NYT Goes After Bergdahl's 'Raggedy' Unit Again, This Time in a Sunday Page A1 Report

On Thursday, the editorial board at the New York Times, reacting to the growing firestorm over the release of five hardened terrorists from Gitmo in return for the Army's Bowe Bergdahl, went after Bergdahl's "army unit’s lack of security and discipline." It then incredibly claimed that a classified army report described in a separate Times dispatch that day suggested that those alleged conditions were "as much to blame for the disappearance" of Bergdahl as ... well, the sloppy editorial didn't specifically say.

On Sunday, two Times reporters continued the offensive against Bowe Bergdahl's platoon and its members, apparently wanting readers to believe that the unit's occasionally "raggedy" attire and alleged poor leadership somehow explain Bergdahl's "disappearance."


Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Eric Schmitt, while acknowledging that platoon medic Josh Cornelison "and another soldier who spoke on the record have been discussing Sergeant Bergdahl widely in the news media," failed to reference anything specific they have said, and ignored an appearance by six of them on Megyn Kelly's Fox News program on Thursday. Perhaps that's because they knew that their editorial board had contended on Thursday that such media appearances were "arranged" by "Republican operatives," thereby somehow tainting everything the soldiers have said. Excerpts from the Times pair's report follow (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

Bergdahl Was in Unit Known for Its Troubles

The platoon was, an American military official would assert years later, “raggedy.”

On their tiny, remote base, in a restive sector of eastern Afghanistan at an increasingly violent time of the war, they were known to wear bandannas and cutoff T-shirts. Their crude observation post was inadequately secured, a military review later found. Their first platoon leader, and then their first platoon sergeant, were replaced relatively early in the deployment because of problems. [1]

... In the years since Sergeant Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban, and even more since his release last week in a contentious prisoner exchange for five Taliban fighters, much has been written suggesting that he was a misfit soldier in something of a misfit platoon that stumbled through its first months in Afghanistan and might have made it too easy for him to walk away, as his fellow soldiers say he did. [2]

Indeed, an internal Army investigation into the episode concluded that the platoon suffered from lapses in discipline and security in the period before Sergeant Bergdahl — a private first class at the time who was promoted while in captivity — disappeared into Paktika Province, two officials briefed on the report said.

But their problems in many ways reflected those of the Pentagon’s strategy writ large across Afghanistan at that moment of the war. The platoon was sent to a remote location with too few troops to seriously confront an increasingly aggressive insurgency, [3] which controlled many villages in the region.

... As they settled into their wartime routines in the spring of 2009, the soldiers of Second Platoon knew that they controlled little more than what they could survey from their outposts, several members of the platoon said.

... To many of those soldiers, Sergeant Bergdahl was viewed as standoffish or eccentric, smoking a pipe instead of spitting tobacco, as so many soldiers do, and reading voraciously when others napped or watched videos. But he was not isolated from his platoon mates, some said. And while he was, like other soldiers in the platoon, often disappointed or confused by their mission in Paktika, some of his peers also said that Sergeant Bergdahl seemed enthusiastic about fighting, particularly after the platoon was ambushed several weeks before his disappearance.

... they vehemently disputed reports that implied he had seen a vehicle from his unit run over an Afghan child, which Sergeant Bergdahl had apparently told his parents in an email before his disappearance. That never happened, his fellow soldiers said.

... “He said, ‘What would it look like if I got lost in the mountains?’ ” Mr. (fellow platoon member Gerald) Sutton recalled him saying. “ ‘Do you think I could make it to China or India on foot?’ I genuinely thought he was just kidding.” [4]

Notes:

[1] — If "leadership" was the problem, why didn't everybody "disappear"? Why is it that only Bergdahl, as the Times pair described it later, "slipped off the base"?

[2] — So, as the New York Times morphs into The Onion, it might be the platoon's fault that they "made it too easy for him to walk away." Again, if it was so dysfunctional, why didn't everyone "walk away"? Oh, that's right, I forgot: Everyone by Bergdahl apparenty remembered that trifling little thing called an oath, in which they swore to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;" and to "obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

[3] — This is getting mighty close to saying that the unit's military and civilian leadership, up to and including President Barack Obama, didn't give the unit what it needed to prosecute the war, thereby unnecessarily endangering them. (As noted in the report, no soldiers in the platoon died before Bergdahl's "disappearance.") Veterans in the theater insist that six soldiers in the platoon's battalion died as a result of efforts to retrieve Bergdahl after his "disappearance." Michelle Malkin has made a compelling case that the number is really eight.

[4] — It seems that the Times wants readers to believe that Sutton should have taken Bergdahl seriously. No way. Getting to India from their encampment would have been a journey of well over 300 miles and would have required crossing all of Pakistan. China's even further away.

For the record, on Sunday, medic Cornelison told Fox News Sunday that Bergdahl deserted:

A member of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s platoon in Afghanistan said Sunday the former Taliban prisoner deserted his post before being captured and fired back against Obama administration arguments that only Bergdahl knows exactly what happened.

“After Bowe Bergdahl purposely and willfully walked away, every single mission was tilted toward finding him,” platoon medic Joshua Cornelison told “Fox News Sunday.” “We were there. This isn’t some second- or third-hand account.”

On Thursday, i.e., well before the Times's Page A1 story, Fox News's Megyn Kelly interviewed six members of Bergdahl's platoon: Evan Buetow, Cody Full, Matt Verkant, Justin Gerleve, Cornelison, and Sutton. Kelly asked for a show of hands:

MegynKellyAndBergdahlPlatoon060514

KELLY: Raise your hand if you think he deserted. (After all raised their hands) Wow.

Raise your hand if you have some question about whether he deserted. (After no one raised their hand) Wow.

Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Eric Schmitt didn't relay anything about the Kelly interview in their report. Oh, I forgot. Nothing said on Fox — even eyewitness testimony — counts in the far-left fever swamp.

"All the news that fits" is all that gets in the Times.

One final point (thanks to NewsBusters commenter "Rex" for raising this in the previous post) — how did the Times get its hand on a report from an administration which has gone full-bore after opponents who have gotten their hands on far less, unless the administration wanted them to have it?

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.