POL 103: Benghazi Project: Securing Benghazi Podcast

Part I

Segment 1: What happened?

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the topic of Benghazi will be introduced. The course of what happened is very important, and many people will be ready to jump on any boat to wound Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Obama administration, which means they most likely won’t know the facts—or as many facts as they should. Coming into the research for Securing Benghazi, I only knew that Benghazi was a massive explosion in Libya that everyone blamed Hillary Clinton for. I knew that an important man was killed, but I had no idea who he was or what he did. I had no idea why he was even there. In order to understand the situation at hand, it is vastly important to understand, or at least be aware of, what happened in Benghazi.

For reference, the final investigation report of the Benghazi attack is a useful source, but like a fair share of people, I’m not so sure the government didn’t either a) try to cover their tracks or b) blame everything on Clinton simply because who she is and who she was working with at the time. Instead, however, a timeline of Benghazi was posted in the Washington Post by writer Anup Kaphle. This was a fairly unbiased, standard play-by-play of what happened that night in Benghazi, the following day, and an update the month following with the progress of the investigation. In a complex and chaotic situation like the Benghazi attack, it’s so easy to forget the very basics of what happened. Kaphle’s timeline of the night helps ground the investigation into what happened on the night of September 11, 2012.

In Kaphle’s timeline, he states that at approximately 9:40p.m., unidentified gunmen began to open fire on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The security team of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens are separated from him. There’s a two-hour fight before security can begin to repel the attackers. At 10:30p.m., the U.S. Ambassador and the Department information management office Sean Smith hid in a main building in the compound. The militants set the building aflame. In the timeline, the AP news alert reporting at least one death in the Benghazi attack is stated to have been released at 1:45a.m. The timeline then moves back to the scene at hand. Within three hours, Glen Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods, former Navy SEALs, are killed. Within minutes of that, it’s documented that Clinton made a statement, condemning the acts carried out that night, saying, “There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

The segment will break down each section of Kaphle’s timeline as well as add in portions from the Final Report of the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012

Terrorist Attack in Benghazi from the House of Representative’s investigation into the attack. This will help to provide a broad image of what happened in Benghazi, adding details that the public may not be completely aware of, in order to see the full picture.

 

Gowdy, Trey, et al. “Final Report of the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012Terrorist Attack in Benghazi.” U.S. Government Publishing Office, December 7 2016, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-114hrpt848/pdf/CRPT-114hrpt848.pdf

 

Kaphle, Anup. “Timeline: How the Benghazi Attacks Played Out.” The Washington Post, 14 June 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/timeline-how-the-benghazi-attack-played-out/2014/06/17/a5c34e90-f62c-11e3-a3a5-42be35962a52_story.html?utm_term=.a43fbc32b7d3.

 

Segment 2: Warning

 

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the discussion of what was happening in Benghazi, Libya pre-attack will be brought to the surface. Naturally, the United States knew a civil war was going on in Libya. They knew sending a U.S. ambassador over during that time would be risky, but things weren’t being done correctly in the government compound; in this case, they knew there were security issues in the complex. When nothing was being done about it, the U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens decided it was time for him to go over and figure out what was going on in the situation in Libya.

CNN correspondent Arwa Damon looked into what happened in Libya the days before the attack on the compound. According to Jamal Mabrouk, a member of the February 17th brigade, informed CNN that there were concerns for both the economy and security. He even went so far as to warn the United States diplomats in the town. He even pointed out that the current situation in Libya wasn’t good for business, and it wasn’t good for the diplomats to be there. According to Mabrouk, this wasn’t the first time he had tried to warn people about the disastrous environment of Libya; he knew armed jihadists were rising in numbers in the Benghazi area, and attempted to warn as many foreigners as he could. Of course, many of them knew some of the situation, so the warnings were ignored. As far as Ambassador Stevens was concerned, he was there on a mission, and he was to complete that mission, particularly because it revolved around security issues on the compound that weren’t being acknowledged by various, higher-up people than him, like Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was the Secretary of State at the time. Clinton’s office was sent requests to help fix the security issues, and it’s unsure what happened there, but Ambassador Stevens took matters in his own hands by going over to Benghazi to investigate the situation.

According to one of the security guards, the attack on the compound came from three different directions, making it nearly impossible to find the culprit. According to Damon’s article, there was a safe-house affiliated with the February 17th Brigade—a militia that had relations with the government without being part of its military. Upon the Brigade inquiring if the Americans needed help, they were declined, saying that the situation was “under control.” Clearly, that wasn’t the case. However, if the Brigade was wanting to help the United States in such a war state, why didn’t they offer the safe-house to Ambassador Stevens? Of course, even if they had, Stevens’s security detail probably would have insisted that they were fine and knew how to do their jobs. That begs the question: if they knew how to do their jobs and everything was “under control,” then why did they leave the Ambassador during the attack? Why did they leave him on his own? Maybe they didn’t anticipate the attack being quite as severe as it was. In any case, the lead up to the attack seemed as if there could have potentially been other security details that could have been carried out, but weren’t. This isn’t saying that they deserved to get attacked, but they greatly underestimated the acts of the jihadists, especially during the Libyan Civil War.

 

Damon, Arwa. “More Details Emerge on U.S. Ambassador’s Last Moments.” CNN, Cable News Network, 17 Sept. 2012, edition.cnn.com/2012/09/15/world/meast/libya-diplomats-warning/index.html.

 

Segment 3: Security: Doing Their Job

 

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the matter of security will be discussed. In previous segments, security is mentioned quite often, being described or referenced as the reason for U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s trip to Benghazi as well as the reasoning or countering of the accusations against former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s guilt in the matter, which seems to be all anyone ever wants to tie her to anymore.

In the first chapter of Garrett Savitt’s The Attack in Benghazi, Libya, Savitt documents an Accountability Review Board for Benghazi’s review to examine the facts and situations involved in the attack. On the first page, it mentions that over the span of September 11, 2012 to September 12, 2012, there were attacks involving “arson, small-arms and machine-gun fire, and use of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), grenades and mortars…” Needless to say, this was a well-planned, high-stake attack. Although the attackers probably didn’t know that the U.S. Ambassador was there, it does appear that they were ready for anything. They meant business, and they were ready to kill, and they did.

