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
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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?

  7. Kevin Michael Easter   September 28, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    While I agree with the apparent conservatives here that the author appears not to fully understand the severity of the issue of desertion, Jillian is correct to defend the doctrine of “innocent until proven guilty,” something many conservatives seem to have forgotten. Also often forgotten is the fact that the military has discretion in the way it chooses to punish desertion — death and imprisonment are only two of the many possible penalties that may be applied. The mental condition of the soldier and the issues he may have been facing can also be taken into consideration in determining guilt or innocence and in applying punishment. Despite what many people may think, the military does NOT have to apply the full penalty of the law in dealing with Bergdahl or any other alleged deserter.

    I await with baited breath the findings of General Dahl’s investigation and the decision by Bergdahl’s commander regarding his final disposition.

  8. Daina Jean Shaffer   September 16, 2014 at 10:44 am

    This site is NO guardian of liberty.
    You are a TRAITOR just like Bowe Bergdahl !!!!!

    • Kevin Michael Easter   September 28, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      What a silly, unsubstantiated comment, Daina.

  9. Christine Cuneo   September 16, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Jillian Moyet we the people of America take deserters and traitors serious. You and this Obama Administration can say “Controversy Overblown” all you want I guess loosing the 6 solders were just like loosing the 4 Americans Hillary and Obama lost in Benghazi. What difference does it make, right?

  10. Brock Landers   September 16, 2014 at 12:42 am

    wait for it…another delay..until after the mid terms..

  11. Danny Bowen   September 15, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    He is a stupid deserter, maybe not a traitor because he knew nothing. He should be punished like a deserter not rewarded in any way. He is lucky to be alive, if not for the mistakes in releasing prisoners of war he would have been dead. He was used like a pawn by the enemy held for years to be used one day. He has shamed our military and hence our country. Jillian Moyet has no idea what she is talking about. It is not OK to go AWOL especially during active duty. If he did not want to be in the military he should have followed the proper channels to get out with out leaving his post. The Military needs to move quickly strip him of his rank and kick him out under a dishonorable discharge.

  12. Heather Hoover   September 15, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Um, if he had not purposely walked off base the he would not have been kept in a metal box. The dipsh*t!

  13. Tony   September 15, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Jillian Moyet doesn’t have a clue of how serious his desertion was. Let’s give him an award for leaving his post and placing his fellow soldiers in danger. Ridiculous just like her article!!!

    • Maria   September 15, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Nothing has been proven yet,and until it it she is right on the money.You are the one who is ridiculous for believing everything you hear and taking it as fact.

      • big e   September 24, 2014 at 5:34 am

        unless he was stolen from base and no one has claimed that. then he went AWOL in a military zone. And unless the military is now going to go back and change the laws awol in a military zone is deserting, which comes with dishonorable discharge, and charges brought against the soldier. So are we now allowing all soldiers to leave their post at anytime they feel like it. We should have more respect for our soldiers then that.

  14. Rick H.   September 15, 2014 at 3:23 am

    Not it’s not.

  15. candyneville   September 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    My dad was a POW for 44 months in WWII. The mental anguish lasts a lifetime. Welcome, home, Bergdahl. I’m glad you made it. You’ll just have to put up with the gossip mongers like the rest of us do.

    • big e   September 24, 2014 at 5:37 am

      so your comparing your dad to a guy whom walk off the base on his own to get captured. you just disgraced your own father to lump a brave soldier with a coward that quit on his unit and country,

  16. common citizen   September 14, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Jillian – you present your argument well. However, you left out one big possible reason for the outrage: the total mishandling of it by Obama & his minions. As usual, they used the Bergdahl trade as a promo piece with the showboat press conference & the chest-thumping spin, along with the administration’s typical lack of due diligence and total disregard for federal law & procedure in arranging the lopsided trade. Had this not occurred, the entire situation would not have received the intense scrutiny and resulting outrage that it did.

