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

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Photo Courtesy of United States Army

39 Responses to "Bowe Bergdahl Controversy Overblown"

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

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

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

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

    Not it’s not.

  9. 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,

  10. 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.


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