One aspect of this that continues to not make sense to me is that the security detail for U.S. Ambassador Stevens left him alone to go hold off the attackers. They left him alone during an attack. On page 12 of Savitt’s document, it states that “the Board recognizes that poor performance does not ordinarily constitute a breach of duty that would serve as a basis for disciplinary action but is instead addressed through the performance management system.” Essentially, the security men were doing their jobs. In their situation of chaos, they did what they thought was best in order to protect the Ambassador. Just because their plan didn’t work out doesn’t mean they weren’t doing their jobs. According to the Board, even if they did a poor job, the security detail still did their job. In the following section, it says, “The Board was humbled by the courage and integrity shown by those on the ground in Benghazi and Tripoli, in particular the DS agents and Annex team who defended their colleagues…” Clearly, the men were doing their jobs to protect those in the Annex. This is probably why the two former Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, who were CIA operatives at the time, lost their lives during the attack—they were doing their jobs.

Even if there were issues with security prior to the attack, it is clear that during the attack, the situation was being handled as best it could be. The men weren’t anticipating an attack, especially one of that magnitude, but they were ready for it, if they had to be, and it’s good they were. Although many men, Americans and Libyans, died, there had been efforts to save their lives during the attack. It may not have been a “poor performance,” but it wasn’t the greatest operation in military history. It clearly wasn’t, because four Americans died as a result of the attack.

Savitt, Garrett. The Attack in Benghazi, Libya. Nova Science Publishers, Inc, 2013. Foreign Policy of the United States. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1423369&site=eds-live.

 

Segment 4: What else was going on?

 

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the discussion will focus on what else was happening at the time of the Benghazi attack of 2012. At the time of the attack, there was a civil war going on in Libya. The uprising began in February of 2011, which obviously had a lot of buildup in the fight. The whole region was having uprisings, but this was the start of the Benghazi uprising. Naturally, as in most civil wars, the government began to use force on civilians and arresting the peaceful protestors. The uprising was against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. As the rebellion continued in revolt of his government’s arrests, his officers began executing prisoners in their custody. Throughout this ordeal, many civilians went missing. The number of missing and dead civilians is unclear. Missing persons in the conflict was one of its most problematic aspects.

Another problem in Libya at the time was the detention facilities. A vast number of local security forces in various cities across Libya created and sustained their own detention facilities. This made having a unified civilian command difficult.

But during the civil war, missing persons didn’t only consist of civilians. There were bodies of Gaddafi’s supporters found outside a hotel, where rebel forces were based.

During the war, countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates supported the anti-Gaddafi rebellion. These countries, as well as the body of the European Union, had a major stake in seeing the Libyan government’s respect towards human rights and the dictated laws. After 42 years of a one-family rule, the country had to figure out how to rule a country with a government, not a one-family system. This was one of the challenges that Libya faced amongst its civil war.

From February to August, Gaddafi forces arrested thousands of people, which mainly include anti-government protesters, suspected government critics, and people who have given information to international media and human rights organizations—essentially anyone who spoke out against the government or let anyone outside the country know about it. Many of those arrested were civilians, who were doctors, journalists, and simply people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many of those released from prison during or after the war reported that there was frequent torture in the facilities—and some even died from the abuse they suffered in the prisons or the lack of medical care they needed in order to survive. On top of the other issues during the time, there were also gang rape and sexual assault of both men and women by Gaddafi’s forces, including some in custody. With all that in mind, it’s safe to assume that the situations were so foul, it would be fairly easy for people with injuries and little to no proper medical care to survive.

This has shown a small glimpse of what happened during the uprising against Gaddafi’s rule. The people were looking for change, yet continued to be oppressed. As mentioned in Segment 2 Warning, the conditions weren’t safe, and everyone knew it. Although the annex was targeted, the men there were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, like many of the arrested Libyan civilians.

 

“World Report 2012: Rights Trends in World Report 2012: Libya.” Human Rights Watch, 22 Jan. 2012, www.hrw.org/world-report/2012/country-chapters/libya.

 

Segment 5: Post-Attack: What do we do now?

 

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the international playing field in aid and assessing the area after the fact. The United States’ often views the Middle East as a terroristic zone; it’s become a part of the mentality. The government knew that there was a Libyan Civil War taking place, which is why they were stationed there, yet it seems like after the attack in Benghazi, there’s been an overwhelming gloom surrounding the topic of the area. Republicans across the United States seem to want to pin all the blame on Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time, and President Obama. In his piece Remember Benghazi? Eric Alterman begs the question, “Is it the president of the United States or even the secretary of state who determines the security arrangements for our far-flung embassies and consulates?” He then provides a report of New York Times correspondent David Kirkpatrick’s research into what happened in Benghazi to provide the answer. Kirpatrick found evidence to discredit the majority of claims that Republicans have made against Obama and Clinton. A narrative placing the blame on Al Qaeda for carefully planning and executing the attack surfaced—something that could in no way be at the fault of the former Secretary of State and President.

From Alterman’s piece, it is fair to say that the majority of news sources through the media have Republican views. What does this mean for the country? Well, it makes quite a struggle to get the government and citizens okay with helping the country with a continuing civil war. According to Michael W. Doyle, “Other countries, including Russia and China, were deeply influenced by the demands for action from the developing world, and even more by defection of Libya’s ministers of the interior and of justice and especially of Libya’s two leading diplomats at the UN, who denounced the regime’s killing of innocent demonstrators and called for intervention.” Of course, the diplomats were skeptical of this because of rivalries on the ground in Libya. In March of 2011, the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates shared that there was a lack of U.S. interest in Libya, warning against action. Doyle argues that the lack of U.S. aid in Libya have resulted in what can now be seen in Syria. The worry for the sovereignty of the nations has surfaced, and no one wants to touch the civil war-ridden region.

