(Jeff Danziger’s website)
Elliot Ackerman, in The New Republic:
… I served in the Marines, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and later, in special operations in Afghanistan’s rugged Paktika Province, for a good part of 2010 and 2011, working out of a remote firebase a few kilometers from the Pakistani border. At night my colleagues and I would climb on our bunkered roof, a tumbler of scotch or a cigar in hand, and watch the drone strikes against al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership in South Waziristan. During those days, Bergdahl’s case loomed ever-present. The irony that an iconic figure in a war that had largely been deserted by the American people was probably a deserter himself was never lost on us. It seemed just our luck.
Among sailors, a crew member who brings bad luck is known as a Jonah. It’s a long-held superstition, deriving from the Book of Jonah. Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’ They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. And like the hapless crew that sailed Jonah to Tarshish, we found ourselves in a storm fighting in Afghanistan. With Bergdahl’s disappearance always in the background, imaginations ran wild. Why did the Taliban in Paktika execute attacks with such unusual precision and lethality? Some hypothesized that Bergdahl had informed them of our tactics. Why did Afghan civilians refuse civil aid that they so obviously needed? Others believed rumors that Bergdahl had participated in a propaganda campaign against us. None of this could be substantiated, but over there Bergdahl became the idol of discontent for so many. He was the Jonah.
And this wasn’t only among the rank and file. One of my colleagues, a CIA case officer, was charged with collecting information on Bergdahl’s whereabouts. For months after his disappearance, his location was known with a high degree of precision. At various levels of government, certain options had been floated as to what a recovery mission might look like. After flying in and out of Kabul for endless rounds of inter-agency meetings, my colleague grew frustrated by the Army’s inaction. He questioned the efficacy of these deliberations. A senior officer pulled him aside. “No one’s serious about a rescue mission,” he said. “It’d be too risky. Maybe if Bergdahl had actually been captured they’d do something, but he deserted.”
My colleague flew back to our firebase and returned to his desk. He continued to track Bergdahl. Anytime someone in southeastern Afghanistan claimed to have credible information on Bergdahl, my colleague had to stop what he was doing and travel for hours to debrief the source, cursing all the while. Bergdahl became the idol of his discontent also. His Jonah…
(If you want the very opposite of Ackerman’s succinct and elegant report, Dubya’s Attorney-General and torture-apologist Michael B. Mukasey has an op-ed in the Washington Post. As is dissecting an animal’s scat, reading Mukasey’s frantic pearl-clutcher is in its way enlightening, but not something I would recommend before breakfast.)
Apart from the ongoing GOP freakout, what’s on the agenda for the day?