Foreign Policy

The Media Is Misleading Americans About the Bergdahl Swap

The story behind the five Taliban prisoners reflects poorly on the U.S. government.

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Bergdahl

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.

President Obama fed this narrative:

In terms of potential threats, the release of the Taliban who were being held in Guantánamo was conditioned on the Qataris keeping eyes on them and creating a structure in which we can monitor their activities. We will be keeping eyes on them. Is there a possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely.

The media simply takes the government's word that the five Taliban figures are international terrorists. But the Taliban is not al-Qaeda. It is the theocratic government overthrown by U.S. forces. So when Taliban insurgents attack American forces, it is not terrorism but war—war that the U.S. government started.

There have been a few hints that the prisoners are not accurately described. A rare example came from the government's former chief prosecutor at the American prison at Guantánamo Bay, retired Air Force Colonel Morris Davis. Davis punctured the "hardest of the hardcore" narrative when he said:

We had screened all of the detainees and we had focused on about 75 that had the potential to be charged with a crime. When I saw the names [of those traded] … [I] wasn't familiar with any of these names.… If we could have proven that they had done something wrong that we could prosecute them for I'm confident we would have done it, and we didn't.

In fact, the story behind the five Taliban prisoners reflects poorly on the U.S. government's conduct of its supposedly good war. Maybe that's why this story gets so little attention.

Before being captured, these Taliban officers were treated as potential allies by the CIA or the U.S.–installed government of Hamid Karzai. Anand Gopal, author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyeswrites:

All five of the swapped prisoners were initially captured while trying to cut deals, and … three had been attempting to join, or had already joined, the Afghan government at the time of their arrest.

This history shows that the categories we take as rigid and unchanging, such as "terrorist," are in fact remarkably fluid in the context of Afghan politics. Uncovering the stories of these men tells us much about Guantanamo, the Taliban, and the possibility of a negotiated end to the conflict.

How did these men end up in U.S. custody? The U.S. government offered attractive bounties to Afghans who turned alleged Taliban and al-Qaeda members over to American authorities. This created a strong incentive to rat out personal enemies, rival warlords, and others, many of whom had nothing to do with the Afghan insurgency or international terrorism. Many were sent to Guantánamo.

For example, Gopal writes, Mohammad Nabi Omari, who was part of the Bergdahl exchange,

was a small-time commander linked to pro-Taliban strongman Jalaluddin Haqqani in the 1990s. After 2001, he was among the many Haqqani followers who switched allegiances to the Karzai government.… [Omari] and other former Haqqani commanders began working for the CIA.… Some Afghan officials in Khost allege that Omari reaped profits from falsely accusing others of al Qaeda membership. If so, he certainly accrued enemies, and in September 2002, he, too, was accused of insurgent membership by rival warlords and politicians, despite being publicly aligned with the Karzai government.

His next stop was Guantánamo.

"Instead of being recalcitrant terrorists bent on fighting America, this history indicates that all five can make pragmatic deals if the conditions are right," wrote Gopal.

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

This article originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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131 responses to “The Media Is Misleading Americans About the Bergdahl Swap

  1. So when Taliban insurgents attack American forces, it is not terrorism but war?war that the U.S. government started.

    Blasphemy! Heretic! Burn him at the stake!

  2. the categories we take as rigid and unchanging, such as “terrorist,” are in fact remarkably fluid in the context of Afghan politics

    Yet another reason to GTFO.

    1. Nope, it’s time to double down. Since nothing the USA ever does creates enemies, then all we have to do is keep killing them until all the people who hate us and fight against us are finally dead. Which was a pre-destined number decided sometime before the Crusades, apparently.

      1. OTOH, we could just stand aside and watch the Calico Cat and the Gingham Dog eat each other.

        1. But we’ve got all these drones just sitting around. And we can’t use them on raw milk pushers yet. [pout]

      2. Since nothing the USA ever does creates enemies…

        Yeah, I mean, we had our cock so firmly planted in Afghanistan in 2001, clearly we brought that on ourselves.

        1. And the 18-year-olds that are fighting us now were hardened fighters at 5-years-old.

          1. So your bitch is about duration rather than the original assault?

          2. No, but the 18-year-olds that are fighting us now were brainwashed in a madrassa to hate us since they were 5-years-old.

      3. I’m not sure there were enough people alive during the Crusades, so there’d still be some left over…

  3. I’m not sure we want to portray anybody as the “good guys” in this matter. To my jaded eyes, it seems like a big giant clusterfuck with plenty of wrong to go around. If you’re going to argue that the prisoners traded for Bergdahl were the result of perverse incentives, isn’t this creating similarly poor incentives for the next round of interactions?

    1. isn’t this creating similarly poor incentives for the next round of interactions?

      if by poor incentives you mean demand generation to justify further military action, then yes.

  4. So when Taliban insurgents attack American forces, it is not terrorism but war?war that the U.S. government started.

    Is Richman actually arguing that the United States invaded Afghanistan for no reason at all, that nothing happened just prior to the invasion that could have precipitated the invasion? Or that Afghanistan and its Taliban government had absolutely nothing to do with what went on with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and would have dealt with Al Qaeda on their own?