In his piece Assessing (in)Security After the Arab Spring: The Case of Libya, Brian McQuinn argues that the transition in Libya is “contested by an increasingly complex and polarized set of political and military actors.” He goes to say that the local extremist groups are essentially fueled by this deadlock caused by complexity, and are taking advantage of the weak security system. It seems like that could potentially be one of the reasons the Annex was so easily attacked. The support of NATO members says that Libya’s security sector is vital to the transition of the state’s success. Without a strong security system, the civil war will not be resolved and the aid of other countries will not be given. The nation needed to stabilize before anything could be done…but nothing could stabilize amidst the civil war, leaving the situation at a standstill.

 

Alterman, Eric. “Remember ‘Benghazi’?.” Nation, vol. 298, no. 4, 27 Jan. 2014, pp. 6-8. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=poh&AN=93601498&site=ehost-live.

 

McQuinn, Brian. “Assessing (in)Security After the Arab Spring: The Case of Libya.” PS, Political Science & Politics, vol. 46, no. 4, 2013, pp. 716-720, Political Science Database, http://0-search.proquest.com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/docview/1437643789?accountid=8381, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1049096513001170.

 

Segment 6: What’s being done to help?

 

In this segment of Securing Benghazi, the podcast is taking a turn. Post-Benghazi will be discussed as well as what can be taken away from the situation. A section of the Foreign Service Journal entitled Learning from Benghazi breaks down the 24 key recommendations that the Obama administration swore to implement after the Benghazi attack in 2012. These 24 recommendations were spelled out in the Accountability Review Board’s report on Benghazi, which was mentioned in segment three of the podcast, Security: Doing Their Job. The whole list of recommendations is, essentially, based off of all the mistakes made during the attack and how they could learn from them. The very first recommendation on the list requires the Department of State to “strengthen security forces for personal and platforms beyond traditional reliance on host government security support in high-risk, high-threat posts. The department should urgently review the proper balance between acceptable risk and expected outcomes in high-risk, high-threat areas.” This validates that there was an issue with security in Benghazi. The list breaks down department regulations in an attempt to prevent a similar attack from occurring. On October 16, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed her responsibility for the failure in security at the US consulate in Benghazi. She also said, “What we had to do in the state department was keep focused not on why something happened – that was for the intelligence community to determine – but what was happening and what could happen.” In this visit, Clinton acknowledged the state department’s misplaced focus and intent to shift to better focus on the situation at hand. This was another lesson learned from the 2012 Benghazi attack. Although the attack of the consulate happened in Benghazi, Libya, no one protested against the United States for “allowing” an allegedly profane video that was set to be uploaded online. The only demonstration that the state of Libya was against was the attack on the consulate by the radical Islamists that killed Ambassador Stevens. It wasn’t the Libyan people who were to be seen as the “enemy,” but the terrorist groups.

In Spencer Zifcak’s The Responsibility to Protect After Libya and Syria, the post-Libyan war is discussed. Zifcak writes, “…the strength of feeling on the Security Council in favour of intervention to protect Libyan civilians outweighed the profound reservations of members who remained committed to the principle of nonintervention in Libya’s sovereign affairs.” The members of the Security Council decided to intervene, acknowledging that the civilian’s lives were more valuable than the members who didn’t want to interfere with another state’s sovereign issues, which tends to be a common stance.

The situation in Benghazi was focused on security. In every aspect of what happened, security can be brought up to prove a flaw in what happened. Although many of these security aspects were learned from after the attack, they still play a vital role in the Benghazi attack. The 2012 Benghazi attack happened because of a flaw in the security system, but there was so much to be learned from it. Hopefully, a situation as vast as the one in Benghazi can be prevented in the future.

 

“Learning from Benghazi.” Foreign Service Journal, vol. 90, no. 2, Feb. 2013, pp. 12-15. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=poh&AN=86925089&site=ehost-live.

 

Totten, Michael J. “No Exit: Why the US Can’t Leave the Middle East.” World Affairs, vol. 176,

  1. 4, Nov/Dec2013, pp. 8-14. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=fth&AN=91834878&site=eds-live.

Zifcak, Spencer. The Responsibility to Protect After Libya and Syria. (2012). Melbourne Journal of International Law; Melbourne. Vol. 13, Issue 1; 59-93. https://0-search-proquest-com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/docview/1289021182/abstract/A87A627A5B5E4576PQ/37?accountid=8381

 

Part II

 

Libya visit - PM addresses crowd in Benghazi

“Libya visit – PM addresses crowd in Benghazi”by UK Prime Minister is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Part III

 

Reflection

 

This class has changed my view on world affairs by showing me how in-depth the processes and committees are to create policies, give aid, bring criminals to justice etc. Even through the Serial podcast, there was a certain depth of the power chain that really came into question. My understanding of cultures hasn’t really changed with the assignments throughout the semester; being raised in a very cultural environment and being constantly exposed to various cultures, I had a lot of cultural context and considerations coming into the class. The class did, however, remind me why culture is so important to world politics, which I think is something often forgotten. From this class, I’ve learned quite a bit about global events, and I feel as if I’m much more knowledgeable about them from the Serial podcast and readings we’ve done in class, as well as this very project.

After this course, I definitely feel much better about researching and pulling evidence from variety of credible sources. Going into this project, I wasn’t very confident of it, but that’s definitely changed over the course of the semester and the project. As a result of this course, I don’t know if I feel more engaged in global affairs, but I do feel more empathetic to global affairs and the people who work on them (or don’t). I know more than I did before this course, as we were greatly exposed to global affairs for class.

Context Statement

This is a post from the Fall of my sophomore year at Agnes Scott; it was the final project for my Introduction to Political Science course. This was a massive project for me and it’s something I can really see my growth from. Since then, I’ve edited a little bit because I didn’t like the Youtube video I put on it. I found a photo that’s legally able to use and have listed the proper copyrights associated with the photo.

Response to Episode 11 of Serial 2

From Episode 1 to Episode 11 of Serial 2, there was a lot to learn about Bowe Bergdahl. There’s a lot of details that have been revealed about Bergdahl and the men he was working under and with. There were various sides to the story and different beliefs and opinions involved. There were families involved in the chaos of the search for Bergdahl, which is something that I hadn’t thought about prior to the podcast.

