No Comment — July 20, 2009, 9:20 am

A Prisoner in Afghanistan

The Pentagon has identified the U.S. soldier recently seized by the Taliban and presented in a video as Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl, 23, from Ketchum, Idaho. In the video, Bergdahl says he was captured by the Taliban when he straggled behind his Alaska-based unit. A U.S. military spokesman, Colonel Greg Julian, responds: “We condemn the use of this video and the public humiliation of prisoners. It is against international law. We are doing everything we can to return this soldier to safety.” That’s absolutely correct. Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention protects prisoners against “violence and intimidation” as well as “insults” and exposure to “public curiosity.” Taking a prisoner and then taking photographs or film footage of the prisoner for purposes of harassing or demoralizing him or his fellow soldiers is a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. This tape appears clearly contrived for just that purpose. It should therefore be viewed as documenting the criminal misconduct of Bergdahl’s captors, and little else.

It was likewise a violation of the Geneva Conventions when, in May 2005, photographs circulated in U.S. and British papers of an underwear-clad Saddam Hussein washing his laundry. The Rumsfeld Pentagon feigned anger over their release and claimed to have undertaken an investigation. However, the move matched perfectly psy-ops plans to use Saddam’s image as well as that of his two deceased children to damage the morale of Baathist “dead-enders.” Moreover, the photographs appeared in Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, renowned for their “special access” to the Rumsfeld Pentagon. The Murdoch papers claimed to have gotten them from a “Pentagon official.” Such episodes pull the carpet out from under the United States when it tries to press the rights of captured soldiers like Pvt. Bergdahl.

Hopefully Bergdahl will soon be released and find his way back to his unit. But over at the “fair and balanced” channel we hear a voice that wishes this young soldier ill. On Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News, “strategic analyst” Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, while cautioning that he doesn’t know all the facts, goes on nonetheless to accuse Bergdahl of being a deserter and of cooperating with the enemy by making the video. “If he walked away… the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills,” Peters says, appearing to suggest that they should execute him. This is the “support our troops” channel? Watch the entire clip here.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
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