    1. Yeah, he either worded that poorly or if he does believe we started the war he’s got some reading to do.

      Taliban supported and helped AQ which instigated the attacks. They were as much our target as AQ was.

      1. Yeah, he either worded that poorly or if he does believe we started the war he’s got some reading to do.

        Richman has never let reality get in the way of his writing. Go check out his pieces in the Reason archives. This isn’t even the dumbest thing he’s said this week.

        1. This is why I didn’t even read the article. I just came down here to see if it’s as dumb as his other pieces. By the reaction, maybe this one is at least worth reading.

      2. He obviously believes it wasn’t a good enough reason.

    2. 9/11 being planned by a terrorist group that was a large political power-base in Afghanistan does not automatically preclude an full on invasion. If it did, then why didn’t the US invade Pakistan? They did plenty of supporting Al Qaeda and they even sheltered Osama Bin Laden for the duration of the war in Afghanistan.

      1. There is one reason, and one reason only that we haven’t kicked Pakistan’s ass: They have nuclear weapons.

        1. That’s exactly right. Principles of justice are of little importance to the US government’s decision-making process. Which is true of politics in general. When some seemingly altruistic thing happens, like when a veteran gets their welfare check, it’s merely a byproduct of some other nefarious motive.

          1. Anytime a politician does something that benefits you it is simply a byproduct of whatever they did that was in their best interest.

            1. I avoided using the word self-interest, because self-interest in and of itself is a perfectly moral thing, but self-interest at the expense of others’ though… that’s politics in a nutshell.

        2. Not really. Pakistan is also larger, with far more people. Similarly, Iraq was an easier target than Iran, which is much larger.

          1. Yeah, I think you’re right. There are quite a few reasons. Have you ever read “Among the Believers” by V.S. Naipaul? It was written over 30 years ago, so quite a bit has changed, but it’s still really interesting to read about the Islamic institutions in different Islamic countries (he goes to Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia).

            So much of our Iraq policy mirrors Bernard Lewis’ writing, which makes sense; he advised Dick Cheney back in the late 90’s. I don’t think Iraq and Pakistan have the same dynamics.

  5. Richman’s hair-splitting “not terrorists, just warriors” is meaningless after 9/11. The Taliban may not be Al Qaeda but they certainly partnered with them. Of course we have the idiot spiral of unintended consequences with the original sin being the US’s support of Al Qaeda during the Soviet invasion. Trying to characterize the Taliban with its militant Islamic philosophy as just another group of freedom-fighters is disingenuous, though.

    Our original strategy (the Bush strategy) of small footprint to attack Al Qaeda and arm anti-Taliban elements was the only sensible strategy. The Hearts and Minds aspect was always stupidly idealistic, and the Obama surge was insane.

    1. Our original strategy (the Bush strategy) of small footprint to attack Al Qaeda and arm anti-Taliban elements was the only sensible strategy.

      Arguably, a shit load of ordinance from planes and ships with a nastygram attached could have accomplished pretty much the same thing. Getting involved in a land war in Asia Afghanistan is one of the classic blunders.

    2. “The U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was a war of choice, not necessity.”

      And this is complete and utter bullshit. The occupation was a choice, but the original post 9-11 assault was non-negotiable. Any American politician or military commander suggesting we not retaliate against Al Qaeda and their common cause allies the Taliban would have been politically destroyed.

      Whether one believes 9-11 was simply blow-back from our involvement in the Middle East or an opportunistic assault by religious extremists believing an existential enemy was weak and could be attacked without significant consequences, a violent American response was always completely justified.

      1. The “occupation” really wasn’t a choice either. It does no good to invade a nation unless you plan on holding it. Had we gone in, kicked ass, and left, it would have changed nothing, and Afghanistan would still be harboring trans-national terrorists like Al Qaeda today. Our primary mistake was allowing the Afghans to re-establish their own government after we invaded them. Secondary to that mistake was choosing Karzai to lead that government.

        1. I disagree. It’s really about goals, though, isn’t it?

          If your goal is to prevent Afghanistan from harboring terrorists like bin Laden then occupation might be needed.

          If your goals is to ruthlessly punish groups who attack your citizen in your home country – to illustrate an attack on your home soil will bring brutal pay-back – then occupation isn’t so necessary.

          1. It’s evident you know nothing about Afghanistan. There is no infrastructure. You could literally Nuke Kabul off the face of the Earth, and most Afghans would never know it even happened.

            1. It’s evident you know nothing about Afghanistan. There is no infrastructure. You could literally Nuke Kabul off the face of the Earth, and most Afghans would never know it even happened.

              How do you “hold” a nation like that? Oh, you don’t. It can’t be done.

              1. Yes, it can. Post-WWII, we held Japan and Germany, and continued to do so for many decades. The problem is that Americans want instant gratification. Had we been realistic, we would have planned to remain in Afghanistan for the next two generations, as it’s really the only way we could have ever effected any positive change.

