northern Alliance and U.S. forces in the fall of 2001.

Razaq’s bizarre behavior at Gitmo was a result of a combination of schizophrenia and cold turkey withdrawal from his heroin addiction. The Taliban had used drugs to control him.

It was weeks after he was released that we saw a picture of Razaq in an online Newsweek article written by Sami Yousafzai, picturing him on a psychiatric hospital bed in Kandahar, and telling the interviewer about how well he was treated at Gitmo.

Fast forward to 2009, and the bizarre behavior of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. He walked off his U.S. Army post in Afghanistan, and then went in search of the Taliban. It was overheard on a radio monitored by members of his unit that Bergdahl was looking for the Taliban and that a villager thought he might be “high after smoking hashish,” a concentrated hallucinogenic drug. Bergdahl subsequently spent over five years with the Taliban off shoot known as the Haqqani.

While with the Haqqani, Bergdahl was observed carrying a loaded weapon and taking target practice with the Haqqani. Other reports indicate that Bergdahl “happily” played soccer with the Haqqani, and “bounded around the soccer pitch like a mad man.”

We have seen video of Sgt. Bergdahl both when he was with the Haqqani during his absence from his unit, and upon his release, when he was handed over to U.S. Special Forces personnel. In general Bergdahl appeared in decent health, yet mentally subdued and calm. While walking from the vehicle he was brought to his release in, towards the U.S. Blackhawk helicopter that took him away, he seemed to be able to walk brusquely and on his own power. Upon his release the White House even said that he was in “good” condition.

Why then has Bergdahl been sequestered since his release to the point where he has not even been reunited or in communication with his family, namely, his parents who were trotted through the Rose Garden by President Barack Hussein Obama upon the announcement of their son’s return to U.S. custody?

The Taliban are known to sedate hostages with drugs. U.S. Senators commented after seeing a “proof of life” video of Bergdahl that he “had been drugged.” It was reported that during Bergdahl’s time with the Haqqani he escaped and then spent five days away from them, and then after his recapture spent time in a “cage.” Could his return have been due to his need for drugs?

It is possible that Bowe Bergdahl has been drugged regularly either before and/or after his recapture by the Haqqani. It is possible that one of the reasons for his being sequestered since his return, and hospitalized in “stable condition,” is because he is going through detoxification. Until this is done it is highly unlikely that he is being debriefed vigorously regarding his five years with the Haqqani, which would be the next logical step in his reintegration into western and American military culture.

It is almost certain that Bergdahl’s enlistment contract has expired. He has been passed over for automatic promotion to Staff Sergeant probably both for the circumstances surrounding his disappearance from his unit in Afghanistan, and the lack of a non-commissioned officer evaluation, which requires no “flags” on his record and certain achievements to have been accomplished. A “flag” could be applied from an unsatisfactory physical fitness test or height and weight evaluation, performance deficiencies, or misconduct.

The next step after detox and debrief could be a hearing before a military Judge Advocate General (JAG) magistrate to first determine his status. Is Bergdahl legally still in the military? Was he summarily discharged during his absence? Why was he never categorized as either a Prisoner of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA)? Will the United States attempt to declare Bergdahl an enemy combatant?

If the latter occurs, Bergdahl could be denied habeas corpus (due process rights) and then subject to trial by military commission. This would be the case if it were determined that he collaborated with the enemy and/or considered himself a “mujahid,” as some reports claim. It could also put him in jeopardy of being charged with treason; aiding and giving “comfort” to the enemy.

Heroin or other drugs may complicate Bergdahls status hearing. His attorney’s may argue that Bergdahl was a victim of being drugged and therefore cannot be held completely responsible for his actions. If he was summarily discharged he may be entitled to civilian representation, or either way may choose to represent himself.

