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July 19, 2009

Taliban Hearts CNN

Bergdahl hostage Afghanistan.jpg

There’s more evidence today Afghanistan is growing larger on the radar screen.

On Thursday, we noted the public impact of a funeral convoy involving British soldiers. On Friday, we looked at the dramatic effect (and rapid increase) in the use of the IED to “level the playing field” with U.S. and NATO forces. Just this morning comes the first use of another weapon of asymmetrical warfare, the Taliban engaging the “battle space” of the media sphere, the military confirming Private Bowe Bergdahl of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, is a Taliban hostage. (Reuters story via NYT here.)

Playing it on “the soft side,” the photo is docile compared to what Western audiences have seen of other hostage videos. (The subtlety, though, is likely more effective, at least at this point, focusing people less on the antagonist than on the war.)

Shown alone drinking tea and eating bread and rice, Bergdahl participates in an interview with someone off screen where he is compelled, if mildly, to urge the U.S. government to bring its troops home. (Missing for about three weeks, I’m not sure about Bergdahl’s “look” but the loose-fitting clothes, shaved head and slight “under beard” make him look less “like one of us” than “one of them.”)

Certainly, it doesn’t take much to turn an image like this into a media-enabled enemy onslaught. Notice how this morning’s CNN report, for example, replays the clips of the hostage ad nauseam, instills breathless drama and urgency and, in a perfunctory way, invites the role of the family into “the situation.”

If there was any thought Afghanistan was going to politically play out in the background, or somehow resist a substantial investment of presidential (along with human and financial) capital, this week spoke vividly to the opposite.

(Slightly edited: 11:15 am PST)

(image: AP)

  • jtfromBC

    no black hood – orange suit – no chains nor shackles
    a paratrooper of the elite airborne service appears as
    a yoga student experiencing the mysteries of the East
    with the color of his blue attire easy on the eyes
    being served with the time honored customary cup of tea
    soon we might see him with a bible, beads and a cross
    how subtle and clever is this psyops presentation
    the Taliban have recofigured the Guantanamo scene

  • lytom

    No confidence and no trust in the empire or the army on the behalf of the pawn.
    Instead of some true change, the headline screams: “US condemns video…”
    It is the case of pot calling the kettle black!
    How insincere! Since July 3, the identity has been kept secret and for the media the word was family has not been notified yet!
    How many is too many to sacrifice?

  • http://www.technologyslice.com.au Tech

    I feel for the families of the soldiers paraded like this on video.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/serr8d Serr8d

    Certainly, it doesn’t take much to turn an image like this into a media-enabled enemy onslaught.

    And who, exactly, do you think the enemy to be? Are you implying that we, Americans, are the enemy here?
    Are you trying to equivocate the minor infractions Americans have made with the actions of the Taliban? What exactly is in your mind here?
    I want this hostage, any and all American hostages, freed, and our enemies, America’s enemies, the Taliban, al Qaeda, whoever, killed. I think what most Americans who are patriots think. If that line of thinking is not centered in your mind then, yes, I do sincerely question your patriotism.

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    Excuse me?
    “hostages”,
    “minor infractions”,
    Those terms evoke a slight disconnect with reality. This man is a prisoner of war, not a hostage. And torture is never a “minor infraction”. But then again, people who are in the business of questioning others patriotism don’t know the meaning of the word, so I’m not surprised.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/serr8d Serr8d

    Squeeze me?

    hos·tage (hstj)
    n.
    1. A person held by one party in a conflict as security that specified terms will be met by the opposing party.

    Everyone knows the Left was hijacked for use against and in opposition to Bush and the War(s) by our enemies. That’s fact, ma’am, and you are one of them.

  • jtfromBC

    It is unlikely this captured soldier will be ever be exchanged, he is far more valuable in confinement as this increases the anxiety and anger of soldiers in the field and citizens at home.
    He will become another ongoing focal point for discussion of US activity in Afghanistan. The captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has been driving Israelis bonkers for the past two years or more, Private Bowe Bergdahl will serve a similar role.
    Military logistics tells us it takes eight support staff to maintain one soldier in the field. Imagine the numbers that will be detailed to locate and free Private Bowe Bergdahl. Given what we know of the Taliban and their fighting prowess I don’t visualize a dramatic rescue or a sniper shoot out like that which confronted the young Somalia pirates.
    Unfortunately I’m not optimistic about his chances but I do wish him the best of luck.

