Over the past two weeks, the story of Bowe Bergdahl (America’s last known prisoner of war) has unfolded before the American people.
At first, Bergdahl release after five years in captivity by the Taliban made him something of a hero. His release was cause for celebration. Hooray!
But then, the news started to reveal that Bergdahl may have been a deserter. Some suggested he may have even converted to Islam.
Now what? Is he a good guy or bad guy? A hero or a traitor?
President Obama (who probably expected to celebrated for rescuing Bergdahl) found himself severely criticized for: 1) making an unconstitutional deal when he traded five Taliban “detainees” held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for one American soldier who may have deserted; and 2) having cut his deal without Congressional approval.
There’s a two-word term that starts with “cluster” and ends with “***k” that may offer a pretty good description of the Bergdahl story.
The evolution of American understanding of this incident can be seen in a few, day-by-day newspaper headlines and excerpts:
• The New York Times reported in “Bowe Bergdahal’s Vanishing Before Capture Angered His Unit” that,
“Sometime after midnight on June 30, 2009, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl left behind a note in his tent saying he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life. He slipped off the remote military outpost in Paktika Province on the border with Pakistan and took with him a soft backpack, water, knives, a notebook and writing materials, but left behind his body armor and weapons—startling, given the hostile environment around his outpost.”
A deserter who “left behind a note”?! “Disillusioned”? “Leaving to start a new life”?! Took his notebook but no weapons when he wandered off into Afghanistan?
This description isn’t merely “startling”. It suggests that Sgt. Bergdahl had cracked up under the stress of combat and was mentally ill. Shell shock. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
“The release of Sergeant Bergdahl has created political problems for the Obama administration, which is having to defend his exchange for five Taliban detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba,. . . .”
I doubt that those five Taliban detainees had much value after being “detained” for 12 years or more. They are older, fatter, softer, out of the loop—I doubt that they have much value. I doubt that we lost much by sending five Taliban back to the Middle East.
Nevertheless, it’s unlikely but at least conceivable to conspiracy theorists like myself that President Obama’s real intention, all along, was to release the five Taliban held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It so, it’s conceivable that Obama only used Bergdahl as a pretext for releasing the five Taliban. I wouldn’t bet that’s true, but it makes for interesting conjecture, no?
• The Washington Times (“ Obama fires back in defending Bergdahl trade—‘We seized that opportunity’”) reported that,
“President Obama said Tuesday he had an obligation to secure the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, regardless of the circumstances surrounding Sgt. Bergdahl’s capture . . . . Mr. Obama said he, like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and FDR before him, must take every possible step to bring home American fighting men and women held in captivity at the end of a war.”
Well, Mr. Obama, I knew George Washington. George Washington was a friend of mine—and you’re no George Washington! You’re not even an Abraham Lincoln. In fact, I’m not even sure that you rise to the level of a G.W. Bush.
• The Washington Times (“Special forces found Bergdahl and captors but wouldn’t risk rescue for ‘deserter’”) reported:
“The Pentagon on several occasions had ground-level intelligence on where Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was being held captive at various times—down to how many gunmen were guarding him—but special operations commanders repeatedly shelved rescue missions because they didn’t want to risk casualties for a man they believed to be a ‘deserter’ . . . . ”
It makes sense that the Army would not want to risk the lives of some of soldiers to free a man they believed to be a deserter.
But what if Bergdahl was mentally ill when he left his base to “start a new life”? Under those circumstances, Bergdahl was arguably a “wounded warrior” who was entitled to be rescued–not condemned to be abandoned by the Army to five years in Taliban captivity.
If Bergdahl was mentally ill when he seemingly “deserted,” the Army is going to look like hell. How will the Army explain that they abandoned a mentally ill American soldier that they could have rescued to five years of imprisonment by the Taliban?
Right now, all the political heat is on Obama. But if it turns out that the Army knew or should’ve known that Bergdahl was mentally ill, that political heat will shift to the Army. How could the Army leave a crippled soldier to five years imprisonment by the Taliban? There’s a good chance that several military careers are about to come to an end. I’ll be very interested to see how the Army “spins” the Bergdahl story.
In the end, the Army probably has more to lose from the Bergdahl story than Obama.
• The New York Times (“Can Bowe Bergdahl Be Tied to 6 Lost Lives? Facts Are Murky”) reported
“. . . men who served with [Bergdahl] have called him a deserter. Some have gone further, blaming him for the deaths of six to eight soldiers. . . . CNN has reported as fact that ‘at least six soldiers died’ looking for Sergeant Bergdahl after senior American military officials say he wandered off his base. . . . But a review of casualty reports and contemporaneous military logs from the Afghanistan war shows that the facts surrounding the eight deaths are far murkier than definitive . . . .”
If Bergdahl was mentally ill when he “wandered” (??) off his base to “start a new life,” it’s unreasonable to hold him accountable for anyone else’s death or inconvenience.
