When it comes to national security matters, the news media couldn’t do a better job misinforming the public if it tried. The latest example is the portrayal of the five Taliban officials traded for Bowe Bergdahl.

The media of course has an incentive to accentuate controversy. In the Bergdahl deal, this includes portraying the five Taliban prisoners as, in Sen. John McCain’s words, “hard-core jihadists responsible for 9/11.” McCain is wrong, but the major news outlets don’t care. Over and over again, the five are identified as terrorists. Facts take a backseat to drama and conflict.

But according to Sheldon Richman, the five Taliban prisoners only fell into U.S. hands because the U.S. created a strong incentive for rival warlords to rat out personal enemies.

The U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was a war of choice, not necessity, writes Richman. American forces made it worse by indiscriminately placing a price on the head of any Afghan whom someone else was willing to destroy.