Bergdahl caused the DUSTWUN to get the attention of the leaders in the military, the superiors to his superiors. In one of the episodes, this was defended; Bergdahl and his platoon were on a mission, stuck for a long time, and upon returning, their superior only cared about their appearance. He didn’t care if they lost any men or if anyone was injured—he didn’t care about the well-being of the platoon he was put in charge of leading. By doing so, he put his men in greater danger. Perhaps, in more grave danger than what Bergdahl had done with his DUSTWUN. Although all of the platoons had to search for him, putting their lives in danger, it was an indirect effect of Bergdahl’s leaving of his station. His superior’s lack of good leadership was a direct cause of Bergdahl’s leaving of his platoon, which could mean he is the reason so many men died in searching for Bergdahl, because he was the reason Bergdahl left his post. Bergdahl felt lie he had no other option, so he left his post.

Bergdah;’s proof of life video doesn’t change the way I think about his case. What I don’t understand is why he told them so much about the military, about what they were doing overseas, but I don’t know what was scripted. Many of the answers, like Obama’s intentions in Afghanistan, can’t really be answered by Bergdahl, but it makes sense that he gave them an answer, told them what they wanted to hear. He may have believed that being over there was a waste, but it probably helped him that he said it to them. In the video, Bergdahl doesn’t say he left his post. He said he was “lagging behind a patrol,” which everyone within the military who were searching for him knew it was a lie. The typical citizens who saw the video, however, don’t know that it was a lie. He also most likely had to say it until he got the opportunity to speak with superiors and tell them what really happened; in admitting to leaving his post, it would have been incriminating himself, and he probably anticipated that they wouldn’t want to search for him if they knew the truth. There are a lot of probabilities, but Bergdahl seemed to be a smart man, according to his platoon he was a unique and excellent soldier. In his video, he even mentioned that you can’t judge something before you understand it; he was speaking of Islam, but I think the same could go for Bergdahl. I stand with my belief that no one should judge him unless they understand him. Although his actions put his fellow men at risk, in his mind, he was looking out for his and their best interests.

According to one of the men Bergdahl was with in the Coast Guard when he had his “panic attack,” he couldn’t believe Bergdahl was allowed in the Army, a much more dangerous branch of the military. He couldn’t handle the Coast Guard, so why the Army? But Bergdahl wanted to fight on land. If there’s anything that Bergdahl’s case has solidified, it’s that the Army needs to thoroughly screen their men and acknowledge everything—no part of their medical history or examination should be overridden. Everything should be in consideration, because if something were to go wrong, it’s on the Army. If Bergdahl had been thoroughly looked into, he may not have been in Afghanistan in the first place, and the DUSTWUN would never have been called into effect.

The search for Bergdahl was attached to many missions overseas. People died and were injured, but I don’t think that should be put on Bergdahl. When it comes down to it, there were other ways in which he could have reached out to higher superiors, but it makes sense that he didn’t feel like they would listen. Why would they have taken his word over his superior’s? For that, I empathize with Bergdahl. At the end of the day, he was still taken by the very enemy they were sent there to defeat, so maybe Bergdahl’s capture could have benefited that by leading them to the Taliban. The whole story has so many positive and negative possibilities. Although there’s so much made known through the Serial 2 podcast, there still could be more that could be understood. Because of that, my views on Bergdahl’s case haven’t changed, because his side of the story hadn’t changed. It caused a lot of issues, but I can understand where he was coming from. He did end up being a prisoner of war for his actions, and I think that was paying the price for leaving his post. Any other punishment would simply be unjust, because he still is a U.S. soldier, doing his best to not only protect the country but to look out for his fellow men who were doing so.

Response to Episode 10 of Serial 2

National and international politics greatly influenced Bergdahl’s case. The Taliban didn’t want peace talks, Pakistan wanted peace talks but continued to stay out of the situation, and the United States sat with their hands tied, not signing anything or talking peace with anyone. There were various other situations going on with Afghanistan, too, at the time Bergdahl’s case became relevant when it was announced he was going to return home after spending five years in captivity by the Taliban. There were many factors, political gains, to Bergdahl’s release, in exchange for prisoners from Guantanamo. Three of the men in Gitmo were released, but one had died while exercising. This is an important international relations step, and it brings up so many questions as to what the United States is willing to risk on one man.

The United States wouldn’t give some prisoners amnesty, refusing to give amnesty to and negotiating with terrorists, like the Taliban. The United States is known for searching for and finding their men, not dealing with terrorists. This makes the prisoner exchange for Bergdahl incredibly unique and extremely unusual. The United States doesn’t want to be known for working with terrorists, for giving them easy ways out, so they usually didn’t. Why this man? Why this soldier that had abandoned his stationed position in Afghanistan? Peace talks and negotiations were already impossible; the Taliban were told not to call their office “Islamic Emirates,” but they did anyway with a sign and a flag. The flag was removed immediately and the sign was taken down later the next day because a U.S. personnel went in to ensure it was taken down. This destroyed all the previous talks. If they couldn’t even follow an agreement to name an office, why would they follow through on an exchange mission? And after being disrespected in such a way, why would the United States agree to exchange their prisoners? It just doesn’t make any sense.

At the time of the sign ordeal, Bergdahl had been held captive for four years. When negotiations stopped, Bergdahl still had that following year in captivity before the government would finally agree to a trade with the Taliban. For three of their men, the United States only received Bergdahl back. It seems like a heavy price to pay, extraordinary measures that sound borderline insane. It got to a point where the Taliban simply said an exchange would be fine, still refusing peace talks, when the United States was ready. The United States was about to start withdrawing troops, so their window of opportunity to get Bergdahl back was withering. The United States’s hands were tied, but it doesn’t make sense why a man that left his post, a man that was disliked by so many U.S. military personnel, would be worthy of an exchange of that magnitude, or even an exchange at all.

What is interesting is that Bergdahl was seen as a soldier with “honor and distinction,” according to the White House administration, but everyone else thought it wasn’t right to speak so highly of him. The United States didn’t want to leave a man behind, so maybe that made it easier for them to decide that they wanted to make an exchange deal with the Taliban; at the end of the day, he was an American soldier who they didn’t want to die in captivity…but it seems like an unfair exchange: the Taliban was getting weary with Bergdahl’s captivity. Predient Obama had wanted to close Guantanamo, but it wasn’t as serious as the Taliban growing tired of holding their prisoner captive. Had they waited and not made the deal, perhaps the Taliban would have just let Bergdahl go. Of course, after five years, they probably would have killed him. Maybe the deal, although as insane as it seems, was a fair move after all.

