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Abandoned Prisoners of War (POWs) Afghanistan POW Bowe Bergdahl & Vietnam POW|
Posted on December 16, 2010
Danny "Greasy" Belcher, Executive Director
Task Force Omega of KY Inc.
Vietnam Infantry Sgt. 68-69
"D" Troop 7th Sqdn. 1st Air Cav.
I asked Monica Jensen-Stevenson to review all of the evidence on Afghanistan POW Bergdahl and compare his situtation to Vietnam POW Bobby Garwood. I was seeing the same lies about Bergdahl being told as the truth with out any evidence. He was being abandoned from the start by those in control within our government.
Monica Jensen-Stevenson is a former Emmy award winning producer for Sixty Minutes and the author of Kiss The Boys Goodbye. Her husband William Stevenson is the author of A Man Called Intrepid. Both know the intelligence and media community better than most people. They have always been professional and thorough in investigating a situtation. They are two of only a handful of people I trust on the POW issue and the intelligence gathering community. Their record is the best out there.
Please read Monica's statement and let's do something to bring Afghanistan POW Bowe Bergdahl home. Enough lies and talk with no action. It is time to bring him home.
----- Original Message -----
From: Monika Stevenson
To: Danny "Greasy" Belcher
Sent: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 4:39 PM
Subject: Re: Once Again Bowe Bergdahl and Bobby Garwood
Bowe Bergdahl American POW in Afghanistan:
Shades of Bobby Garwood
By Monika Jensen-Stevenson
After Private First Class, Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in June of 2009, I had the uneasy feeling that his fate might end up being similar to that of more than 3000 American Vietnam POWs who were known to be alive at the end of the War in Vietnam, but were written off by the US government when it became apparent that to negotiate for their release would be difficult, costly and a blow to America’s pride. My unease sprang from the fact that the first news about Bergdahl, which came on July second was clearly designed to sow seeds of distrust about him – his commitment to his country and his integrity as soldier. On July 2, two U.S. officials told the AP the soldier had “just walked off” his base with three Afghans after his shift. He had no body armor or weapon and they said they had no explanation for why he left. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
That offhand information given to AP poignantly reminded me of Bobby Garwood, captured by the Vietcong in 1965, ten days before he was to return stateside. His superiors, too, claimed that he had just disappeared instead of acknowledging that he was on an official job as driver into highly dangerous Viet Cong infested terrain known among American servicemen as “Injun Country.” A few weeks later the rumour on Bobby’s base was that he went AWOL, first to a brothel and later to join the enemy in arms against his own fellow American soldiers. *
Garwood remained a prisoner of the communists for fourteen years. When by his own wits, he managed to escape capture, he was charged with being a traitor in 1979, a charge that carried with it the death sentence by firing squad. His court martial was a travesty of justice. No evidence was ever presented that he had collaborated with the enemy. Those who testified against him were suborned to perjury and given highly unusual and illegal perks for lying. For example, a lead witness was allowed to substitute a self serving statement for a deposition he had made earlier acknowledging Garwood’s torture on the orders of his captors. (I have that deposition in a safety deposit box.) In the end the court martial was unable to find Garwood guilty of betraying his country. But his life was deeply affected by a government smear campaign that began right after he was captured.* The campaign to destroy Garwood gave proof to Adolf Hitler’s thesis that if the lie is big enough, everyone will believe it. The lie about Garwood were big enough and by the time he came home, almost everyone believed it.
In Bergdahl’s case military sources, although slow to declare Bowe a POW or to acknowledge that he was on an official patrol when he disappeared, at the beginning at least formally denounced theTaliban for exploiting Bergdahl, an American prisoner. Garwood too, was officially on the books as a prisoner until he embarrassed policy makers by re-appearing alive. That made the government position that all prisoners had returned or were dead, a lie. Hence the remedy. If Garwood was a traitor then the US and communist Vietnamese could continue the lie that no proof existed of live American prisoners still being held captive. Ninety nine per cent of American media accepted the US government charge that Garwood was guilty of having joined the enemy and that media lie made life for Garwood and his entire family a hell.
With Bergdahl, the media aggressively took an independent and “objective” view about whether and why he was captured. CNN repeated the Taliban charge -- made in a propaganda video -- that Bergdahl was drunk when they captured him. I challenge CNN to ask any American soldier in Afghanistan how likely it is -- in Afghanistan where only foreigners can buy alcohol in a few very special shops and then only after they show their passport, that Bergdahl disappeared from a patrol to buy alcohol and get drunk. Any soldier stationed in that country will tell you that no western soldiers drink in public and even in private they always do so with an least one other person. It would have been easy to check whether Bergdahl bought alcohol showing his passport, which it certainly would be mandatory for his superiors to find out, or whether he was on patrol, as he states in his video, when he disappeared.
