It has been a long standing American military code that our soldiers don’t leave anyone behind, regardless of the circumstances.  So it’s a bit confusing to see some of our military personnel expressing regret and dismay over the return of one of their own, and one of our own.  Obviously something happened to cause these guys not to like Bowe Bergdahl, and not having been there, I can’t speculate as to the reasons behind their feeling that he didn’t deserve the attempted rescue that went after him, and that he didn’t deserve to be returned home.  There’s something about those accounts, however, that just doesn’t ring true, especially when they are strung out together in a news report.  To me, there’s a lack of consistency in the way the story is being presented, and there’s something under the surface that’s not coming out at this point.  Something happened before Bergdahl was captured, to create the attitude of dislike that is being conveyed now.  I think that’s obvious.

There is a moral principle here.  How about if the soldier who was returned wasn’t Bowe Bergdahl, but instead was the ideal, boyish faced, flag waving patriot, dragged off kicking, screaming and resisting?  Would his return have been worth allegedly “negotiating with terrorists and sending five members of the Taliban to Qatar?   You’ll have to decide that on your own, but I know what I think.

It will be a long time before Bowe can address the issue and speak in his own defense.  Years of captivity in Afghanistan, with your life in the hands of the Taliban, would have driven most people crazy.  Living in fear of your live, of torment, of brainwashing, or anything else a people who have no respect for humanity would possibly do would turn anyone into a bowl of quivering jelly.  His recovery will be years in the future.  For now, his body is in a place where he’s safe and cared for, something that he has not experienced for a long time.  Before we start judging his character or behavior, he should at least be given a chance to recover.

This deal was brokered through the small, Arabian peninsula nation of Qatar, an oil rich country that is closely allied to the US.   The members of the Taliban who were exchanged cannot leave Qatar, as part of the deal.  That’s not exactly negotiating with terrorists, though the hope I harbored that Americans would react with a level of decent humanity is fading fast in the wake of all kinds of judgemental criticism.  Allowing him to remain with the Taliban, when the means finally existed to get him back, would have been cruelty compounded.  I’m sure the mind games and cruelty were endless. It’s evident, even in the pictures we’ve seen.  Getting him back was the right thing to do.

It would be the right thing to do every time we have the means available to do it with.



About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

16 responses

  1. William DeLashmutt says:

    Bergdahl wasn’t captured. He deserted. You aren’t listening to those he served with.

  2. Lee says:

    That is not a confirmed fact, nor is it part of the official record. Comments by a few guys to reporters constitutes hearsay, not fact.

  3. Colby says:

    We would not have had the intelligence information needed to get Osama Bin Laden if it had not been for this kind of indirect negotiation through a neutral third party, with various groups that the US government labeled as “terrorists” operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan. There were over a dozen such “negotiations” that took place between the Taliban and the Bush Administration, including getting two female missionaries released, and probably others not on the record.

    As to those he served with, jumping up and making this accusation, something’s not quite right about that. If he had actually deserted, then it seems awfully irregular for his CO to order a squad to risk their lives and go after him. I didn’t realize the code of honor in the military about not leaving anyone behind permitted making a judgment about the worthiness of the one being rescued.

  4. Jack says:

    As far as the statement, “The US doesn’t negotiate with terrorists” goes, the Bush administration didn’t even bother with an intermediary, and went directly to the terrorists during the Iraq war, more than once, including several negotiations involving the release of prisoners. If there are those out there who want to turn this into a political issue, as it certainly appears there are, then that’s going to come back and bite them big time. The other irony is that the Patriot Act, passed after 9-11 during the Bush administration, makes the negotiation for prisoner exchange through an intermediary nation or group legal, and does not require the approval of Congress for a prisoner exchange, but gives that authority to the President, and the specific cabinet officers involved.

    I agree that something’s not right with the accusations now being made by a few of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers. His CO not only risked his life, and that of several other soldiers, but actually died in the attempt to rescue him. Would they have done that if there was evidence he’d deserted? I don’t think so. Bergdahl was a dissenter, not necessarily a unique position among soldiers in a war zone, but the tolerance for someone who expresses a different opinion is pretty low in our culture today, and I’m sure the stress of being in a war zone that’s never been secure probably amplifies fear and intolerance. I just don’t get the judgmental attitudes that have declared Bergdahl unworthy of rescue, or freedom. That’s un-American.