                1. Japan and Germany were both civilized nation-states prior to WWII, and we completely destroyed them. We defeated them.

                  Afghanistan wasn’t and isn’t a civilized nation-state. It’s not possible to defeat something that doesn’t exist. And, if you cannot defeat it you certainly cannot hold it.

                  1. Afghanistan wasn’t and isn’t a civilized nation-state. It’s not possible to defeat something that doesn’t exist. And, if you cannot defeat it you certainly cannot hold it.

                    Or create it.

                  2. We weren’t, and aren’t trying to defeat a “nation-state”.

            2. Right. Assaulting Al Qaeda elements (which is what I suggested) means attacking Afghanistan’s infrastructure?

              1. How do you propose to find small groups or individuals, without going in and looking for them? How do you propose going into a country the size of California and looking for small groups and individuals, without sending thousands of people, and the means to support and defend them?

        2. Had we gone in, kicked ass, and left, it would have changed nothing, and Afghanistan would still be harboring trans-national terrorists like Al Qaeda today.

          Instead we occupied the country for 12 years to get the same result after losing several thousand lives in the process. A bunch of cruise missiles and a “do it again and we’ll be back” certainly couldn’t have ended up any worse, and might have ended up better.

          1. “A bunch of cruise missiles and a “do it again and we’ll be back” certainly couldn’t have ended up any worse, and might have ended up better.”

            ^This.

            A breathtakingly brutal initial assault on Al Qaeda elements and a quick withdrawal followed by a sincere promise to return if necessary.

            1. Agree, quick (no coalition building), brutal, targeted attack on AQ consisting of special forces/drone/aerial assualt would have been ideal (and maybe gotten OBL before he fled to pakistan). I also thought that after destroying AQ, the US then hold the Taliban personally accountable for any future AQ attacks that occur from their country or any AQ training facilities that pop up there(ie let them know the next round of cruise missiles and drones have Taliban leadership home addresses on them). I think this would have been much more useful than simply attacking them. They are bad guys, but were more enablers than perpetrators and by leaving them in charge with something to lose (lives and power) good chance they start acting like other former terrorist governments (Gaddafi) that strike deals and then become our enforcers. Once you targeted them, they had no reason not to (and nothing to lose) in fully opposing you. Otherwise, you also have to occupy and nationbuild and even in 2001 we knew how onerous, expensive and difficult that was.

          2. What exactly would be the target of these “cruise missiles”?

        3. Not really. Crunch it, and make it clear that the crunching will periodically repeat as long as the same bad actors are detected.

          Trying to impose reform doesn’t work unless you are fully committed to the task (see: ending Imperial Japan). This was not the case, and known not to be when astan was allowed to write their own constitution, which Anon notes.

      2. Of course that is only because the “9/11 was committed by al queda” is presumed true
        Not so sure about this being even 25% true
        Kinda like the “WMDs” that weren’t there
        Who profits from this war and the collapse of the WTC.
        New liberty killing laws were placed into practice after each national “disaster” and the people who think its the government murdering its own citizens are the crazies because it has been spoon fed that they are

        1. I wish I had known you were a truther sooner so I wouldn’t have wasted my time taking you remotely seriously.

    3. You might have a point if you weren’t completely wrong.

      There was no “Al Qaeda” or “Taliban” for the US to support during the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Neither of those organizations existed at the time.

      1. Oh, Jesus. Fuck sake.

        Right. No people lived in Afghanistan prior to or during the Soviet invasion. And no people from other ME regions were outraged by the Soviet invasion. And those people didn’t have intentions, goals, and desires outside of the existence of the US. The U.S. waved a magic wand and created them from dust.

        “We gave them weapons and money, therefore, we CREATED them.”

        Yeah, no. They were probably successful because of our involvement, but, yeah, they existed outside of and prior to our involvement.

        1. “Of course we have the idiot spiral of unintended consequences with the original sin being the US’s support of Al Qaeda during the Soviet invasion. ”

          Words have meaning, and the words you used were wrong. We supported the Mujahideen, not Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda as an organization didn’t exist until shortly before the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and it was funded by Saudis, NOT the US.

          1. and it was funded by Saudis, NOT the US.

            A distinction without a difference since we pay for a significant amount of Saudi Arabia’s defense and proxy military adventurism and have used them as a middle man for a lot of our mid east proxy warring.

            1. In any case, AQ absorbed fighters, arms, and money from the groups that we DID directly support as well, so to say that we didn’t support AQ ends up being an exercise in hair splitting.

            2. There is a difference. The simple fact of the matter is that we did not “support” Al Qaeda in any way.

              1. There is a difference.

                Money is still fungible when you give it to governments instead of individuals, so really, no, there isn’t.

                1. Or rather, semantically there is, but practically there isn’t. It’s the diplomatic equivalent of a politician saying “I’ve never purchased illegal drugs in my life!” when his personal assistant gets caught with a kilo of coke and unmarked bills at Miami International Airport.