It’s accurate to say there are many things we don’t know about Bowe Bergdahl and his current circumstances, but for me, based on my experiences and clues in the evidence available so far, I believe it’s possible he’s a drug addicted enemy combatant. We may only find out what the truth is when the U.S. government wants us to know. Until then, watch and listen for leaking clues to what may turn out to be the most fascinating military defection in history.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter ID: @mjgranger1

Obama, Bergdahl and the Betrayal of America

Let’s forget for a moment that President Barack Hussein Obama negotiated with terroristsbroke the law requiring Congressional notification when releasing a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, and by releasing five of the most dangerous enemies held at Gitmo. And let’s remember it cost American LIVES to capture those unlawful combatant Islamists in the first place

And it cost American LIVES (at least six) to look for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, for whom the Gitmo Five were released.

Honest military personnel don’t like it when their lives are taken for granted, or besmirched by a suspected deserter. It’s not good for morale to add to the already 600-plus RELEASED Gitmo detainees29 percent of whom are RECIDIVISTS. By the way, NONE of these detainees were executed, beheaded, hacked to death, blown up or dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, things our enemies did to previous captives, except for Bowe Bergdahl.

FILE - This file image provided by IntelCenter on Wednesday Dec. 8, 2010 shows a frame grab from a video released by the Taliban containing footage of a man believed to be Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, left. The nearly five-year effort to free the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan is scattered among numerous federal agencies with a loosely organized group of people working on it mostly part time, according to two members of Congress and military officials involved in the effort. An ever-shrinking U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has re-focused attention on efforts to bring home Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009. (AP Photo/IntelCenter, File) MANDATORY CREDIT: INTELCENTER; NO SALES; EDS NOTE: "INTELCENTER" AT LEFT TOP CORNER ADDED BY SOURCE

Among other ethos, the Soldier’s Creed insists that a U.S. Army soldier, “will always put the mission first,” “will never accept defeat,” and “will never quit.”

After just a few short days after his release, U.S. Army Sgt. (promoted in absentia from private during his captivity) Bowe Bergdahl’s warrior ethos is in question.

The circumstances surrounding his disappearance from his unit while serving in Afghanistan are suspect at best. In fact, there are no reports of him being taken by force by the Taliban. Sources contend that he left his post, walking away without his weapon, body armor or ammunition. Reports say he took only water, a compass, digital camera, personal diary and a knife.

From Wikileaks to those who say they served with Bergdahl, it appears that he just up and left his unit. In military terms, that’s called desertion, an offense punishable by death according to Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Furthermore, he may be suspected of committing treason, a Constitutional offense, also punishable by death, for providing “aid and comfort” to the enemy. This is something he may have done when questioned by his Taliban captors in relation to his unit’s strength, size and movements.

Reports also indicate that in the subsequent months, while his unit and others searched for Bowe,at least six U.S. soldiers died at the hands of the Taliban.

On Aug. 18, 2009, Staff Sgt. Clayton Bowen and Pfc. Morris Walker were killed by an improvised explosive device in the search for Bergdahl. Staff Sgt. Kurt Curtiss was killed on August 26; 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews and Pfc. Matthew Michael Martinek were killed after being attacked in Yahya Khail District on September 4; Staff Sgt. Michael Murphrey was killed September 5 by an IED at the Forward Operating Base, Sharana.

This undated image provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The Taliban proposed a deal in which they would free the U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai eased his opposition Thursday June 20, 2013 to joining planned peace talks. Credit: AP

His former unit mates indicate that after Bergdahl’s disappearance patterns developed in their searches for him, patterns that were immediately exploited by the enemy in increased IED attacks and base assaults when troops left to search for the missing American.

There are some who call for calm and empathy towards Bergdahl, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who said, “We will give him all the support he needs to help him recover from this ordeal.”

He also justified the exchange of five former detainees who were held at Gitmo, by saying, “Sgt. Bergdahl’s return is a powerful reminder of the enduring, sacred commitment our nation makes to all those who serve in uniform.”