  17. deathchants   September 13, 2014 at 6:37 am

    funny how we traded not one but three terrorists for this guy yet we let james foley die at the hands of isis for no reason other then to fuel a new war and continue are legacy of death and destruction for profit.

  18. Den Han   September 12, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Very simple. He left his post=disertion

  19. Britny Shekleton   September 12, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    I will wait and see.. no one really knows what happened that dreadful days through nearly 5 years… i do know media’s do lie to make the story huge and for ratings. And people are going to say stuff for 15 minutes of fame… but until we know there’s an old saying and it goes like this…don’t judge lest ye be judged… i wanted to go in the military but I became medically ineligible. . So now I am apart of a veteran’s organization. All those in the military thank u for ur service but don’t judge lest ye be judged is and will always be true..

    • aulton White   October 14, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Well I was there and at the time he left. He deserted. He walked off hos post after sending home his laptop and other personal items. he was intending not to return. This is desertion

  20. y = mx+b   September 12, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    he is an insurgent.. his “buddies” should have killed him

  21. Gregory Walker   September 12, 2014 at 11:42 am

    We’ll see when we see. Anything else is just speculation.

  22. CodFish   September 12, 2014 at 10:07 am

    We proudly wave black POW/MIA flags, yet when an American POW is returned after 5 horrendous years, the right wingers crucify him in the media because they don’t like the President who freed him. This is disgusting. I predict Sgt. Bergdahl will be cleared of all wrong doing by Major General Dahl’s investigation. FOX and the coached and prepped Bowe Bashers will look like vindictive childish fools, too eager to smear and destroy an American soldier for political points. If he had been killed by the Taliban, they would be condemning the President for that as well. Welcome Home, Bowe. It is YOUR story I want to hear, not the guys blabbering all over FOX.

    • GaWhig   October 14, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      He was not a POW he was a deserter. I was there( Afghanistan) when he walked off and have read the reports of his walking away and the message he left. How he sent his laptop and other personal items home shortly before he walk off. How may died because of this deserter. How many more will die not because of the money and the 5 Taliban leadern in exchange for this deserter?

  23. Facts not Fiction   September 12, 2014 at 9:42 am

    As with most journalists, this one states facts not in evidence as facts….I wonder if she read his letters from the Washington Post that he sent to a female friend the day before he disappeared. And she makes no reference to why he left/was dismissed from the Coast Guard after just a few weeks…and then joined the Army (his letters address some of this and paint a very different picture of him than the one this article purports). Funny how this author takes all of Bowe’s comments (or alleged comments) as fact, but comments from others, including soldiers that knew him are suspect or contrived (she states as fact that they were jealous of him). And in any event, his release was not worthy of a Rose Garden ceremony…he has already been found by the Army to have been absent without leave (AWOL)…which is a military crime…and this is a fact. I don’t recall any other Rose Garden ceremonies for POWs that were released or part of a prisoner exchange. Why, other than political gain, was this prisoner so honored?

  24. Ruth   September 12, 2014 at 6:30 am

    Those men who supposedly died looking for bowel is incorrect. .. If u look at their dialogs.. 1 died during presidential security. .. before u rant and rave look at the facts. Cause none that I know of died looking for bowel bergdahl…

    • Derek Y.   September 12, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Sadly Ruth you cant rely on “facts” that are published, which Ive experienced first hand from my deployment in Afghanistan. I was going purely off of stories told to me from members of his unit that shared in the loss of their brothers in arms.

  25. Derek Y.   September 11, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    What about the men who lost their lives during missions to locate and recover Bergdahl? The families of those soldiers will never see them again because they were ordered to carry out missions that would not have existed if it wasn’t for Bergdahl’s desertion. Don’t you think he should be held accountable for the lives of those soldiers lost?

  26. Freedom lover   September 11, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Give the man his benefits and let him live his life in PEACE. He has been through enough already.

    • GaWhig   October 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      A deserter deserves no benifits. he did not honorably serve. Ask the men who died how much peace their family has because of this deserter


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