Response to Episode 9 of Serial 2

The notion of sovereignty made Bowe Bergdahl’s recovery very difficult. In prior episodes, it was stated that if Bergdahl were in Pakistan, there would be nothing the US forces could do. Sovereignty of states and among their organizations made everything much more complicated. Sovereignty can mean a few important aspects: it can be the supreme power or authority of a place, the authority of a state to govern itself or another state, or a self-governing state. Those three things can easily intertwine, and they make various situations in international relations difficult. In Bergdahl’s case, it made the case much more complex than it needed to be.

In the aspect of supreme power, that is complicated enough. In Bergdahl’s situation, the US government was involved as well as the United States Army, which was a great authority overseas. The next governments in play are the Afghani government and the surrounding governments. In this case, perhaps the most important sovereignty is the Taliban. They had gains they wanted to accomplish and the United States had a goal as well. The organization within the state was almost more powerful than the government, threatening citizens if they didn’t help them or keep their mouths shut when it came to talking to the Army. In this very podcast, one man couldn’t even be identified due to fear, and he was in the Taliban. This shows how drastic and vital sovereignty is as an authority.

The Taliban could be considered sovereign because it governed many areas in Afghanistan. In fact, it governed not just in Afghanistan but also in surrounding Arab states. This is important to note, because it had a vast chain of command through much of the Middle East that would have made the negotiation to release Bergdahl all the more difficult to accomplish. The people were in fear, as were many of the people within the Taliban, which shows just how powerful they were. Although the United States isn’t known for negotiating with terrorists, it did negotiate with the Taliban, even giving them back some of their men that they requested in a trade-off for Bergdahl. This, of course, is the vital part of the mission to retrieve Bergdahl from the Taliban. This could be condiered sovereign by way of legal equality, but it wasn’t necessarily equal. The Taliban got multiple men back while the United States just got back Bergdahl, whom many thought was a backstabber, a “deserter.” But in order to save their man, they had to make a deal; it was Bergdahl’s only hope.

The aspect of self-governing states is the most intriguing, because the state of Afghanistan wasn’t greatly ruled by the government, but by terrorist groups such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The United States, however, was a self-governing state that negotiated with various different Taliban leaders to come to an understanding, to come up with a negotiation, to come up with a plan. If the United States had more divisions, the whole situation and its aid would probably have been decimated. The self-governing of the United States helped to keep the negotiations with the Taliban on track.

The notion of sovereignty is a great factor of Bergdahl’s rescue. Without the actions of the states and organizations within the states, the deal to trade Bergdahl with terrorists would never have occurred. It didn’t help them reach common ground, but it did bring them to the table to discuss the issue at hand and what they needed to do or could do to resolve the situation. As it was presented multiple times in Episode Nine of Serial Two, the Taliban was growing weary; they were tired of holding Bergdahl captive. Not only did they want their men back, but they wanted Bowe off their hands. If they hadn’t gotten tired of holding him captive after so long, Bergdahl may never have been rescued, because their leniency made the whole negotiation talks possible.

Response to Episodes 7 & 8 of Serial 2

From listening to Episodes 7 & 8 of Serial Two, many aspects of Bowe Bergdahl’s past come to light. There are many factors that led to Bergdahl’s decision to join the Army. Perhaps, they weren’t for the best reasons, but he did have his reasons. The fact that his past was not regarded in its entirety is something that the Army should be faulted for, something they need to correct.

The way it seems is that Bergdahl had a breakdown, a panic attack during his little time in the Coast Guard. Bergdahl claims he faked it, that he didn’t feel like the Coast Guard was right for him. Of course, that’s Bergdah;’s words against everyone else’s—even against professionals in the psychology field. Granted, if we don’t believe Bergdahl about his mental health, his actions in the Coast Guard, why would we, as listeners, listen to anything or believe anything he said? There would be no reason to. If the story has gone this far and Bergdahl has done some cray things, but we listen anyway, why would faking a panic attack seem so unbelievable? This soldier left his station, risking his life to protect his men, and we’re supposed to believe that the same man gave up and had a panic attack over an apparent nose bleed? That doesn’t make sense.

That being said, it was documented that Bergdahl had mental health issues. Clearly, he does after various reports. But does that make him incompetent? Does that mean he shouldn’t have been accepted into the Army? Maybe. Bergdahl’s friend Kayla said that he was a gentleman, that she thought the Coast Guard would be good for him, not war, but helping people. After his experience in the Coast Guard, Bergdahl mentioned not feeling like it was the right fit for him, that he felt that joining the Army would be good for him’; it was where he belonged. Based on previous episodes, it is evident that Bergdahl at least somewhat belonged in the Army. His platoon members said that he was essentially the posterchild for soldiers, that he was the best and always read every guideline and handbook. He knew more than most of the men in his platoon, maybe he knew more than his superiors. The will and want to join the Army to prove himself is what makes Bergdahl’s decision to join the Army valid and fit for service.

The U.S. Military should have more than a will and want to serve as a guideline for entering the Army. The system pushed Bergdahl through, waiving particular records with Bergdahl asking for them to be overlooked, to not be judged by his past, and he wasn’t. Bergdahl, like many other soldiers, had a mental health issue—that would most likely worsen after his mission overseas. A great deal of soldiers come home and they aren’t the same as when they left; they have many mental health issues, which they develop overseas. Maybe Bergdahl wasn’t too far off. The guidelines for entry into the military need to be more thorough. They need to take everything into account, even the past that Bergdahl wanted to be kept unjudged. Even though it was the Coast Guard, his actions still should have been taken into account, because it was still part of the armed forces. When Bergdahl’s friend Kayla heard he was in the Army, she freaked out, because she didn’t think he was strong enough to endure the Coast Guard, let alone a branch more dangerous like the Army. A man’s character should also be taken into account before he’s accepted into the Army; they should be put in high stress situations and observed, judged on their reactions. Anyone can shoot a gun, but it takes more than that to keep a proper mindset, to not go crazy. Of course, Bergdahl’s case was a special one considering he left his post and was captured by the Taliban, but it may have been different if his documents were thoroughly read. Codes were without a doubt violated when Bergdahl was recruited after the incident at the Coast Guard. The men in the armed forces focus so much on recruiting men, on getting all the men to fight that they can, that they don’t focus on the quality and well-being of the man who they’re giving a gun to and putting in harm’s way.