This “sacred commitment” included the release of probably the highest-ranking enemies held at Gitmo who were not currently on trial for war crimes. The Long War Journal lists these detainees backgrounds and associations, but briefly they are:

  • Abdul Haq Wasiq, former Taliban intelligence official, central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups to fight alongside the Taliban against U.S. and Coalition forces after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
  • Mullah Norullah Noori, senior Taliban military commander who was engaged in hostilities against U.S. and Coalition forces in late 2001.
  • Mullah Mohammad Fazl, one of the Taliban’s most experienced commanders prior to his capture in November 2001. Gitmo officials warned in a February 2008 memo that is Fazl was released “he would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with [Anti-Coalition Militia] elements participating in hostilities against U.S. and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”
  • Mullah Kairullah Khairkhwa was one of Mullah Omar’s closest confidantes, and directly connected to Osama bin Laden prior to his capture. He represented the Taliban during meetings with Iranian officials seeking to support hostilities against U.S. and Coalition Forces.
  • Mohammad Nabi Omari, senior Taliban official who served in multiple leadership roles, member of a joint Al Qaeda/Taliban Anti-Coalition Militia cell in Khowst, Afghanistan, and was involved in attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces. Also maintained weapons caches and facilitated the smuggling of fighters and weapons.

 

Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, has called the release of the Gitmo Five a “great victory,” which aligns well with Sgt. Bergdahl’s father, Robert Bergdahl’s, Tweet: “I am working to free all Guantanamo prisoners.”

Bob Bergdahl, father of captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, speaks at the "Bring Bowe Back" celebration held to honor Sgt. Bergdahl in Hailey, Idaho, Saturday, June 22, 2013. Hundreds of activists for missing service members gathered in a small Idaho town Saturday to hear the parents of the only known U.S. prisoner of war speak just days after his Taliban captors announced they want to exchange him for prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Credit: AP

President Barack Hussein Obama seems to be on the same team. Exchanging one dubiously loyal captured American for five of the most dangerous Gitmo detainees seems like the deal of the century, if you’re Taliban.

With this exchange, Obama has continued to nail the coffin shut on the War on Global Terror. He closed the lid when he withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq and failed to obtain an agreement for a residual U.S. force to remain there.

Obama continues to deny we are at war with an enemy – that is gaining strength and shows no sign of weakness – through promises of ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan by 2016, and now the release of five high ranking Taliban officials.

What right-minded person could deny Obama’s complicity in handing Mullah Omar and the Taliban aid and comfort by the release of the Gitmo Five?

The nagging question is, “what now?”

What now shall we do to stem the tide of foreign policy contraction and near literal surrender to the forces of evil and death that flew planes loaded with innocent Americans into buildings full of more innocent victims, and into a field in Pennsylvania? These actions killed more Americans in one day than died at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, or on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

In the conflict that included those two days of infamy we finished the job, concluding World War II with the unconditional surrender of both Germany and Japan. But then afterwards created a road to redemption for both countries and others with our Marshall Plan of aid and infrastructure reconstruction, as well as military defense subsidies with our own troops and materiel. It was this and Ronald Reagan’s steadfast determination not to let the Soviet Union dictate global terms that won the Cold War.

US President Barack Obama attends a military briefing with General Joseph Dunfore, Commander of ISAF and US Forces Afghanistan, at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, during a surprise trip to visit US troops prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

With U.S. forces currently in over 150 countries world wide, to claim the Global War on Terror is over is pure folly, but Obama doesn’t even mention the global war, or terrorists, or the enemy. To him our presence overseas is a burden to other nations rather than a way to project power and influence to maintain security and to defend our interests and foreign policy goals.

In fact in May, 2013, Obama declared the war “over.” Only he forgot to tell the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who continue to this day to try and kill us.

In other words, the man who is Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States of America has abdicated his ultimate responsibility to defend this nation against all enemies – foreign and domestic.

Obama has defiled any semblance of following the Soldier’s Creed himself: he is not putting the “mission first,” has accepted “defeat,” and has “quit,” on his soldiers and on his fellow Americans.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter @mjgranger1