Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bergdahl and the Threat of the Taliban

What an embarrassing week for American journalism or lack thereof.

Just listen to the speculation about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  Fox News really needs to change its slogan from "Fair & Balanced" to  "Make It Up."   Why don't they believe in fact checking? Perhaps they went to the Lara Logan school of journalism.   

Here's a piece for anyone who is actually interested in Bergdahl to review from a few years ago by Rolling Stone written by an actual journalist, Michael Hastings.  

America's Last Prisoner of War

A highly worthwhile paragraph from the article to note:  In what appears to be an unprecedented move, the Pentagon also scrambled to shut down any public discussion of Bowe. Members of Bowe's brigade were required to sign nondisclosure agreements as part of their paperwork to leave Afghanistan. The agreement, according to Capt. Fancey, forbids them to discuss any "personnel recovery" efforts – an obvious reference to Bowe. According to administration sources, both the Pentagon and the White House also pressured major news outlets like The New York Times and the AP to steer clear of mentioning Bowe's name to avoid putting him at further risk. (The White House was afraid hard-line elements could execute him to scuttle peace talks, officials involved in the press negotiations say.) Faced with the wall of official silence, Bob and Jani began to worry that the Pentagon wasn't doing all that it could to get their son back. As Bowe's sister, Sky, wrote in a private e-mail: "I am afraid our government here in D.C. would like nothing better but to sweep PFC Bergdahl under the rug and wash their hands of him."

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As America's networks and newspapers discuss the swap, there's one topic that should be examined:  the Taliban.

Why aren't America's reporters asking their members of Congress basic questions about the threat posed by the Taliban?

How many are there?

What's their budget?  

How many weapons do they have?

What kinds of weapons do they have? 

What's the actual threat posed to the United States?    

Keep in mind, the United States spends more on military than the next ten countries combined.   And keep in mind, the attack that brought down the World Trade Towers didn't come from anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan but from a bunch of guys from Saudi Arabia.    No, we didn't attack Saudi Arabia.   It's a  U.S. ally.  

As the Rolling Stone article reports, Sgt. Bergdahl had lots of complaints about his unit and the U.S. military.  How are those complaints being examined by the U.S. media?   How many of his complaints are legitimate?  Journalists should report on the reality of war, not play cheerleader for government. 

Soldiers in Bergdahl's unit were forced to sign a gag order that prohibited from talking.   How are U.S. journalists questioning gag orders required by the U.S. military?   Journalists should be concerned at getting at the truth, not at the spin or in the case of Fox News, not at the "made up oh my God President Obama is the devil" version of the news. 

Wouldn't it be great to have more journalists and fewer yellers and screamers?

When journalism fails, bad things happen.  So far, most of journalism has been failing Sgt. Bergdahl, his family and the American public. 


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