June 3, 2014. Broken by battle, wounded by war. That’s a line from a poem written by the spouse of a wounded warrior. Not physically wounded, but mentally, by his deployment in the War on Terror. America’s just freed POW Bowe Bergdahl is also a casualty of this war, much like the 82,000 US vets that have committed suicide since it began in 2001 and the hundreds of thousands more still suffering. Bergdahl isn’t a traitor or a deserter as some might suggest. He’s a US soldier that was broken by war.
Just-released POW Bowe Bergdahl
Remember ‘stop-loss’ and ‘stop-gap’? They were programs utilized by the US military to force young men and women to fight continuously, skipping repeated rotations out of combat because America was forcing anyone and everyone onto the front line. There were thousands of US soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that should never have been there. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is one of them.
Why did he walk away?
The question some are asking is, why did Bowe Bergdahl walk off his post one night surrounded by hostile Afghan forces? According to reports from his fellow servicemen, Bergdahl was acting strange and even told them he had to get out of there and was going to walk to India to do it. And to show just how broken the young 23-year-old’s mind was at the time, he actually attempted it. What kind of person tries to walk through a war zone, across Afghanistan, then across Pakistan, and then to India? A person who’s psychologically damaged, not a traitor.
Bowe Bergdahl didn’t turn his weapon on his fellow soldiers like some did. He didn’t convert to Islam and decide to join the Jihad. In this author’s opinion, Bowe Bergdahl didn’t desert. He attempted to commit suicide by Afghanistan. The reports state that he left his rifle, helmet and bulletproof gear folded and stacked neatly in a pile. He left behind all the items that could have saved his life. Anyone who’s ever lost a loved one to suicide may even see haunting similarities.
Releasing 5 Jihadists
Many have voiced concern and even outrage that five Taliban fighters were turned over to the custody of Qatar in exchange for the release of America’s only official POW. Some say we don’t negotiate with terrorists. To that I say, we’ve been doing it since Iran-Contra. Some say this will incite America’s enemies to capture more US soldiers and demand more exchanges. But some of us believe its America’s recurring invasions and wars that are causing hostilities toward our troops, not the release of Bowe Bergdahl.
And don’t forget, Bowe Bergdahl didn’t make the choice to exchange five Taliban fighters. Although, imagining ourselves in his place for the last five years, we probably would have exchanged a lot more than that for our freedom. Presumably, President Obama and the Pentagon made the decision to exchange prisoners. But as this author has said for three years now - why couldn’t we just buy Bergdahl’s freedom?
We buy everything else in the world our government wants. We had no problem giving al Qaeda and the Taliban billions of dollars in cash midway through the war against them to buy their allegiance, while we would continue to fight them for another half decade. We just gave Pakistan, who actually controls Afghanistan, $1.6 billion in foreign aid. Why didn’t we make a condition of that gift the freedom of America’s lone POW? We spent trillions of dollars on the War on Terror but couldn’t spare 1/10,000th of that to secure the freedom of America’s only Prisoner of War?
Many of the most vocal regarding their contempt for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are actually the soldiers that risked their lives searching for the captured POW. Some reports say a couple men tragically lost their lives searching for or trying to rescue Bergdahl. But again, why do any of that when his captors had spent the past five years trying to give him back? Repeatedly over the years, the Taliban-allied fighters holding Bowe released videos of him, asking US officials to make a deal. With Bergdahl showing the obvious wounds of beatings and torture, the Obama administration said they didn’t know where Bergdahl was, or if he was even still alive.
Pro-Afghan and Muslim statements
Another host of individuals have decided to take issue with some statements allegedly credited to Bowe’s father Bob Bergdahl. It’s true that after the first year of his son’s captivity, he grew out his beard and began learning the languages, customs and religions of the region his son was being held. Almost three years ago we documented his very public plan to infiltrate Afghanistan and find and rescue his son himself.
With the government not about to let that happen, Bob spent the following years attempting to find his son, or anyone with any information about where he might be. To do that, the elder Bergdahl spoke directly to the people of Afghanistan for their help. He spoke their language to them via internet platforms like Twitter. He honored their religion, assumedly to appeal to their humanity hoping it would lessen the torment his son was enduring. If anything, they are the words of an extremely heartbroken and frustrated father who was watching his government and the media ignore his son’s plight for five years.
Bob Bergdahl hoped his son would be treated less harshly if his captors believed the Bergdahl family was sympathetic to their plight rather than a typical Muslim-hating American family. If my child were held by the Taliban for five years, I'd be doing a lot more crazy and whacked-out stuff than the Bergdahl's ever did. They seem to be a good, decent, regular American family thrust into the most bizarre situation any of us could possibly imagine, with the life of their only child hanging in the balance.
So, why did just-released former POW Bowe Bergdahl do what he did on the night he was captured by the Taliban? Why do any US soldiers traumatized in war do what they do? There are a half million of them back home to ask if you must know, although 22 are committing suicide every single day, totaling over 80,000 since the start of the war. But that might just be your answer right there.
As far as this author, father and American is concerned, we can blame Bowe Bergdahl for cracking up in the middle of a war. He surely wouldn’t be the first and he won’t be the last. But after being beaten, tortured and held captive in enemy hands as a POW for five years, nobody can call him a traitor. For those who are angry at Bowe Bergdahl because five Taliban fighters were exchanged, or that US soldiers risked and even lost their lives searching for him, aim your anger at the administration that made those fateful decisions, not the Bergdahl family.
I’m going to close with a statistic because I believe it has everything to do with this tragic story. 6,717 US soldiers died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. 82,805 US veterans have killed themselves in the same time period. If it’s mentally broken US soldiers like Bowe Bergdahl that some in America want to go on a witch hunt for, then we’ve got about a half million more witch hunts to go.
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