Nov 102017
 

Donald John Trump, pictured on page 107 of his 1964 New York Military Academy yearbook. [sourced from wikimedia.org, Public Domain]


by Thomas L. Knapp…….

On November 3, US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who spent five years as a prisoner of the Taliban in Afghanistan, was sentenced to dishonorable discharge, reduction in rank to private, and a $10,000 fine after pleading guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Without hesitation and displaying reckless disregard for his own reputation, US president Donald Trump courageously mounted his keyboard and charged Twitter to pronounce the sentence “a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.”

There’s certainly a complete and total disgrace to discuss here, but it’s neither Bergdahl nor his sentence. It’s Trump and his hypocrisy.

Although I’m a veteran myself, I don’t consider military service a special qualification for holding public office. In fact, there’s a good case to be made that it’s a handicap (if not for the officeholder, for the public that officeholder claims to serve).

The skills one learns in the armed forces do not speak to political and philosophical questions such as whether or not a war is justifiable. Nor, except at the level of generalship, do they equip one with a grasp of grand strategy. They do, however, feed the entitled attitude and seeming impunity that accompany government employment.

Be that as it may, if there’s anything worse in public office than a proud veteran who learned the wrong lessons, it’s a gutless but grandiose chickenhawk like Donald Trump.

In 2006, 20-year-old Bowe Bergdahl enlisted in the US Coast Guard, but was discharged after 26 days for what the press characterizes as “psychological reasons.” Two years later, despite that record, Bergdahl was allowed to enlist in the US Army and deploy to Afghanistan as an infantry trooper.

On June 30, 2009, Bergdahl left his post in Paktika Province for reasons that remain unclear and disputed. He spent the next five years as a prisoner of the Taliban. Now he’s a dishonorably discharged private with a $10,000 invoice in hand.

Bergdahl may have been delusional, or he may have become disillusioned. His Coast Guard discharge should have made it clear to the Army that he wasn’t cut out for military work. But he at least made the attempt.

Donald Trump styles himself “Commander in Chief.”  As a candidate he called himself “the most militaristic person there is.” He “always felt that” he was in the military because his parents shipped him off to a military school as a teen to curb his bratty behavior. He loves military pomp and pageantry. But he actively avoided military reality when it counted.

Instead of enlisting and putting his vaunted warrior spirit to the test during Vietnam, Trump took five draft deferments: Four for college and one on a claim of “bone spurs” in his feet (they hadn’t stopped him from participating in athletics, of course).

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame Trump for avoiding Vietnam. I blame him for not learning a little bit of humility from his experience.

If military service is a standard of fitness, Donald Trump isn’t fit to shine Bowe Bergdahl’s boots.

 

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Thomas L. Knapp

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


 November 10, 2017  Posted by at 12:57 am ~ Column ~, ~ Opinion ~, Editorial, Issue #241, Thomas L. Knapp  Add comments

  9 Responses to “Chickenhawk Donald: A Complete and Total Disgrace”

  1. Thomas,

    I look forward to reading your columns published in “The Blue”. The broad depth of your wisdom; intelligently frames the issues of our times.

    However, you let this one get away from you. The disparate and incoherent ramblings in this article, appear to exhibit a mind sickened with anger and bitterness. The keen intellect I’ve become accustomed to via your previous offerings is absent.

    Allowing deep emotions, along with their skewed interpretations and incongruent conclusions to rule the day, is a recipe for disaster. It can trigger a cognitive dissonance of sorts, which clouds and distorts one’s reason.

    I admire the courage, thoughtfulness and penetrating acumen regularly exhibit in your writings.

    Blessings & Respect…

  2. John,

    I’m sorry that you didn’t find this column worthwhile, and you may be right — one reason I try not to play the “writing as a veteran” card very often is that when I write “as a veteran,” I tend to be biased in various ways.

    These days, I’m a peacenik, and I have conflicted attitudes of my own toward the military. But yes, it makes me extremely bitter to watch a shirker and poltroon like Donald Trump, or any other politician, publicly abuse a five-year POW like Bowe Bergdahl. Trump doesn’t rate.

  3. I wonder when the general US society is going to start taking responsibility for the horrendous situation we put our soldiers in in Iraq and Afghanistan. For years, we sent them out every day they as sitting ducks: targets to be blown up by IEDs and shot by snipers. Remember, all the soldiers are now “trigger pullers” because all the support positions are private contractors being paid hansomely by Halliburton, etc.

    America sent them to Iraq & Afghanistan to guard our “freedom.” And they did what we asked; even tough we were lying and actually sent them to protect Exxon, BP and Shell. When they came home after multiple tours—a large percentage being Guard and Reserve, not regular Army)—we failed to treat their PTSD and TBI because we underfunded and poorly staffed the VA.

    I only know some of this because I had the honor of working for a military charity for 3 years, and watched the torture we put our service members through, and our total failure to honor our national obligation to care for them following their service.

    Bergdahl snapped. He spent years as a POW in torture for it. Many others didn’t snap, and that is remarkable.

    We shouldn’t be punishing him in any way, but apologizing for doing this to him…

  4. Thomas,

    The integrity, honesty and class you bring to the table; sheds light upon issues, where others only dare to go.

    Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is my Brother. It’s hard for me to process and reach a conclusion concerning his case that brings me any comfort.

    I understand your dislike of Trump. I find many of his comments childish, ill-advised and harmful. Stepping aside from that, does Sgt. Bergdahl bear any responsibility for the criminal conduct he engaged in? Did he have any part in his becoming a POW? Does he bear any culpability for the soldiers killed, wounded and forever disabled; who sought to search for him, after he deserted his post?

    All of the infantry soldiers in his squad and platoon that I have heard from, believe him to be guilty of the most serious of criminal charges, and testified as such during his trial.

    The training and proficiency required to become a “qualified infantry soldier” are extensive and intense. Advancing towards the rank of Sergeant demonstrates a high degree of mastery over these combat related skills. The motivation for his desertion in the face of the enemy was given by at least one investigative reporter: “As an attempt to cause a crisis and draw attention to issues he had with supervisors”…

    Five upper echelon “Taliban Leaders” were returned to their organizations, in order to secure the release of a soldier who abandoned his combat position. Did these “enemy combatants” return to the battlefield?

    Of note, Sgt. Bergdahl was not drafted into the Army. He volunteered of his own accord. He was never mandated to serve his country.

    Did Bowe Bergdahl have a “psychotic break down”, causing him to abandon his combat position and desert his comrades? It appears his defense attorneys presented a convincing case that he did. I’ll abide by the court’s decision…

    Blessings & Respect…

    • John, you wrote:

      “does Sgt. Bergdahl bear any responsibility for the criminal conduct he engaged in?”

      Presumably so. The judge thinks he does, which is why the judge sentenced him to reduction in rank to prive, dishonorable discharge, and a $10,000 fine in addition to the five years he’s already spent as a prisoner.

      “Advancing towards the rank of Sergeant demonstrates a high degree of mastery over these combat related skills.”

      In the normal course of things, advancing toward the rank of Sergeant demonstrates an ability to hang in there and not screw up too badly. It’s a function of time served and time in grade (that changes for the “staff NCO” ranks above Sergeant).

      In Bergdahl’s case, advancing toward the rank of Sergeant demonstrates merely an ability to stay alive while in captivity, which is where he received most or all of his promotions.

      Yes, the US exchanged some prisoners for Bergdahl. Prisoners get exchanged in war. I do sometimes wish that instead of exchanging Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl, we had been able to exchange a random selection of the anti-troop, anti-America politicians who complained about the exchange.

  5. John Miller,

    I respect, value and sincerely appreciate the information you shared. Your labor on behalf of others is invaluable. I’m grateful for individuals of your caliber and stature. The world is a better place because of you.

    For the most part I find your comments “spot on”.

    If your read my last response to Thomas Knapp, you’ll see where I may be processing this event from a different perspective.

    If it was proven to the satisfaction of the court that Sgt. Bergdahl was sick and not responsible for his actions, the judge may have applied a suitable punishment. However, it appears to many that most of the trauma and suffering endured by Sgt. Bergdahl was self-inflicted.

    John, not to be a smart aleck, but as far as apologies go, do you believe that Sgt. Bergdahl might also owe an apology to the soldiers killed, wounded and forever disabled because he deserted them?

    Blessings, Respect & Thank You….

    • I would bet that Sgt. Bergdahl is quite contrite for his actions, both for what he did and the personal ramifications. I don’t believe he had any control over what happened, and certainly wouldn’t have wished harm on the service members who became casualties because of him. I wouldn’t want to confuse the issue with his particular circumstance.

      My comments were more general. Service members who suffered and died due to needless deployments in Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq etc. sent by “chicken hawks” with their bone spurs and college deferments who then proceed to claim poverty when it comes time to care for them.

      There’s a special place in hell for those bastards.

  6. Thomas,

    The five years he “already spent as a prisoner”, was because of his own doing. He did that to himself. Try as one might, it’s difficult to blame that on anyone else.

    Boot camp, Infantry school training and advanced Infantry training; along with any other related preparatory exercises and drills Bergdahl received for combat; provided him with the preparedness a soldier needs for battle.

    He successfully completed those courses and advanced himself. I’m aware that he was granted rank while in captivity, as that has become our custom. However, proficiency ratings earned during his training periods appear to have moved him forward, which usually includes rank and advancement.

    The 5 Taliban Leaders released to obtain Bergdahl, included War Criminals, Intelligence Operatives, Military Chiefs of Staff and Division Commanders; along with Military and Financial Masterminds. This was not your ordinary prisoner exchange.
    The aforementioned “dream team” traded for a single soldier, who abandoned his combat position and deserted his comrades, might be construed as being excessive.

    Thomas, all of the particulars surrounding Bergdahl can cause one pause. Up to and including the Rose Garden celebration at the White House, for a soldier who admitted to and was found guilty, of crimes that have been the cause of at least one soldier being executed.

    A special treat during the aforementioned televised celebration, was the cry of “Allah Akbar” coming from the podium shared with tour President of the United States.

    Examining and a detailed investigation of everything involved in the “Bergdahl Incident”, including the prisoner exchange, coincides with the transparency you so often tout in your writings.

    I respect you and the positions you hold. I just might not be in agreement with all of them.

    Thank you for the stimulating insight and discourse….