By some of the accounts I’ve read, Bowe Bergdahl has been described as a loner and an oddball.
He’s supposedly someone who preferred books over beers with his fellow soldiers, an outsider within his infantry unit. Independent and thoughtful, Bergdahl also fancied himself an some kind of adventurer. After failing to gain acceptance into the famed French Foreign Legion at 20, he joined the U.S. Army.
It didn’t turnout to be the adventure he had imagined.
According to journalist Michael Hastings, Bergdahl was assigned to a unit that was plagued with leadership and discipline problems and he quickly became disillusioned by what he saw and experienced in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province.
The battalion suffered its first casualty on June 25, 2009 when one of the few friends in the unit was killed by a roadside bomb. Two days later, in an e-mail exchange with his parents, Bergdahl could no longer hold back his disgust at what he thought was the United States “self-righteous arrogance” in Afghanistan, saying he was “ashamed to be an American.”
On June 30, 2009, he slipped away into the darkness, leaving behind his weapon, taking only water, a knife and his diary alone into the Afghan countryside.
Unsurprisingly, he was captured by Taliban fighters soon afterward and kept as a prisoner until his sudden release last week in exchange for five prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.
The exchange is sure to generate a lot of heat for President Obama, and deservedly so. He clearly violated the law that requires Congress to be notified 30-days in advance of such prisoner releases. That being said, it wasn’t a “precedent setting” exchange, as some are calling it, just another unilateral executive action that Obama and his predecessors have been getting away with for way too long. But that’s another column.
As for Bergdahl, already there are two camps of thought lining up. To one side he is a traitor who should have been left to rot in his Afghan prison. To others, he is a prodigal son who should be embraced, having suffered enough during captivity.
He is neither.
Bergdahl is selfish man who committed stupid act by deserting his post and fellow soldiers. Perhaps he didn’t have any friends and had good reason to be disillusioned about the war. It’s no excuse.
When he walked away from his duty, he abandoned his country. He’s lucky it did not abandon him.Men risked their lives, and some died in the following weeks spent trying to find him. They were faithful to this faithless man.
Unlike Bergdahl, his country did its duty and freed him from captivity.
I hope he’s able to see that when he gets home to face the music.