                2. That’s sort of like saying that the fucking Sun supported them, by enabling plants to grow and feed them.

            3. OK. Semantics. Like we didn’t support elements in Vietnam during WWII that eventually became North Vietnam because they didn’t bear exactly the same name. The list is endless, and if one cuts the history of State and its Warfare over long enough swathes, you’ll find a big jumble of allies, enemies, enemies-of-enemies-who-are-temporary-friends, etc etc etc. If one is a libertarian, then one should be endeavoring to find a way to stop States using its population like folding chairs in endless battles over resources to fuel Welfare/Warfare states, all without falling prey to the concept of One World Government (which would be a dystopia none of us care to think about). It’s a tall task to be sure, but it’s the only way to have peace and prosperity and freedom for individuals.

          2. Sorry, what’s your larger point? And how is it relevant to the argument?

            That I wasn’t accurate enough in my description of the elements coming together to fight the Soviets?

            Okay, you’re correct. We supported the Mujahideen who would later organize into Al Qaeda. And, as PM points out, “we” means the U.S. and our proxy the Saudis.

            1. We’re supporting Al Qeada NOW and have been doing so certainly longer than just supporting the Mujahideen during the Soviet occupation. Obama has dumped a literal boatload of weapons and wealth into the hands of Al Qeada to aid in their fight against Qaddafi and/or Assad. Sure Obama channeled that support through intermediaries, but supporting Al Qeada is supporting Al Qeada even when they’re masquerading as secular democrats.

              1. I agree.

            2. “Sorry, what’s your larger point? And how is it relevant to the argument?”

              The “larger point” is this: The conflict in Afghanistan isn’t rooted in religion, or post-Soviet insurgencies, or even who funds who; it’s rooted in culture. It’s simply a continuation of the inevitable and ongoing clash of civilizations, or rather civilizations, and the uncivilized world. It matters not that we gave money to someone, and they gave it to someone else, who gave it to someone else, who did bad things; what matters is that there are individuals and groups which follow no rules, and are determined to destroy us, no matter what. It doesn’t matter why, because they’ll find a reason.

        2. Based on the many books I have read on the war it was the Paki ISI that “created” the Taliban to keep Afghanistan in chaos.

    4. Pakistan “partnered” with Al Qaeda too, but we allied with them instead of invading. Moral principles of justice have nothing to with the decision to invade Afghanistan. The fact that the more complicit party, Pakistan, would be a far more difficult target, made the difference.

  6. No, the Taliban aren’t Al-Qaeda, but let’s remember that the Taliban are still the people who used to stone women to death in soccer stadiums for adultery. The Taliban government was a monstrous, brutal abomination that was condemned by human rights groups long before the US invasion. These are the same people who forbade women from being educated and threw acid in people’s faces for not wearing a hijab.

    And the Taliban are who were are fighting now. Five of their senior former government officials for one soldier still seems like a poor deal to me.

    1. The Taliban still harbored AQ and played a role in providing them with operational support leading up to 9/11.

      The rest of what the Taliban does doesn’t really mean shit in the context of US policy. If we invaded every country with an atrocious human rights record we’d be busy bees.

      1. The Taliban still harbored AQ and played a role in providing them with operational support leading up to 9/11.

        The rest of what the Taliban does doesn’t really mean shit in the context of US policy. If we invaded every country with an atrocious human rights record we’d be busy bees.

        If we invaded every country that gave material support to terrorists, the US might just be a nuclear ruin after invading the likes of Pakistan. On the basis of going after those states that support terrorists, the US should be invading itself.

        1. If we invaded every country that gave material support to terrorists, the US might just be a nuclear ruin after invading the likes of Pakistan.

          Yes, as maligned as MAD was, possession of a nuclear arsenal does serve as a deterrent. Of course even taking that off the table, consistency of principle would also demand leveling Saudi Arabia, which also isn’t going to happen for a whole variety of reasons. Smashing somebody’s shit can serve a messaging purpose though. Afghanistan would have worked on that level. There’s really not any good argument for leaving Afghanistan completely alone after 9/11. We just did it in the most abjectly retarded way possible.

          1. Well smashing Afghanistan’s shit sends a message that reads similar to the message sent when the world’s strongest man brutally dismembers 90 year old woman in a coma. The message is: “we don’t fuck with countries that can defend themselves at least reasonably well”.

            Surgical strikes on Al Qeada and Taliban assets would have been preferable to the full-scale invasion that’s just been a tremendous waste of blood and treasure.

          2. There really is nothing to smash in Afghanistan, unless you think it makes sense to spend billions of dollars to turn mud huts back into dirt, so they can add free water and put them back together again.

            1. The Americans drop a 500 pound bomb on the mudhut and then follow it up with a 500 pound box of cash for reconstruction, th entirety of which goes to fund the people shooting at the Americans.

              1. And your experience with this comes from what?

                1. Reading and thinking. Does that not suffice? Is it an unproven assertion that political institutions tend to murder people and piss away wealth?

                  1. “Reading and thinking. Does that not suffice?”

                    It depends on what you read, and whether you’re capable of rational thought. With a statement like

                    “The Americans drop a 500 pound bomb on the mudhut and then follow it up with a 500 pound box of cash for reconstruction, th entirety of which goes to fund the people shooting at the Americans.”

