Bowe Bergdahl Controversy Overblown


BergdahlStaff Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl left captivity to be catapulted into an overgrown spotlight of controversy and reckless speculation in May of this year. What should have been a flood of relief to see the American POW return home was replaced with, oddly enough, outrage, mostly from the Right.

Angry tweets accused Obama of endangering U.S. soldiers by exchanging five prisoners from Guantanamo for Bergdahl. Twitter filled with frothing accusations against not only the President but the POW himself, as well as his family, who even received death threats. Bergdahl was a Taliban sympathizer, it was decided, and so was his family. Obama was anti-American too. Most devastating of all, Fox News declared that Bergdahl was a deserter, that his father was a Taliban sympathizer and that the family’s visiting the president was “inappropriate.”

Welcome home, Bergdahl. After enduring being a prisoner of the Taliban, forced to sit in a “metal box,” and forgetting how to speak his own language, he then came home to learn that some consider him the enemy along with his captors. After Bergdahl’s rescue his fellow platoon mates went on Fox to speak out against him. They still claim he is no hero, and are now in book and movie deals to prove it. They say Bergdahl mentioned wanting to disappear into the mountains and go to China, that he sent home some possessions (confirmed in the letter he wrote home), and he was learning the local language.

Bergdahl had gone missing in the past before returning to his unit, and a letter he wrote to his parents about the cruelty he had witnessed from his fellow soldiers against the people of the region showed he had become disillusioned, going so far as to say he was ashamed of being American. Bergdahl wrote about seeing soldiers “running their children down in the dirt streets” in armored trucks and laughing in the Afghanis’ faces.

There is also the fact that Bergdahl was a model soldier and this caused jealousy among some men in his unit. His initial good behavior contrasted with the rest of the unit to some degree. The unit “lacked discipline” and the first Sergeant was a yelling, cursing man with strange habits.

“The few good SGTs are getting out as soon as they can,” Bergdahl told his parents in his letter. One of the soldiers who served alongside Bergdahl, Josh Korder, spoke out against him. However, Korder was “other than” honorably discharged. After Bergdahl’s disappearance his platoon mates claimed they found a note that proved his desertion. No such note appeared in the classified file on Bergdahl.

Perhaps Bergdahl did desert his unit. It is not known what happened that day, as the investigation is still being conducted. An extension has been given, so the wait will be even longer. In the meantime, Bergdahl is on desk duty after extensive medical attention and debriefings.

To be fair, it is very possible that, overcome with grief or disgust, Bergdahl did leave willingly. He appears to have been without many options and felt morally opposed to his unit’s actions. But even if that turns out to be the case he has suffered extensively the past five years and his intentions thus far appear more noble than reckless or malevolent. He definitely does not fit the bill of a traitor, and the overblown controversy surrounding Bergdahl ignores the human elements to the story.

Yet from the way the commentators describe it, desertion is the worst possible thing for a soldier, and Bergdahl is a literal traitor in some eyes. The facts have escaped them, however, and their emotional response is just that. In World War II, 50,000 U.S. soldiers deserted, and in fact desertions are relatively common in wars. Rarely are American soldiers punished with the severity Bergdahl has demanded be administered to him. Some called for the death penalty, a traitor’s punishment. The last time a soldier was given the death penalty was 70 years ago, and that was mostly as an example. The last execution for desertion before that was 140 years ago. It just is not done.

90 percent of America’s deserters are not even tried. “Failure to adapt,” psychological issues, and other reasons explain why they walk off. Soldiers are held to such admirable or unrealistically high standards that when one, or as has been shown even thousands, act human with human weaknesses they become fodder for the outrage machine. Or at least this one did.

If Bergdahl is proved to be a deserter, the options are less dramatic than what the blood-thirsty crowd craves. He may simply be let go with honors, given the circumstances, or he may spend some time in prison. If he is given a dishonorable discharge, Bergdahl will lose his veteran’s benefits. Execution does not appear on the table, however, nor should it.