  5. Colby says:

    1. The five Taliban commanders would have to be released anyway when the US officially ends its involvement in Afghanistan, under international law. Why not release them to Qatar, who will hold them for a year, and get a prisoner of war back in the exchange, instead of sending them directly back to Afghanistan, and not getting anything in return.
    2. Several of the GOP congressmen and senators who are expressing indignation over the President’s action were, just a few weeks ago, calling on the White House to do “everything possible” to secure the release of Bowe Bergdahl. On February 16, John McCain declared his support for releasing the same five Taliban commanders to get Bergdahl back, and he is on the record. At least eight Republicans were involved in conferences with the state department and White House about this very kind of negotiation.
    3. The only information coming from the handful of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers regarding his desertion has taken place under consultation with “Republican strategists.” Looks like they’re engineering this thing as a political issue. Backlash can be ugly, especially when the facts come out. That may very well be why these stories aren’t “ringing true.” Because they’re not.
    4, The Bush Administration negotiated indirectly and directly with terrorists all during the Iraq war, without complaints from Congress. If Obama is guilty of breaking the law, then the handcuffs need to go on W’s arms, too. Thankfully, for both, there’s that pesky Patriot Act.

  6. Lee says:

    It is beginning to look, as time passes, that the statements made by a few of Bowe’s service “buddies,” were politically prompted, rather than factual eyewitness accounts. Aside from the fact that they are rather late on the scene, the facts that are coming from eyewitnesses don’t exactly square up. Bergdahl wasn’t exactly a gung-ho, Muslim hating, gun shooting kind of soldier, and probably wasn’t universally well-liked as a result, and that’s probably behind some of the stories being told. It will be a while before the facts come out, but turning this into a political referendum on the President or the Democrats will be a big mistake, especially prior to a mid-term election.

    As adamant and critical as Senator McCain has been, I was certain that Colby’s reference to his previous statements was misunderstood. But he’s accurate. McCain was appealing to the President, as he normally does, through appearances on Sunday news and talk shows, to get Bergdahl released, even at the cost of releasing four or five Taliban leaders from Gitmo, which we’d have to let go in a year anyway, under International Law. That’s not politics, that’s just pure hypocrisy, and I hope there are enough people in my home state of Arizona to realize how much embarassment their senior senator causes them.

  7. K Gray says:

    As reported by the Military Times, and re-reported by the New York Times:
    “An internal military investigation concluded in 2010 that there was little doubt Bergdahl walked away from his unit before he was captured. That investigation, known as an AR-15-6, remains classified and has not been released publicly, but several officials familiar with it have disclosed its results under condition of anonymity.”

    A June 2012 Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings – plus Wikileaks docs – tell a detailed story of Bergdahl writing a final email to his parents before leaving base with a knife, water and a diary. Read the article before mocking the source. Intercepts from Taliban the following day include “cut off his head” and “take video” to show they had an American captive. Hastings interviewed and quoted the Bergdahls (the father is an activist for freeing Guantanamo prisoners), the military, traveled to Afghanistan, and quoted Bowe’s emails to his parents. (As a side note, Hastings was a “progressive journalist” whose articles had taken down Gen. Stanley McChrystal and who was working on a story on John Brennan when he died in a car wreck).

    These are not Republican strategists or partisan cooked up stories.

    I have no opinion on whether Bergdahl’s release is for the greater or lesser good, overall, although certainly it is for his good and for his family’s good. NBC reports that ‘ “After arriving in Qatar, Noorullah Noori kept insisting he would go to Afghanistan and fight American forces there,” a Taliban commander told NBC News via telephone from Afghanistan.’ Reportedly the Obama administration hopes that this exchange will lead to more talks with the Taliban on resolving Afghanistan issues.

  8. K Gray says:

    And yes, the military did try to rescue him knowing he had walked off. They didn’t judge him or consider him unworthy of rescue effort.

