June 7, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
You wouldn’t come across many Bowe Bergdahls in London, England. Born in an area of the United States that people only usually fly-over. Home-schooled by his parents. Studied ballet as well as martial arts in his early adulthood. Went to France to attempt to join the foreign-legion there. Then went to infantry school in the USA, graduated and was sent to Afghanistan in February 2009 as part of the “surge” that Barack Obama had authorized to try and regain control there. Whatever happened next, the main point I want to make is that the USA sent Bowe Bergdahl to Afghanistan, so the USA has to bring him back.
What happened next is still largely unexplained, even though we have clues. Details will come out over the next few months or even years as the military attempt to de-brief him. From the moment he joined the army he was not interested in socialising with his peers. His father has described him as psychologically isolated. He spent a lot of time studying maps of Afghanistan and very quickly started to learn pashto (the local dialect) and spend more time with Afghans than with his unit.
The emails he sent back to his parents before he allegedly walked away from his base and ended up captured by the Taliban are instructive. Although there is a propaganda war going on between the Taliban and the US army at the moment, meaning we just cannot be sure exactly what happened – there is no disagreement as to the content of these emails.
“The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting”
“In the US army you are cut down for being honest… but if you are a conceited brown nosing shit bag you will be allowed to do what ever you want, and you will be handed your higher rank… The system is wrong. I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools…I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live. We don’t even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks… We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them…I am sorry for everything. The horror that is america is disgusting”
Since he was captured there has been much debate about Bowe Bergdahl. Was he a “deserter”? Is he responsible for the deaths of any soldiers who were sent out to try and find and recapture him? Should the US government have agreed to the release of five senior Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo in return for Bergdahl’s release. To see the controversy that has developed – you only have to look at this timeline from the Washington Post (which is, it is important to point out, a right-wing newspaper).
In amongst the talk of impeaching the President for what he did needs to be one main truth, which Obama himself has said:
“Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop.”
My opinion on this is that if we want or need our citizens to go to war for us, we need them to know that we have their backs should anything go wrong. The US military allowed Bowe Bergdahl into Afghanistan, and it looks like what went wrong was that he had changed psychologically, or may have been already. He certainly no longer identified with the army he was fighting for. Did no-one notice? Did no-one raise the alarm with higher authorities so he could be removed from Afghanistan. Because no-one did, Bowe Bergdahl allegedly walked out of his base and into the arms of the Taliban. Should he have ever been allowed to go to Afghanistan in the first place?
Goodness knows what the person is like who is coming back to the USA is like now. Goodness knows what he believes and what he might do with himself now he is back. But I believe that the USA had a responsibility to get him back, and what is needed most is patience. Patience to understand Bowe Bergdahl, patience to help Bowe Bergdahl, patience to accept its responsibities to Bowe Bergdahl and, if the USA is as liberal a country in its beliefs about freedom of thought as it says it is…patience to accept Bowe Bergdahl.