The case is not easy to discern, but the controversy, overblown and over-simplified, has robbed Bergdahl of his name and casts judgment before the facts. Real life in not like G.I. Joe, where the good guys and the bad guys are easily discernible and sorted out for the sake of convenience. Sometimes soldiers lose heart. Sometimes they see terrible things. Sometimes people with good intentions do desperate things. Should Bergdahl be found a deserter, Americans need to keep a calm head and whatever happens, let the man move on with his life.

Opinion by Jillian Moyet

USA Today
Dallas News
Daily Kos
New York Times
Photo Courtesy of United States Army

39 Responses to "Bowe Bergdahl Controversy Overblown"

  1. Mac Ving   October 14, 2014 at 10:09 am

    It is important that people understand that he did not desert the Army or his fellow soldiers. He willingly left his place of duty to provide aid to the enemy. we call these people Defectors. Under the United States Constitution the act of Defecting during a time of war is treason. With this action Bergdahl stopped being an American Soldier or citizen and became an enemy combatant. You can argue that he was a victim all you want but until Your convoy is hit in a perfect ambush with bullets and RPG’s that are conspicuously focused on the weak points of your armored vehicle you will not understand what kind of damage a single, stupid kid can inflict.

    • Kevin Michael Easter   October 17, 2014 at 4:46 am

      How could Bergdahl precisely predict troop patterns and movements after he was captured, whose departure changed said movements?

  2. GaWhig   October 11, 2014 at 10:45 am

    Again the writer does not understand any military operation. “Bergdahl wrote about seeing soldiers “running their children down in the dirt streets” in armored trucks” Do you understand that the MRAPs and such are heavy armored vehicles and some use children to stop these vehicles in places in order to attack the whole convoy. Children run between vehicles and there is no way to stop to avoid them. It has never been intentional, but think of trying to stop a semi truck going 40 MPH in seconds. It dont happen. He is looking for excuses to cover his desertion.

    • Kevin Michael Easter   October 17, 2014 at 4:53 am

      Bergdahl wrote about these things in an email home prior to his departure. Isn’t it possible he was sincerely disturbed by what he saw?

  3. GaWhig   October 11, 2014 at 10:37 am

    The writer must have never been in the military and does not understand the whole concept of desertion. How even if you don’t like your fellow soldiers each person watches another’s back. Also Desertion while on a combat mission is the top for personal disrespect. When he returned from the deployment he then could have went AWOL or man up and wait for his ETS and leave the service. he should have joined the Peace Corps instead of the Army.

    He is No Hero and does not deserve any veterans benefits and should not receive any back pay for the time he volunteered ti walk off his post. He should be discharged with a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.

  4. Ak Eric   October 6, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Honestly everyone at 4-25 knew he ditched and wanted nothing to do with the US. It was not overblown, and honestly if he isn’t charged under UCMJ, then the military no longer has any justification for following orders.

    • Kevin Michael Easter   October 6, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      Who is “everyone at 4-25?” I was under the impression that only 6 or 7 platoon members actually worked and interacted with Bergdahl.

    • Kevin Michael Easter   October 6, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      As I have posted here before, the US Army has the prerogative and right to determine whether Bergdahl should be charged and to what level, if any, he should be punished.

  5. Darrel   October 5, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Good men DIED searching for the deserter. Obama traded 5 high value terrorists for one deserter. The author is a fool.

    • Kevin Michael Easter   October 6, 2014 at 4:12 am

      Perhaps they did. Does that make Bergdahl’s life any less valuable? What responsibility, if any, do you think Army commanders have for the movements of their troops? Does Bergdahl’s desertion absolve everyone else of responsibility?

  6. Rob Austin   October 3, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Why wont he talk to his family or even thank them for helping to get him released. Why does he hate his parents so much? Why cant he be interviewed?


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