    One more point: Newsweek reports that the Taliban 5 are former governors and commanders implicated in torture and slaughter of Shiite Muslims; one is known as “the butcher.” Newsweek reports: “Wasiq and Nori, according to American intelligence records, are also deeply implicated in mass slaughters as well as torture.” So their freedom may be more frightening to some Muslim sects than to us.

  9. Lee says:

    Let’s wait and see what the report actually says, rather than depend on speculation as to what happened. That doesn’t really matter, though. Regardless of how it happened, Bergdahl was an American in captivity in Afghanistan, and deserved every effort to be released.

    As far as who was let go, that doesn’t really matter, either, since they were designated as prisoners of war, and would have had to be returned under international law. John McCain was all in favor of this back on February 16, when he suggested it. DId you make a note of that particular statement?

    The presence of Republican strategists in this issue taints any chance for an objective resolution. Regardless of what happened, they are determined to turn anything into a political issue. I believe they will pay dearly for this at the polls in November.

  10. K Gray says:

    I don’t follow John McCain but I did note that statement. I brought sourced information here in response to you and your commenters stating that the “only” sources were a few Republican-influenced fellow soldiers; and that the stories about Bergdahl don’t ring true “because they’re not.” Wikileaks intercepts add to the picture of Bergdahl’s capture. None of these things — the 2010 military report, the Wikileaks docs, Bergdahl’s emails or his parents’ words as published in 2012, are from Republican strategists. So there is plenty of true information and I’m sure more investigation will occur. I truly hope that Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers are also not being slandered as liars.

  11. Jack says:

    Like all documents, evidence, and its presentation, there is a context in the arrangement, presentation, and even in the way the groundwork is laid in advance. I see this all the time, as a lawyer in court. There’s always a way to spin witness testimony to get the outcome that you want. There might have been a way to filter out the crap here, and get to the bottom of the issue, though I don’t think that Bowe Bergdahl is any less worthy of attempted rescue or a prisoner exchange to bring him home because of his or his parent’s views. This is America, after all, though it appears that there are a lot of people who would create a value system of human life based on ideology.

    This shouldn’t be a political issue. But it became one almost immediately because of the involvement of Republican strategists, and the truth is now permanently distorted as a result. Bergdahl will never get a fair hearing. And when a United States Senator comes out favoring this exact scenario, and then criticizes it later on, I have to think he’s either schizophrenic, or he’s just a flat out liar. That’s an issue here as well.

  12. Lee says:

    Here are the bottom lines, as I see it.
    1. There’s some question as to whether Bergdahl “deserted,” or “walked off”. Why? Only he really knows, and he’s not apparently in any shape to shed much light on his reasoning. But of course, because this has become a political issue, conclusions have to be drawn in order to blacken the President as much as possible. That does seem to be a pretty clear objective.
    2. Criticism of the President for acting without informing Congress, or letting five top, dangerous Taliban leaders go so that they could do more damage to the US are hypocritical, in light of the previous administration’s record on this sort of thing, including direct negotiation with terrorists. The President’s contention that quick action in secret was required to effect the deal is actually supported by provisions in the Patriot Act, which nullifies the claim of “illegality.” These guys were not classified as war criminals, they were designated as prisoners of war, and are subject to the Geneva conventions and international law.
    3. John McCain’s previous statement in February, which will get a lot of play, turns this into a totally political issue. McCain suggested that, in order to get Bergdahl back, which he fully and completely supported, it would take an exchange of five or six high level Taliban prisoners. Now, he’s totally and completely opposed to it, it was a bad deal, et, al. Try to take the politics out of that.
    What really happened? I don’t think we will ever know, and I think that Bowe Bergdahl is entitled to privacy, as well as a fair trial. But I don’t think a lot of people really care. They’ve made their mind up and that’s the way it will be, no matter what.

  13. K Gray says:

    I haven’t made my mind up. But as to “illegality,” the NDAA requiring 30 day notice to Congress prior to any release of Gitmor prisoners is a law enacted under and signed by President Obama, so he certainly knows its provisions and purpose. He now argues that there is an unstated, implied loophole — an argument that most legal scholars call “a stretch.” However the administration is apologizing for not notifying Congress, probably bc Dianne Feinstein was so upset about it.