                    …if I were you, I’d either change what I read, or try to think a little more rationally.

                    1. You deny that the US bombs the shit of these places and showers the place with cash with no oversight? The billions upon billions of unaccounted-for aid to Iraq Afghanistan would disagree with your version of “rational thinking”.

                      If you argue that the military doesn’t actively bomb shithole mud-hut towns and then proceed waste shit tons of wealth to build/rebuild in these areas, well then the burden of proof is on you. (since the evidence to the contrary is seemingly insurmountable). Certainly a rational mind such as yours understands the ‘burden of proof’ concept?

                      So maybe do a bit of arguing using actual arguments instead of using generalized denials and ad Hominem.

                    2. You made the claim that we “drop a 500 pound bomb on the mudhut and then follow it up with a 500 pound box of cash for reconstruction, the entirety of which goes to fund the people shooting at the American”; the burden of proof lies with you. Do we compensate people when we accidentally blow their shit up? Yes. Do we hand over a 500 pound box of cash to pay for a mud hut? No, not unless the victim insists on being paid with pennies. Does this compensation (the entirety!)go towards funding people shooting at Americans? Only if they steal it from the victim at gunpoint.

                      My point? We don’t need high school histrionics when debating foreign policy, or any policy for that matter; we need facts.

                    3. You made the claim that we “drop a 500 pound bomb on the mudhut and then follow it up with a 500 pound box of cash for reconstruction, the entirety of which goes to fund the people shooting at the American”; the burden of proof lies with you.

                      So you think I was literally claiming that the standard protocol is to drop a 500 pound bomb followed by a 500 pound box of cash? Re-calibrate your hyberbole detector. In fact, google the word right now so you understand the concept.

                      Does this compensation (the entirety!)go towards funding people shooting at Americans? Only if they steal it from the victim at gunpoint.

                      Billions upon billions of aid dollars went completely unaccounted for in both those theaters of operation. Actual fork-lift toted pallets of cash went missing. In some cases it’s known to have gone directly into the coffers of insurgent groups the US was fighting.

                      Are you denying that the DoD and DoS completely wasted billions of dollars? Denying the corruption and negligence existed?

                      My point? We don’t need high school histrionics when debating foreign policy, or any policy for that matter; we need facts.

                      Interesting sentiment for the guy who’s unaware of the undeniably mismanaged wars this country just endured.

                    4. I am very aware of the undeniably mismanaged wars this country just endured; I spent many years of my life helping to fight them. I’ve been present when some of those pallets of cash were delivered.

                      Understand this: It’s not the military that’s fucking shit up. They’re actually very good at destroying shit and killing people…doing what they’re intended to do. We can fight wars and kick ass like no other country on the planet. But once you unleash the dogs of war, you can’t tell them to do stupid shit, and then blame them when your stupid ideas don’t work out. All that money was transferred by the Department of State, or some other government agency, in order to buy influence and support. The military has a different way of doing things. A simple meeting explaining the “best friends, worst enemies” doctrine usually works, and when that doesn’t, killing a few people usually does.

          3. Actually, I doubt Pakistan could deliver a nuclear bomb anywhere near the US.
            The deterrent is maining against India.

            And given how Pakistan has harbored Al Qaeda and Taliban forces, I’m sort of shocked we treat their territory as off limits. We should never have agreed to respect their territory. If Pakistan doesn’t like it, they can suck it up.

            1. But we don’t respect Pakistan’s territory. We execute drone strikes within Pakistan regularly.

              I agree that Pakistan isn’t any kind of nuclear threat to us, but it’s about regional stability.

              An unstable Pakistan is a treat to India and the wider region. We did de-stabilize Pakistan after 9-11, but invasion would have brought that to a whole new level.

            2. “Actually, I doubt Pakistan could deliver a nuclear bomb anywhere near the US.
              The deterrent is maining against India.”

              Shipping containers are perfectly adequate delivery devices. Besides, they’d be foolish not to use them on the thousands of US troops right on their border first.

            3. THIS. We should have treated Pakistan as an enemy from day 1. Drone strikes are not enough. If necessary, arm Baloch separatists.

              1. Also, the Saudi’s. With a creditable existential threat to the House of Saud by the US, these old geezers would have stopped playing footzie with and wiped out the Shiite Islamists and other AQ supporters. Bush was a putz.

                1. …of historic proportions.

  7. It helps to understand that there are few people bound by loyalties in Afghanistan. The only difference between a Taliban and a government official, and vise versa, is money.

  8. Taki had the whole inside story of the White House decision process.

    http://takimag.com/article/the…..z34GUvPRWI

  9. Terrific story. If only the Obama Administration had had the guts to admit that they were letting five harmless people go in return for a confused and unhappy soldier. But they didn’t.

  10. Ha ha Richman accusing others of pushing a dishonest narrative is rich. Extremely rich.

    The U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was a war of choice, not necessity, writes Richman

    Every war is a war of choice. This choice was necessary for the USG to defend the rights and freedoms of its citizens as it is morally obligated to do.

