In a deal brokered by Qatar, the United States agreed to release five Taliban leaders from Guantánamo Bay in return for winning Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom. Bergdahl is now being treated at an American military hospital in Germany and will return to the United States at a later date. The Taliban leaders be forced to remain in Qatar for one year. The deal has been controversial. Some of Bergdahl’s former soldiers say he should face a court-martial for desertion. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are accusing President Obama of failing to properly give Congress advanced warning of the Guantánamo prisoner transfers, and of endangering U.S. troops worldwide by incentivising their capture. We get reaction from retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who resigned as the former chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay in 2007.
According to a 2012 profile in Rolling Stone magazine by the late reporter Michael Hastings, the newly freed U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl joined the Army in 2008 after he first tried to enlist with the French Foreign Legion, but was rejected. He was deployed to Afghanistan just after President Obama ordered the first troop surge in the Spring of 2009. Bergdahl reportedly told a soldier in his unit, "If this deployment is lame … I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Pakistan." And on June 30, 2009, he may have done just that, leaving the base with just a knife and water, along with a digital camera and his diary. Within 24 hours, he was captured. We are joined by Sean Smith, an award-winning photographer and filmmaker for The Guardian who met Bowe Bergdahl while embedded with his unit in Afghanistan. Smith also profiled Bowe’s father, Bob Bergdahl, in the video we aired in the previous segment.
Bowe Bergdahl, the last known American prisoner of war in Afghanistan, has been freed in a prison swap with the Taliban five years after his capture. Bergdahl was captured after reportedly walking off his base unarmed. He was said to have left a note claiming he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan, and was leaving to start a new life. Bergdahl’s parents, Bob and Jani, had first revealed their son was the subject of prisoner swap negotiations three years ago when U.S.-Taliban talks broke down. In the lead-up to his son’s release, Bob Bergdahl spoke to The Guardian’s Sean Smith in an exclusive interview filmed around the Idaho countryside where the family lives. "I don’t think anybody can relate to the prisoners in Guantánamo more than our family, because it’s the same thing," Bob Bergdahl told Smith. "How could we have such a high standard of judicial process for horrible war criminals [during World War II] ... and yet now we can go for 10-11 years without even having judicial process? It’s just wrong."
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Richard Clarke, the nation’s former top counterterrorism official, tells Democracy Now! he believes President George W. Bush is guilty of war crimes for launching the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Clarke served as national coordinator for security and counterterrorism during Bush’s first year in office. He resigned in 2003 following the Iraq invasion and later made headlines by accusing Bush officials of ignoring pre-9/11 warnings about an imminent attack by al-Qaeda. "I think things that they authorized probably fall within the area of war crimes," Clarke says. "Whether that would be productive or not, I think, is a discussion we could all have. But we have established procedures now with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where people who take actions as serving presidents or prime ministers of countries have been indicted and have been tried. So the precedent is there to do that sort of thing. And I think we need to ask ourselves whether or not it would be useful to do that in the case of members of the Bush administration. It’s clear that things that the Bush administration did — in my mind, at least — were war crimes."
Richard Clarke served as the nation’s top counterterrorism official under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush before resigning in 2003 in protest of the Iraq War. A year before the Sept. 11 attacks, Clarke pushed for the Air Force to begin arming drones as part of the U.S. effort to hunt down Osama bin Laden. According to Clarke, the CIA and the Pentagon initially opposed the mission. Then Sept. 11 happened. Two months later, on November 12, 2001, Mohammed Atef, the head of al-Qaeda’s military forces, became the first person killed by a Predator drone. According to the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, U.S. drones have since killed at least 2,600 people in Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Clarke has just written a novel about drone warfare called, "Sting of the Drone." We talk to Clarke about the book and his concerns about President Obama’s escalation of the drone war. "I think the [drone] program got out of hand," Clarke says. "The excessive secrecy is as counterproductive as some of the strikes are."
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