Allthough it is clear that Bergdahl was under a great deal of duress in this first of several released by the Taliban, no American media took it upon itself to denounce these videos, no human rights organization took on the case and, most devastating, no veteran’s group took up the cause to demand his release. Surprisingly,on 21, 7, 09 President Obama said he was appalled by the latest video he had seen and called on US forces in Afghanistan to do everything they could to bring about the return of Bergdahl. He must not have been aware of the military sources who had already leaked “information” that Bergdahl might have gone AWOL. Nevertheless, a President taking up a POW’s cause? One would have thought that would get on CNN, in the New York Times and on Fox News. But the unusual pronouncement received no media attention in the United States. It was reported in British papers.
Aside from private citizens, many of whom are veterans and people who were/are still actively involved in the POW issue as it relates to the Vietnam war, only one campaign has been launched: an anti – Bergdahl campaign headed by Fox Network news analyst, retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters. In typical Fox loudmouth fashion Peters who is often introduced as a “retired “intelligence “ officer described Bergdahl as “an apparent deserter” and called on the Taliban to save Americans the trouble and off him if he is a deserter. It’s pretty well known that the Fox network takes its cue from the US government on most of the stories it reports, especially on a subject as sensitive as Bowe Bergdahl. That begs the question: Don’t the people who care abut Bowe Bergdahl like his family have a right to know who in the US government gives Peters the confidence to spout such venom?
This is a country that prides itself on every person’s right to be judged innocent until tried and found guilty. Peters takes his cue from the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland: “Verdict first. Evidence Later” and off with his head. It is important to note here that over half the media that reaches Bergdahl’s comrades in Afghanistan comes from Fox.
Again, shades of Garwood who was subjected to such a vicious government smear campaign, hustled on by an irresponsible media, that good, but misguided American officers felt not only justified, but obligated to assassinate him when ordered to do so.*
What Peters uses as justification for his vile opinions are the propaganda videos released by Bergdahl’s captors. So one could reasonably understand this as offering the terrorists extra incentive by suggesting they should save the US the trouble and kill him. This is another similarity with Garwood’s case. At the end it was easier for the Vietnamese communists and the US to denounce Garwood with the same language than have to acknowledge their own, combined guilt in the destruction of thousands of American POWS.*
I would urge anyone who wants to know who Bowe Bergdahl is and what he believes. to google Bergdahl and watch all the videos. There is no question what they are about. And there is no question of who Bowe Bergdahl is and the duress he is under. What faces him is likely the same fate that befell Daniel Pearl, a beheading so horrendous, it is impossible to watch without screaming along with the victim in his agony. Has Lt. Colonel Peters watched it? Is that the work he wants these crazed terrorists to take off the hands of the US government?
As a journalist and author I have been involved in the issue of American prisoners who were abandoned by their own government after the war in Vietnam for more than 25 years and have written two books about the subject. I have been asked many times if there is any way to prevent this from happening again. Sadly, the case of Bowe Bergdahl seems to tell us that history, which many have forgotten, can repeat itself.
But it doesn’t need to be so. There are basic practices that could be put in place to insure our POWs have a fighting chance. There are countries in the world which do not question the integrity and patriotism of their own soldiers the moment they are captured. Israel which deals with the same Al Quaida terrorists who are the allies of Bergdahl’s captors, is a good example. Within seconds of finding out that one of its soldiers has been captured, the Israeli government alerts relevant international agencies like the Red Cross/Red Crescent and the media of his capture. That way the prisoner’s status is official and on the record. The initiative is Israel’s. The enemy is informed that if they cut off their prisoners genitals and shove them in his mouth – a common practice – they are doing it in contravention of international laws and it will not be forgotten or glossed over. Ditto if they cut off the prisoners head or commit other cowardly horrors. Then the Israeli government negotiates and often it values the life of one soldier so much that it is willing to exchange many more than one prisoner it holds to get him back.
Had America followed the same procedure, Bowe Bergdahl, although probably still captive, would have a chance and Americans could hold their heads high, knowing that we truly honor our brothers and sisters who are willing to make the highest sacrifice to keep us secure.
***For documentation on all the incidents and policies described here, read Spite House: The Last Secret of the War in Vietnam by the author, W. W. Norton, New York, 1997
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