Based off everything said in the episodes, Bergdahl definitely had a place in the Army. The question is: was putting him on an overseas mission really in the best interest of not only Bergdahl and his men, but the Army as a whole? Maybe not. . .

Response to Episode 6 of Serial 2

Serial would be nothing without its sources. The correspondents have used both primary and secondary sources. They used so many sources, it is difficult to go back and see which type of source they used more—but that doesn’t matter. They are both vital to the telling of Bowe Bergdahl’s story. There are various aspects, but they all come together through different perspectives of the situation, and some of them differ to make the plot of Bergdahl’s story seem unreal or untruthful.

The secondary sources are important because they show the opinions formed on Bergdahl. The news sources show what media wants the people of the world, of the United States, to know. Certain aspects were released, like the overall story of Bergdahl leaving his post and being captured by the Taliban. Another secondary source that was greatly used were interviews that weren’t directly the correspondents’; they are important because they show what Bergdahl or a superior may have said and they can either conflict or fit what Bergdahl told the correspondents of Serial. While listening to Serial, many articles about the area and the situation are on the podcast’s website. These help to make the situation more understandable, more concrete. . . but they also show very one-sided aspects. Opinions on Bergdahl’s capture had already been made.

Despite having the secondary sources, as good as they may be, they’re not as valuable as the primary sources: documents, statements, and the people involved. The people involved are the most important part of the podcast. For starters, correspondents interviewed people from Bergdahl’s journey, which can show that Bergdahl was telling the truth. In a prior episode, an interview contradicted something that was previously thought to be true in the podcast, a man who had seen Bergdahl during his Dustwan escape.

But the interviews don’t just discuss what did or didn’t happen. They show what the situation was really like. Platoon members of Bergdahl were interviewed to show what was really going on in the situation. The men also helped to shape Bergdahl’s character. Unlike the secondary sources, these men lived with Bergdahl; they knew him and his mannerisms. They knew he used a pipe instead of a cigarette, because he didn’t like smoking. They knew how smart and different Bergdahl was, how in depth he read the handbooks and that he was great at physical training; he was the ideal soldier—something the media wouldn’t dare get close to admitting. Even though some of the men ended up disliking Bergdahl for “betraying” them by leaving his post, they were willing to meet with the correspondents of Serial to share their take on the story, and many of them seem to fit with what Bergdhal had said, what Bergdahl had claimed his reasons for leaving were—there was an issue with superiors. This was vital, especially on the mission when they went to rescue a wrecked automobile and got trapped, dealing with fire and explosions while trying to get their machinery back to their area, out of enemy hands. This whole situation is so in depth and detailed; it’s war, and it is important to not just see the media’s side or just Bergdahl’s side. Lt. Col. Clint Baker was waiting for the platoon to return from that fiery, life-threatening mission, and his reaction wasn’t a welcomed one. He was too worried about their appearance than if all the men lived or not, not caring that they were put in high danger stakes. That didn’t matter to him, but it mattered to Bergdahl. In various interviews, he mentions how he didn’t ask about his men, and how wrong he thought it was that the interests of the men weren’t being considered. The others didn’t mention that, but they did mention the foul conditions. They also interviewed some of the superiors to get the full picture.

The approach of the reporters make the various aspects more compelling by asking personal, specific questions. They talk to so many people involved in the story; the reports are passionate about finding out the whole story, and reporting what they discovered. The reporters would even lie to the people they were interviewing to try and see what information they could get.

From Serial, it is evident that sources are everything. Without sources, primary or secondary, the story can’t be complete, and if it is, it won’t be as detailed as it potentially could be. To get answers to such a deep, controversial issue, the research had to be thorough and the reporters had to talk to everyone they could. Research, thorough research, is vital for a story like Bergdahl’s. Getting one answer to a question, one perspective, simply isn’t enough.

Response to Episode 5 of Serial 2

From Episode 5 of Serial Two, it seems as though the only US associated agency truly involved with Bowe’s capture is the FBI, and barely even then. The overview of the carious agencies and departments mentioned in the episode indicate that the US government and its response mechanisms are incredibly slow acting, and really indifferent to any outside help. It seems like, especially in Bowe’s situation, the military is really in charge. When Bowe’s friend tried to report him missing from the domestic side in the US, the military didn’t approve the proper authorization they needed to finalize steps. The government and its military are very hush-hush; details are only revealed on a need-to-know basis, even if the person wanting to find out information was the one who helped them get that far, as like what happened when another one of Bowe’s friends gave them a source who was willing to provide them with crucial information on where the Taliban was taking Bowe. Without the informer she gave them, they wouldn’t have been able to email and negotiate with such a source, and although it fell through the cracks in the end, it seemed to get them farther than they were before the friend stepped forward, seeking a translation of the call.

Even though Bowe’s friends opened their own investigations and got some vital information for the FBI, friends and family starting their own investigations or reaching out to the captors can be, and is, quite dangerous. Bowe’s father sending the Taliban a video trying to save his son was very bold, but also very risky. It is to be admired, but it shouldn’t have been done. Bowe’s father should have left it up to the government, even if they weren’t trying their all. The families of captives, like Bowe’s family, shouldn’t have a right to negotiate with captors, because they aren’t professionals. It could irritate the captors even more and make them even less likely to release their captive. They shouldn’t be able to pay ransoms. If a terrorist group wants a ransom, it would probably be pretty high—not enough that a typical family could pay, so what happens when the family trying to negotiate with the captors has to pay a ransom that they can’t afford? It could all just make situations much worse. There can’t really be a penalty for negotiating with captors; the family has been going through enough. That being said, isn’t their involvement interfering with a search, an investigation? In the United States, that’s considered to be illegal. By sending a message to captors or terrorist groups is dangerous—it puts both the captive and the family of the captive at more risk. It could tip the captor or terrorist group off even more, and that clearly isn’t the goal.