    I don’t know what you guys read, but it’s not all blackness out there. There are people who care. Nathan Bradley Bethea served in the same battalion as Bergdahl, believes Bergdahl deserted, participated in searches for him, and believes several comrades died related to searches [he cares also about them and their grieving families and doesn’t want them forgotten], but concludes: “I forgave Bergdahl because it was the only way to move on. I wouldn’t wish his fate on anyone. I hope that, in time, my comrades can make peace with him, too. That peace will look different for every person. We may have all come home, but learning to leave the war behind is not a quick or easy thing. Some will struggle with it for the rest of their lives. Some will never have the opportunity. And Bergdahl, all I can say is this: Welcome back. I’m glad it’s over. There was a spot reserved for you on the return flight, but we had to leave without you, man. You’re probably going to have to find your own way home.”

  14. Lee says:

    Personally, I give a lot of latitude to those who serve, and extend a lot of grace to those who have. I am a pacifist, from a thread of relatives who were strongly influenced by Quakers, and from conclusions I’ve drawn because as a Baptist, I was taught the skill of Biblical interpretation with critical thinking and practical application. War happens because we live in a fallen world, not because God willed it to be part of human existence. It’s not that he doesn’t use the circumstances to accomplish his will, but war is not the will of God.
    Bergdahl was in the service of his country. He wasn’t drafted, he volunteered. He needed to be rescued from the Taliban who weren’t treating him with the same respect that we were treating their prisoners of war.
    It’s hard to argue that the choice of the five Taliban leaders to be released was a high price to pay. They are, in any definition of the term, terrorists. However, living in a country of laws, like we do, and having the respect and integrity that we do, we honor our diplomatic agreements, no matter how distasteful they are. The US had no standing, under the international law by which our integrity requires us to abide, to try them as war criminals. They would have eventually been released in a prisoner exchange anyway. I see nothing wrong with using these circumstances to get it done.
    I’ve had enough training and experience in political science to realize that every legal angle possible was explored by the White House before any decision was made, and whatever nuances of law would be required to effect this exchange would be invoked. I see the apology as more of a “sorry about not giving you Democrats a head’s up,” but not much more than that. If the ACA can’t get the GOP traction in a mid term election, this isn’t going to do anything at all. Obama can always invoke the provisions of the Patriot Act if this ever does see the light of day in a court hearing. That’s sort of a blanket “get out of jail free” card courtesy of the Bush administration.

  15. K Gray says:

    I agree this won’t affect President Obama’s standing much. It is consistent with his trend of independence – in this case going against military and intelligence opinion – and for that he is respected by some and not by others. Those factions are unlikely to change their opinions. The only change may be to lose some formerly loyal Dems. As a lawyer, I disagree with you all’s application of the Patriot Act over the more specific 30-day notice provisions of the NDAA re Gitmo, but I agree that may not go to court unless he does it again. (Today’s new info on 12 more prisoner releases does not involve Gitmo).

  16. Lee says:

    Jack is a lawyer, perhaps he can comment more on the various nuances, twists, turns, and blankets that are part of the Patriot Act. I look at that as Bush’s blank check to bypass the constitution, and I believe, as I have read from several sources, that it contains secret provisions which essentially empower the President to do as he pleases in matters related to “national security” which included how to handle, as W was so fond of saying, the “turrests.” It would be ironic, and purely just, if Obama were able to deflect Republican criticism or a legal attempt to hold him accountable by citing one of its provisions. I am convinced they’re there.

    The Middle East is a mess which no major world power has ever been able, or ever will be able to clean up. Much of it does indeed go back to Byzantium, the Caliphates and the Crusades, but the modern problems result from British imperialism and economic interests that created boundaries around political states established for the maximum protection of their own trade and oil interests. The first Bush wisely followed advice, freed Kuwait, and got us out of there. The second one made the mistake of an occupation, and a failed attempt at nation building. Now we have to pick up the pieces of the blowup, and there’s no really good solution because we have invested in interests that we should have avoided. Afghanistan should have been the priority, Osama Bin Laden the target, and once he was eliminated, we get out. Bush failed at both of those jobs, and Obama has to bail us out, with no really good option on the table as a result. We should send every war-related prisoner back home, and walk away. It’s none of our business.