    1. Hah… Spoken like a true libertarian militarist. I bet you spend a lot of time wondering where your tax dollars go. Probably to black people.

      1. Very well said. Since your handle indicates an aversion to individual rights and freedom not surprising, either.

  11. Sheldon, nice article. I’m enjoying the comments where the Taliban equal al queda and an 8-year open-ended war left to his successor to end is described as limited. Plus the appearance of outright trutherism… Umm, wrong website, you want http://www.infowars.com.

    Can I get some love from libertarians when I say its long past time for gulag time for George bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and dick Cheney who– if we judged them by the the standards that were applied to war criminals at Nuremberg– would have had their necks stretched?

    1. It always comes down to the gulags with you people, doesn’t it?

    2. You forgot Barack Obama, didn’t you? You like those drone strikes, NSA enhancements, and continuation of Bush’s altruist war in every respect?

      1. So, I guess the answer is I won’t get any love. Why is it that every time i mention George bush you right- wingers bring up Barack Obama. Can’t GWB’s record be judged on its own merits or lack thereof?

    3. So I suppose you’ll be calling for the execution of Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton? They killed lots of people including children. This is where you give me a defense of your favorite child murderers.

      1. Your post is childish. Get some new material. Either that are a brain transplant. Have a nice day you fucking idiot.

        1. lol you call my post childish and back-up that assertion with a bunch of name-calling… it really is just too easy to show the world how wrong you constantly are.

          You called for the slow torturous death of Bush and his administration. Why does the same standard not apply to your preferred cast of murderers? Do you generally give moral passes to people who hold opinions that are nearly as ignorant as your own?

          1. Free Society,

            Don’t like my post? Dial 1 800 EAT POOP (animal poop in your case, because human poop is too good for you).

            Too bad you don’t like my comment on your comment. Tough shit! Go fuck yourself.

            1. Is High School out for the Summer already?

  12. The Armed Forces of The United States of America have now been in Afghanistan over three times as long as this country was involved in World War II. World War II was fought on huge fronts globally, and commanded by generals and admirals very different than the mediocre four star careerists leading the forces today. There were actual victories and real surrenders in World War II, as compared to letting our forces get bogged down and rot in just one arm pit, stink hole country called Afghanistan. Come to think of it, that begs the question: Has The United States won any wars since World War II? If we ever leave Afghanistan, then where is the next war?

    1. We also mobilized a Nation, drafted everyone able to fight, rationed everything from cheese to gas, forced our entire industrial production capability to produce military goods, firebombed population centers, and eventually nuked cities. Hey, I’m all for it…how about you? Feel like being drafted today?

    2. Mandalay admires the old timey generals who didn’t quibble at the thought of burning thousands of babies alive. On the basis of Mandalays statements in the past, it’s safe to say that he stands among the most immoral scum who were ever unfit to live.

      1. Free Society

        Which probably means that during World War II you would have attempted to dodge the draft or desert for the coward that you, and those of your ilk are. Consider suicide as an option you fucking asshole. That’s so I can mark your file DSAF – Did Society A Favor. Have a nice day, ass chunk.

        1. Murdering children is bravery to you. I marvel at your evil stupidity.

  13. I’m going to save myself an explanatory rant and just suggest Sheldon Richman is a fucking moron.

    1. GILMORE

      I have read many of Mr. Richman’s articles on this site, and others. I don’t agree with all of his ideas and opinions, but he is a good writer, and expresses his thoughts well.

      On that note, all I have read that you have written are mostly rants and raves denouncing people such as Mr. Richman.

      You are the fucking moron. Your brain must be in your scrotum.

      1. You’re a fucking child killer. You defend child killers. You wish there were more murdered children than there are. You are scum. You and everyone who taught you how to think the way you do, should be put down like the sick animals you are.

        1. Free Society,

          Calm down and take your medications.

        2. Most of yall are a bunch of statist. avocating over which act of legal mass murder was necessary.

          1. Believe it or not, some actually are necessary.

            1. How many dead bodies will you be requiring next year? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

              1. Yes, you will. Believe it or not, you can’t fight savagery with tea and crumpets. There truly are people in this world that will strap you to a chair, use a cordless drill with a 1-inch spade bit, and start drilling holes in your skull, just to hear you scream. Some of those people have followers, and some of them even run governments. Either you fight back with violence, or you become a victim. Don’t worry though…you won’t have to get your hands dirty; someone will take care of it for you.

                1. So then you promote civilization with bombs? Just because I think the military is just another government program doesn’t mean I’m a hippie commune dwelling pacifist. I’m plenty willing use violence that’s consistent with the Non-Aggression Principle.

                  There are people in the world who kill children from 3,000 miles away and nationalists describe their murders with words like ‘duty’ and ‘honor’. I’m not taken by the Romanticism of murdering people at the behest of a government and calling it anything other than it’s proper name.

                  There hasn’t been a war since at least World War II that was in defense of freedom, and certainly not one that actually increased human liberty with it’s conclusion. The military and all the propaganda and euphemisms that go with it are simply another government program. Though the most directly murderous program of all.