• The Washington Times (“Bergdahl could face discipline if proven guilty of dereliction of duty”):
“The Pentagon said Tuesday that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl may still face disciplinary action if he is found to have walked away from his post in 2009, as Obama Administration officials sought to answer increasingly pointed questions about the deal that saw the U.S. release five Taliban warriors in exchange for getting [one] sergeant back.”
It just doesn’t seem fair that they got five Taliban and we only got one sergeant, does it? Once again, Obama is shown to be an inept negotiator. He should’ve at least held out for a couple of camels or goats or something.
In fact, Bergdahl may have been rescued so he could be prosecuted. Not much cause for celebration, there, hmm?
The Army may be able to conceal its betrayal of Bergdahl by prosecuting him and proving that he was a deserter rather than mentally ill.
“House Speaker John A. Boehner said President Obama may have illegally sidestepped Congress to release the five Taliban fighters from Guantanamo Bay, elevating the legal dispute to the level of a major constitutional clash between the branches of government.”
• No clown will be left behind in the Bergdahl story. Even Boehner’s piling on.
In fact, it’s a sad story. Bergdahl probably “cracked up” from the stress of fighting in Afghanistan and therefore “wandered off” to “start a new life.” If he’d been found by the US back then, he might’ve been charged as a deserter or, more likely, given some sort of mental health care.
Instead, he was found by the Taliban and held captive for five years. Imagine being mentally ill, and then captured by an “enemy”.
And then, the Army–which has a moral obligation to rescue any American POWs–intentionally left Bergdahl to rot, believing he was a deserter rather than mentally ill.
If Bergdahl was already mentally ill when he was first captured, he was probably very susceptible to influence or brain-washing by his captors. As the years passed, and Bergdahl realized he’d been abandoned by the US military, his mental health may have declined further.
• Bergdahl was probably driven mad by war. Then he’s held captive by the Taliban for five years. Betrayed by the US Army for most of those five years. And he’ll probably be tormented for the next several years by his own countrymen (and possibly jailed by the Army for desertion) whenever he returns to the US. You can’t say Bergdahl is very lucky.
He is a tragic figure. I won’t be surprised if Bergdahl dies before the end of this year. He’s under enormous stress, every place he’s turned for the past six years and probably the next several has or will betray him.
As I write this article, Bergdahl’s being held indefinitely in Germany for some sort of “health care”. I can’t prove it, but I suspect that his mind is being worked on to ensure that, whenever he returns to the US or speaks publicly in Germany, Bergdahl doesn’t say anything to make Obama look any dumber than usual or criticize the Army.
• Nothing “just happens,” anymore, does it? The Obama administration can’t just bring Bergdahl home and let his parents or community take care of him. The Army may have to prosecute him rather than help him.
It’s a little like last December’s murders of 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook elementary school. That wasn’t just a human interest story. It wasn’t just the tragic loss of 20 children. It was a political event that could be used and “spun” by gun control “nuts” to gain political advantage. I guarantee that some of the most zealous gun-control advocates were secretly gleeful over the political leverage they could garner thanks to deaths of those 20 kids.
There’s something ghoulish about modern “hard ball” politics. Anything goes—not matter how brutal or psychopathic.
The Bergdahl story is similar to Sandy Hook’s in that he’s no longer simply a man or even a tragic figure—he’s a political “happening” that’s been “spun” by the Taliban, and is now being re-spun or back-spun by the Obama administration. And will be spun again by the US Army. All this “spinning” has nothing to do with helping Bergdahl. The original “spinning” was all about helping the Taliban. The current re-spinning is all about helping the Obama administration. The Army will try to spin the story to exonerate the Army.
Bergdahl has become largely irrelevant to his own story. He’s not a man, a soldier or a victim—he’s a pawn, a thing, to be used by others for political purposes.
• Everything has become so politicized–so politically correct or politically incorrect–that the simple truth has been lost. The Obama administration can’t simply regain a soldier who’s been mentally ill and possibly brainwashed by his captors. The Obama administration will have to brainwash Bergdahl to serve the government’s need for political gain. The Army may at least threaten to prosecute to secure Bergdahl’s silence.
Given the adverse publicity that Obama suffered after freeing Bergdahl (and the adverse publicity that the Army may soon face), I’ll bet that some people in government (and the Army) are half-seriously thinking about killing Bergdahl (an apparent suicide would be ideal) in order to protect the Obama administration and/or Army from further embarrassment. This would be especially true if government attempts to re-spin Bergdahl’s mind in Germany prove futile. If Bergdahl is going to be a Muslim convert or loose cannon in public, he may have to be disposed of or otherwise silenced.
If so, some of the same people who helped free Bergdahl from his five years of captivity just days ago may now be thinking about killing him.
I know that the previous analysis is extreme, unpleasant and improbable. But, in today’s political arena, that analysis is not impossible.
To say that “politics makes strange bedfellows” does not begin to explain how bizarre, self-serving and savage modern politics has become.
Increasingly, our Congress and White House and even military seem populated by cannibals.