Few people have had a more precipitous fall from glory to villainy than Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. solider held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan from June 2009 until he was released in exchange for five Guantánamo detainees in a deal brokered by President Obama in May 2014.
He received a hero’s welcome back in his hometown of Hailey, Idaho, which was festooned with yellow ribbons. Then Republicans began to portray the deal as an Obama capitulation to the Taliban—and suddenly the former patriotic hero became a hot potato. In no time, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly was charging that “he may have even collaborated with the enemy.”
The New York Times in an editorial last year, “The Rush to Demonize Sgt. Bergdahl,” noted that Republican lawmakers went so far as to delete tweets and website statements welcoming him home after the Bergdahl-bashing party line congealed. By March of this year, when the Army actually brought charges against him, right-wing NewsMax was taunting that Bergdahl is a “traitor” and “deserter” who deserves “death.”
Now Fox News is jumping on the theory that Sgt. Bergdahl was “high” on hashish when he was taken captive. The theory goes that he’d been toking with a small group of Afghan soldiers when they were seized by a band of nomads who sold them to the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network. The source of the claim is Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, an ex-CIA operative who was then running a network of informants in Afghanistan. Clarridge said he had received a call from an unnamed source telling him of the capture and added that the informant said, “they were using the Pashto ‘diwana,’ which in this case meant high on hashish.”
Google indicates only that Diwana is the title of a 1967 romantic Bollywood film. There’s also apparently a rocking Pashtun pop song with the spelling “Deewana,” but nothing in the online video indicates it is cannabis-themed. Any Pashto speakers are invited to shed some light on this question.
Of course, Fox hasn’t dared question whether Clarridge is the most objective source here. They note that Clarridge was “involved in Iran-Contra”—but not that he was one of five high-ranking officials who faced criminal charges related to Contragate but were pardoned by President George HW Bush as he was leaving office. Clarridge also notoriously oversaw production of the “dirty tricks manual,” Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare, that the CIA distributed in Nicaragua as part of its effort to bring down the left-wing Sandinista government—a how-to guide on assassination, sabotage, false rumors and the like. Fox has also failed to note that the private outfit that Clarridge worked for in Afghanistan was accused of operating death squads.
Perhaps this guy might be a dubious touchstone for veracity, Fox News? Just a thought.