  14. I served my time in the military, 23 years to be exact. And I would not have had to be drafted into World War II any more than I was drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces I served in. I joined on my own free will.

    Your description of what the U.S. did in World War II is exactly correct. It was also the absolutely right thing for this country to do in World War II to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. No apologies whatsoever are due to anyone for our role in World War II.

    In my opinion, we should have declared war in 1939 instead of 1941, so we could have firebombed and nuked more places earlier. The war might have ended earlier had we done that.

    World War II was necessary in every way, but farting around in arm pit places for years on end, and destroying the lives and good health of our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen is stupid. I believe one of our great Generals said something like “There is no substitute for Victory”.

    1. I served my time in the military, 23 years to be exact. And I would not have had to be drafted into World War II any more than I was drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces I served in. I joined on my own free will.

      Your description of what the U.S. did in World War II is exactly correct. It was also the absolutely right thing for this country to do in World War II to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. No apologies whatsoever are due to anyone for our role in World War II.
      […]
      In my opinion, we should have declared war in 1939 instead of 1941, so we could have firebombed and nuked more places earlier.

      Be proud of your service in the government murder squads. And with this post you defend ALL the atrocities committed by allied forces in WW2. From the murder of men women and children with atomic weapons to the murder of women and children in the targeted civilian firebombing of Dresden, there is no single death that is unjustified to you. Every single baby that was agonizingly burnt alive was justified in your mind. That’s what you said.

      You are a murdering sociopath, and as an apologist for the worst crimes imaginable stand proudly among the most despicable human beings that ever lived. You don’t belong in any society, you putrid filth.

      1. Free Society,

        Don’t move from where you are, the ambulance will be there soon. Don’t worry about anything. Everything is going to be OK.

        1. “In my opinion, we should have declared war in 1939 instead of 1941, so we could have firebombed and nuked more places earlier.”

          Yeah, this is pretty fucking crazy, sir.

          1. Is it? Canada went to war with Great Britain immediately in 1939. What exempted us from joining in at the same time? The war might have been over sooner had we gotten in to it sooner, instead of letting the Nazis and the Japanese grab up more real estate.

            1. Is it? Canada went to war with Great Britain immediately in 1939. What exempted us from joining in at the same time?

              We’ll start with the fact that the US wasn’t a British dominion at the time.

              The war wouldn’t have happened at all if those same allied powers hadn’t imposed the treaty of Versailles, and locked the Japanese out of global commerce for daring to compete with the established colonial powers.

              1. The treaty of Versailles wouldn’t have been imposed if Germany hadn’t started the 1st World War, and we wouldn’t have “locked the Japanese out of global commerce” if they hadn’t been busy taking over China and a dozen other Far Eastern Countries. See how that works? Every act is based on some other act or acts, and you can play the blame game going back thousands of years. It is what it is.

                1. The treaty of Versailles wouldn’t have been imposed if Germany hadn’t started the 1st World War,

                  You know some of the stuff they taught you in high school is a pretty low-rent version of history right? How did Germany start the war? Did they assassinate the Archduke? Or did they do the exact same thing ALL of the entente powers did, which was to honor their military alliances when called upon? For their crimes of honoring the same sorts of treaties the Entente were honoring, they had the Treaty of Versailles imposed on them that wrecked their economy to it’s core.

                  and we wouldn’t have “locked the Japanese out of global commerce” if they hadn’t been busy taking over China and a dozen other Far Eastern Countries.

                  They were taking eastern countries to compete with and do the exact thing the US and European powers were all doing in East Asia; colonizing it. The West was embargoing Japan as no one wanted another colonial power with a seat at the table.

                2. Every act is based on some other act or acts, and you can play the blame game going back thousands of years. It is what it is.

                  That’s exactly right! Now if only you would re-read what you wrote here a few hundred times. Every act is based on other acts! The bombing of Pearl Harbor didn’t happen in a vacuum, the Nazis didn’t come to power because the Germans were treated fairly after WW1, 9/11 didn’t happen because some Muslims hated our freedom. The US government is not morally innocent in any of this and in your fantasy you’re vindicating every murderous crime committed in service to these government induced wars.

    2. *In my opinion, we should have declared war in 1939 instead of 1941*

      We couldn’t declare war in 1939, because Josef Stalin’s minions in this country didn’t want us to.

      After June 22, 1941, that all changed, of course.

      1. Your point is correct. That would have been the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939. Well put. Interesting that Canada went to war right away, isn’t it. No delay there in 1939. Bravo for Canada.

        1. I dare say that all of Britain’s overseas dependencies, dominions and colonies were participating at the same time as Britain. What an amazing act of bravery that these colonies were compelled to war along with the rest of the British Empire.

  15. *So when Taliban insurgents attack American forces, it is not terrorism but war?war that the U.S. government started.*

    This is the kind of stupid statement that makes people discount libertarians.

    1. ..and your statement proves that the statist propaganda but keep eating up this “War on Terror”.

