Bowe Bergdahl: If you send someone into Afghanistan, you have to get them out of Afghanistan

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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.

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3 thoughts on “Bowe Bergdahl: If you send someone into Afghanistan, you have to get them out of Afghanistan

  1. jonolan says:

    That’s a lovely, if biased, sentiment, though it seems to be more based upon supporting Obama than anything else.

    There is no doubt that Bergdahl deserted. That conclusion was already reached in 2010 after a military investigation. The doubt – a valid one to anyone not pathologically enamored of Obama – is whether or not such a trade should have been made for a deserter who apparently found out that the enemy wasn’t as nice as he thought they’d be.

    But really, this is just another Obama motive and message failure. He and his cabal could have handled it much better by not ignoring the fact that Bergdahl’s a deserter and saying that we’re bringing him home – either as a rescuee or a criminal being brought to justice.

    For the rest – Bergdahl isn’t important and Obama doesn’t give a shit about him. This was about Obama legitimizing the Taliban because, after our upcoming surrender, they’re once again going to be Afghanistan’s government.

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    • Thanks for a really interesting view on this. As you can imagine in the UK we have a different view of Obama, and also our politics is far far less partizan so, having read your site I doubt I will be able to see from your point of view. I read your view of the realpolitik of bergdahl on your blog which gave me a good insight into a way to look at the situation. In response to your words, I am not doubting Bergdahl was a deserter. I even suspect he could, after 5 years in captivity, be harbouring some rather dangerous thoughts about the USA right now. My main point was that there is plenty of evidence that he was psychologically isolated before he was sent to Afghanistan, yet they still sent him. There was plenty of evidence he was developing a loss of identification with the country he was supposed to be fighting on behalf of, yet nobody did anything about it. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the USA to bring him back, as they had put him there in the first place. If you want to blame Obama, you could argue that the surge that he authorised meant they took less care about who they were sending as they just needed ‘bodies’. Well, they got a body over there, but his head was in the wrong place.

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      • jonolan says:

        Firstly, thanks for stopping over for a read of that post. I’m glad you found it interesting.

        Secondly, we’re foreign to each other. It’s both normal and right that we different views of politics and geopolitical aims. After all, our interests, both political and cultural, can’t be expected to be in lock-step with each other.

        That being said, I’m not totally ignorant of the UK’s political landscape and I’d say that you’re, as a whole, as partisan as we are but it somewhat masked by both your more subsidarian political structure – I love that BTW – and your far larger number of viable parties.

        Third, you’re right that America is less “touchy feely” when it comes to our military and that this bites us in the arse now and then…like this time.

        Finally, while while I’m Obama’s largely toothless enemy, I’m not going to attack him for doing the right thing – he does occasionally. I don’t blame him for retrieving Bergdahl, though I blame him for violating the law – again! – to do so, and I lampoon him and his staff for the idiotic rhetoric he displayed while doing so.

        He could have acknowledged Bergdahl’s status and said that we were bringing him home anyway…either for a homecoming or judgement, depending upon the military’s findings. That would have short curcuited most of the blow back.

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