  • Amir Goy

    Can you possibly imagine the media frenzy and the outrage if the video had shown him being waterboarded?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/serr8d Serr8d

    Waterboarded, Amir Goy?
    The Taliban laugh at such minor infractions.

    Officials believe the 8ft by 4ft underground facility uncovered north of Forward Operating Base Keenan, was used to torture local Afghan citizens. Officials say in the blood-soaked chamber, British and Afghan troops found chains used for stringing up prisoners and a pair of shackles along with bamboo canes, the British Ministry of Defense reported.
    British Coldstream Guards were alerted to the chamber with intelligence from Afghan National Army. Officials say troops also found “two Afghan police uniforms — one of which had the crotch ripped out — plus the butt of a Kalashnikov assault rifle and wires carrying full electric power,” the release said.

    No, it’s only in the fevered minds of America’s political left that ‘waterboarding’ is considered heinous torture.
    (It would be funny, though, if they put some women’s undies on his head, dont’cha think? Would that give you the night chills, Amir?)

  • jtfromBC

    To those who may believe or allude to the concept of My Country Right Or Wrong ;
    Interesting phrase. Synonymous with gung-ho, chauvinistic nationalism. The Quotations section of Microsoft’s Bookshelf gives the background of the phrase and a hint of the debate it has aroused:
    “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.” Naval commander Stephen Decatur originated the phrase in a toast given at an April 1816 banquet in Norfolk, Virginia, to celebrate his victory over the Barbary pirates. (The action in Algeria also gave the U.S. Marine Corps anthem its “to the shores of Tripoli” phrase, saluting their first renowned military action.)
    Fifty-five years later, Carl Schurz, German-born U.S. general and U.S. senator, clarified the concept, “Our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right.” British author, G. K. Chesterton would probably have agreed with Schurz, since he wrote in 1901, “‘My country, right or wrong’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’”
    http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/jun02/voice.htm

  • Amir Goy

    Methinks you missed my point. It seems that it is ok for ‘our side’ to waterboard people, but heaven forbid if anyone else does it to one of OUR soldiers. I somehow doubt that all the talking heads would hold their tongues regardless of the obvious hypocrisy that would be on display.

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    Yeah, sure, in surreal land perhaps. In the real world, not so much. I don’t know which dictionary you pull that definition from, but you forgot one small detail, this is a soldier, a man in uniform, which makes him a prisoner of war, not just a hostage. Hostages imply civilians, not military personnel.
    Read the Geneva Conventions.
    As for what I am?
    I’m opposed to the war in Iraq, not the war in Afghanistan, you know the war that Bush abandoned so he could fulfill his Odepius fantasy in Iraq?
    You on the other hand are nothing but a tribalist- Us=Good, Them=Bad without a wit of analysis or understanding. I don’t know who this “Everyone” is, but I bet you it is not who you think it is.

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    No way you can reason with someone who thinks “torture” is a minor thing. That is bully talk, and reason or facts have nothing to do with it.

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    Exactly.

  • http://ruinsofempire.blogspot.com/ Rafael

    Also, the Stab in the Back myth is getting oh so old.

  • jtfromBC

    another classic -
    Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
    Boswell tells us that Samuel Johnson made this famous pronouncement that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel on the evening of April 7, 1775. He doesn’t provide any context for how the remark arose, so we don’t really know for sure what was on Johnson’s mind at the time.
    However, Boswell assures us that Johnson was not indicting patriotism in general, only false patriotism.
    http://www.samueljohnson.com/refuge.html

  • jtfromBC

    thanks for mentioning SITB, the history of this statement is truly fascinating :
    Stabbed in the back! The past and future of a right-wing myth
    http://www.harpers.org/archive/2006/06/0081080

  • yg

    the more serr8d beats his chest about how he’s a better american than the rest of us “traitors” only highlights the mystery as to why he failed to sign up to fight in iraq. maybe he felt it his duty to stay at home and patrol the internets.

  • yg

    what is being objected to, … ……., is the manner in which how cnn is enabling taliban propaganda.

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