    2. “Government murder squads” does it for me, because you know, the world is full of rivers of chocolate, gum-drop skies, rainbows, and unicorns, and if you’ve ever taken up arms and served your country, it’s THEM you were sent to destroy, so the corporations could harvest unicorn horn, turn them into dildos or something, and make a profit….

      1. “Government murder squads” does it for me, because you know, the world is full of rivers of chocolate, gum-drop skies, rainbows, and unicorns, and if you’ve ever taken up

        Sounds like you believe nationalism and political militarism are noble and honorable institutions. That’s even more delusional than the rainbows and gum-drops characterization you put on me. Considering that your delusion results in the legal murder of innocent people I’d say it’s considerably immoral while we’re at it.

        I mean I know the temptation is to dismiss me as some kind of socialist hippie-commune vegan. But really it comes down to me knowing that moral rules apply to all people at all times, with no special exceptions for costumes, and you being blissfully unaware of the universality of moral principles.

        1. You see, there’s where you’re mistaken. There is no “universality of moral principles”, nor is there any such thing as “legal murder”.

          Simple question: An armed gang is attacking and killing your friends and neighbors. Eventually they will attack you, and they will continue to attack until either you are killed, or until you stop them. Is it morally or legally “wrong” to counterattack and kill them before they kill you?

          1. There are no universal moral principles? So murder is only wrong because the government says so? Baby rape is only awful if the baby is American, or what criteria do you use for that one?
            Do our moral obligations to other people not apply to everyone equally? Why not?

            You see, there’s where you’re mistaken. There is no “universality of moral principles”, nor is there any such thing as “legal murder”.

            Are you joking? The Holocaust was legal in Germany as it happens. The bounty placed on the heads of entire Indian tribes was back in the day, perfectly legal. The intentional targeting of civilians in warfare is perfectly legal. Or does it cease to be murder if there is a strategic objective? If so, I guess you wouldn’t mind if your family was slaughtered for some military goal?

          2. Simple question: An armed gang is attacking and killing your friends and neighbors. Eventually they will attack you, and they will continue to attack until either you are killed, or until you stop them. Is it morally or legally “wrong” to counterattack and kill them before they kill you?

            I can really tell how little thought you’ve given about towards your opponent’s position. Of course it’s not wrong to defend yourself. Do you not know the difference between libertarianism and pacifism?

            It’s really this simple; My life, liberty and property, my rights, end where yours begin. That means I don’t have the right to to rob or murder you. But as soon as you’ve violated my rights, you’ve forfeited your own rights to your life, liberty or property, proportional to the aggression.

        2. You guys and your whole “moral equivalency” ideas just crack me up. You’re blind to, and have been sheltered from the realities of the world. You see, in Afghanistan, it’s perfectly “moral” to sell your 12-year-old daughter to your cousin, and then kill her if she objects to being raped by him. It’s perfectly “moral” for the Chief of Police to attend a bacha bazi party, and then take the 10-year-old boy home and ass fuck him while riding him like a donkey. It’s perfectly “moral” to keep your wife locked up in the house, and never allow her to show her face anywhere outside the home, ever, for any reason. It’s perfectly “moral” to marry a 9-year-old, because that’s the only wife you can afford. The very idea that “moral rules apply to all people at all times” is ludicrous. Sometimes you have to hoist the black flag and start slitting throats, because it’s the only MORAL way to survive.

          1. You see, in Afghanistan, it’s perfectly “moral” to sell your 12-year-old daughter to your cousin, and then kill her if she objects to being raped by him. It’s perfectly “moral” for the Chief of Police to attend a bacha bazi party, and then take the 10-year-old boy home and ass fuck him while riding him like a donkey. It’s perfectly “moral” to keep your wife locked up in the house, and never allow her to show her face anywhere outside the home, ever, for any reason. It’s perfectly “moral” to marry a 9-year-old, because that’s the only wife you can afford.

            So the existence of people who possess a logically inconsistent pseudo-morality invalidates the legitimacy of actual, logically consistent moral principles? Care to demonstrate that?

            The very idea that “moral rules apply to all people at all times” is ludicrous. Sometimes you have to hoist the black flag and start slitting throats, because it’s the only MORAL way to survive.

            No one is arguing that thunderbolts from Zeus will strike you if you do bad things. The point is that rape is wrong, no? Is it okay for certain people to rape others? IF so, who is allowed to rape whom? Or could it be possible, since logic seems to dictate that rape is morally wrong for everyone who does it. I know that sounds radical to a guy who says the moral thing to do is slit throats. I don’t blame you personally, your sociopathy stems from your unresolved ignorance.

  16. Saying they’re “not terrorists” misses the point — I don’t think anybody’s hung up on the word “terrorist”. They recognize that these are high-level Taliban commanders who will soon be back in the field orchestrating attacks against American soldiers. Can you imagine if we had released high-ranking Nazi military commanders prior to the end of WWII?

    So when one of these guys orchestrates an ambush against American troops, you can tell the grieving parents to take solace in the fact that he’s not a quote-unquote terrorist.

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