Friends and families investigating or sending messages to the captors should not be a crime. As previously stated, the family has gone through enough. They probably aren’t thinking clearly, and the only thing on their mind is getting their loved one home. It shouldn’t be a crime, but it should be heavily warned against. In so many police shows, when someone is kidnapped, the family of the captive almost always seems to try and get in contact with the captor or vice versa and they try to handle it on their own because they think the police aren’t doing their jobs.  Granted, Bowe’s situation is much more serious because he was captured by a major terrorist organization. Even though the captors (at large) aren’t a close threat in relation to the friends and family, it is still risky, because they don’t necessarily know what the captors are capable of, and they don’t know how close they may be to either killing or setting free their loved one, which makes the whole situation all the more risky.

Friends and family reaching out to captors seems a bit crazy, but it also makes sense. When they feel like the government isn’t doing their job, it may seem easy to take matters into their own hands; it may seem like the best idea. It’s difficult to judge the situation when one isn’t in it. From the previous episodes of Serial Two, it is obvious that the people searching for Bowe weren’t giving their all because they felt betrayed. Did Bowe’s family know this? Maybe that was their reasoning for trying to get in touch with the Taliban and starting their own investigations. That part of the story, however, isn’t clear. No matter their motivations, they did start investigations and reach out to the Taliban via a video message. From the episode, it doesn’t seem like anything negative came from any of it, which was extremely lucky for the friends and family.

 

Response to Episode 4 of Serial 2

In the fourth episode of Serial 2, many aspects of the Taliban came to surface. One of the things I learned was that they had alliances with various names, such as the Haqqanis. I also knew that they used Toyota vehicles, but I didn’t know how much other items they used, and that they more or less had their own little cities. Another aspect that was a little surprising was that the Taliban paid people to store prisoners in their houses; it makes sense that they would keep them in houses, but it doesn’t make sense to me that people with such power would use anything other than force to get the citizens to do what they wanted.

The interesting part about the Haqqanis is that the Pakistani army knew who they were at the checkpoints and they didn’t have to get out of their car. They weren’t searched, and they were feared. It’s interesting that it was just a known thing, that they could identify who was what. They’re a family run group, so they might be known by the Pakistani army. Even though they’re Afghani, they’re headquartered in Pakistan, which is extremely interesting, but it might be because they knew the U.S. couldn’t get in the country without major issues ensuing. The way they were positioned, they could protect Pakistan, and Afghanistan from India’s influence, which they were against.

One of the captives named David Rohde was interviewed for Serial 2. He mentioned hoe the captors gave him Dasani and a newspaper, even though it was Pakistani, it was still something that was done for him as an American, something he recognized as an American. This is interesting, because the captors are supposed to be treating their prisoners terribly, and they did, but they could have given them water. Perhaps it was a religious belief, so they gave him good, clean water. They saw him as unclean because he was sick and not Muslim. Later in the story, they were concerned that he wasn’t eating, even though they thought he was dirty, but an old man brought him a spoon in case that’s what he needed. One of the men in particular gave him bread, because he believed that all men should be treated equally—he was an elder whose fellow men were young and great radicals. The change in the age of a culture truly played a role in how prisoners were treated. Radicals, who had ideas that don’t go hand-in-hand with what Muslims truly believe, were worse to prisoners, and older men were better to prisoners, because of the belief that all human beings should be treated the same, which is an interesting shift in the culture and mannerisms of the captors.

Rohde said that the Taliban paid people to use their houses. Often times, they used families and houses of men in Taliban leadership, but they also used the houses of people they felt as if they could trust. If anyone were to release or tell the searching soldiers where the prisoners were, I’m sure it would be disastrous for the family. Maybe paying them off was used with fear, something to secure their loyalty. The fact that they paid citizens to keep quiet and allow use of their homes for the prisoners is interesting, because it shows how severely they felt about having their captives. It makes sense that the soldiers couldn’t find Bergdahl, because if it wasn’t the rough terrain, he could have been hidden in a secret part of a household or the people simply didn’t give them access out of loyalty to the Taliban, yet maybe they had to do that in order to survive themselves.

No matter what the Taliban did—how they treated the men they held captive, how many divisions of members they had, or how many citizens they paid, they did it to torture the men, to ensure they would remain captive. The true citizens, the older citizens, relied on what they were taught, not treating them as if they were in Guantanamo, as one Taliban soldier had suggested. The treatment of the captives was poor and miserable; they tortured Bergdahl. This episode didn’t really influence my current understanding of the War on Terror, because treatment does vary and the beliefs of one soldier may be different than the next. At the end of the day, terrorism is terrorism, and the captives were fearing for their lives.

Response to Episode 3 of Serial 2

The two maps, Afghanistan, a Sense of Place and The Taliban’s Version of Events, are very helpful in trying to understand the situation and the special relationships associated with Bergdahl’s escapes. In the first couple of episodes, it seemed as though Bergdahl had a great distance to go in such short time. Now, according to these maps, places Bergdahl was taken seem relatively close to one another. It seems like it would be easy for Bergdahl to get away, but, in reality, it would probably be much more difficult than what it looks like on paper.

The regions are, obviously, close to one another. Bergdahl was only in one region of Afghanistan during his capture. He was taken to Pakistan as well, which would make it difficult for him to be rescued; it was territory thee U.S. could not enter. While he was in Afghanistan, he was in one region known as Regional Command East. Of that region, he was in a large portion of the southern region known as Paktika. He was mostly in the northwestern side of the region. He was taken through multiple places in the part of the region that were all extremely close to one another.  The only other couple times where he wasn’t in that region, he was taken directly across to Pakistan—yet he was only taken places close to the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan; he was never taken far into Pakistan.

The DUSTWAN called for all military forces to stop what they were doing and look for Bergdahl. In Episode Two of Serial, it was said that even soldiers looking for Bin Laden had to stop looking for him in order to look for Bergdahl. What I don’t understand is why it took so many men and women to find a man who was in such close proximity to OP Mest. In the scheme of things, OP Mest and FOB Sharana are relatively close together. It doesn’t make sense that they couldn’t find him. There must have been hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of platoons in the Middle East that were looking for Bergdahl, and the whole time he was right around the corner. Granted, there were villages and some difficult terrain, but it just doesn’t make sense to me why they couldn’t find him. The Taliban kept him moving, but he was in the same position, tied down for months. Did the soldiers give up? Did they think that he wasn’t worth it if he was the one who left his post and put everyone else in danger? Surely not. Surely they were following orders. . . unless the orders weren’t strictly being enforced. After all, the officials were getting irritated with Bergdahl and the search too—they were putting their men in danger for a soldier who willingly left his post, and happened to get picked up by the Taliban. As they probably thought, I can’t imagine that Bergdahl didn’t factor that into his plan when he was planning to leave OP Mest. Of course, the very men ordering his platoon were the very reason he left his post in the first place, according to Bergdahl.

No matter what the plan was, it is still incredibly amazing that the Taliban had him so hidden or the military wasn’t trying hard enough to find him, even though they put all of their forces into finding him. Something doesn’t add up, because he was only in a particular region, then taken to another small part of Pakistan. He was taken directly through where his journey began, and yet no one found him. If the locals saw anything, they didn’t say anything. It just doesn’t make sense that they couldn’t find him when he was in such close proximity to OP Mest and FOB Sharana. Maybe Bergdahl was right—maybe there was an issue with the superiors putting men in danger by not giving orders or fulfilling them to the best of their ability. Maybe Bergdahl did have reason to report his superiors, whether or not leaving his post was absolutely vital for his plan is unknown for now.

Response to Episode 2 of Serial 2

Wikileaks has come into the eye of the media very often in recent years, especially with the 2016 Election. But Wikileaks has always been quite scandalous, and important. Wikileaks is essentially an online database that releases exclusive, secret documents from anonymous sources. Many of these documents don’t appear in the daily news people see. This makes them controversial, and I would argue that it makes it vital to get the full image of a story. In the case of Bowe Bergdahl’s story, the Wikileaks war diary of the days Bergdahl went missing and was captured by the Taliban is vital. It gives the public a more filled-out image of what had happened, and I’m sure it was beneficial in his case, although that could have been done without it being posted on Wikileaks.

Wikileaks could be considered a form of cyber-organization. Millions of documents have been released on the platform. I don’t know if I completely agree with the mission of stealthy cyber-organization, but it does seem as though aspects of it are a good idea. For instance, if cyber-organization did not exist, and the military communications were not posted on Wikileaks, much of Bergdahl’s story would be unknown. It would be a case that resolved around one man’s story and another’s; there would never be a resolution to the case, and what truly happened may never have been known.

In Episode One of Serial Two, it was said that a whole hour passed before the soldiers’ superior took them seriously regarding the missing soldier. This Wikileaks report of the communications proves that to be the truth. At 0430z, it was reported that a soldier was missing. It took until 0535z for DUSTWAN to be called into effect. This proves that the story of the soldiers’ superior truly wasn’t working in the best interest of his men, as Bergdahl gave as the reason for his venturing out on his own.

To me, and I’m sure most other citizens of the U.S., the communications are difficult to read because of the military lingo. I’m not sure what a whole lot of this is saying. That being said, it is clear by the reports that the military did acknowledge that a soldier was captured and looked into the villages in an investigation, getting what he had been wearing and asking; a piece of it states that a soldier in dark clothing was asking for someone who spoke English, and it also shows the moment he was captured by showing what people had seen. The Serial report said he had a large cloth wrapped around his head, but the Wikileaks communication document said he had a bag over his head; little details like that could easily be confused, which could make some of the details of the communications of the people interviewed a bit unreliable, not necessarily completely wrong but not completely correct either.

One thing in the communication really caught my eye. It was even mentioned in the brief highlights presented on the Serial Podcast’s page: 1012z GUARDRAIL REPORTS PICKED UP LLVI TRAFFIC AT GRID VB 6597 3366 THAT STATES (UIM INDICATES THAT AN AMERICAN SOLDIER IS TALKING AND IS LOOKING FOR SOMEONE WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH. INDICATES AMERICAN SOLDIER HAS CAMERA. My big question is this: Why did Bergdahl have a camera? He did his best to fit in with the society, was trying to flee to another military base under the radar, so why did he have a camera? That doesn’t make sense to me. He wore his uniform underneath his Afghani garments, so did he wear the camera on the garments? Were the people scared and lying about what they saw? Who reported that he was wearing a camera? Bergdahl seems like a fairly smart man, although the way he decided to leave his post was a bit of a bravely idiotic move. I don’t understand why he would wear a camera while he was trying to move from his post. I don’t think he would have anticipated his capture, because he seems really distraught in some of the Serial Two clips. I know this seems like a lot of thought for one small detail, but it just doesn’t add up. I don’t understand why Bergdahl would have a camera if he was trying to keep under the radar, knowing that if he was caught, it could and would be used against him. If it weren’t for the Wikileaks report of the communications, this small detail that is such a head-scratcher would not be known.

By reading the full document, it is a bit easier to see why Bergdahl was not liked by his fellow soldiers. In Serial Two, Episode Two, it was reported that many soldiers wanted to kill him, and one man wanted to be on the Blackhawk when he got captured. Personally, like the reporter, I don’t agree with killing him. However, these soldiers had to forget about Bin Laden searches and get one-on-one with the Afghani people and the Taliban in order to find their fellow soldier—that could put so many of the armed forces in danger, including at least one of the booby traps that was in one of the locations where they were looking for Bergdahl, where dozens of men could have been killed. The frustration that Bergdahl caused could have all been prevented had he kept his post and made a formal report upon returning home.

Without the Wikileaks document, the situation would be much more black and white. Although it is a bit difficult to understand, it is important to look at the document and try to make sense of the situation. At the end of the first episode of Serial Two, I felt terribly for Bergdahl. Now, after listening to the second episode and looking at the document, I feel as though I’m still gravely trying to understand Bergdahl and his actions, and I can sympathize not only with him, but also with the soldiers who were desperately trying to find him.