Thomasville Times Enterprise

Opinion

June 3, 2014

Much more to the story

THOMASVILLE — With the heroic return of our local troops this week, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to hear of the release of American POW Bowe Bergdahl from an Afghanistan prison at pretty much about the same time.

I say ‘pleasantly surprised’ because I of course am glad to hear of any of our soldiers held in captivity being afforded their freedom, and Bergdahl had already been held prisoner by the Taliban for five years. It was great he was released, as surprising as it might have been.

Normally soldiers who are held against their will and subsequently released are hailed as heroes, and this time was no different. Reaction all over social media was joyful.

Then some strange stuff started happening. It seemed almost immediately after word of the release hit the media, President Obama appeared with Bergdahl’s parents in what can best be described as a very awkward White House Rose Garden press conference where the father spoke exclusively in Arabic. Then, almost simultaneously Bergdahl’s father tweeted “I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners. God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen [sic]!”

The immediate reaction on Twitter from people who just hours before were celebrating Bergdahl’s release was anything but sympathetic. In fact, most of them were downright outraged.

Within minutes the tweet was deleted – but, deleted or not, enough people copied the image of it and posted it to the internet so that denying its existence was entirely futile. Hardly a peep from the family has been heard since.

Which is far more than can be said about the men who had actually served with Bergdahl in Afghanistan, who in droves started coming out of the woodwork speaking up about what Paul Harvey would call ‘the rest of the story.’ According to these soldiers who were there, Bergdahl was never truly ‘captured’ by the Taliban – again, from their viewpoint he had simply abandoned his post and willingly walked to the enemy.

These soldiers contend that Bergdahl was upset over U.S. policy in Afghanistan, and deserted his post in a war zone in Paktika province, in the southeastern part of the country by the Pakistan border, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

Some commenters on social media scolded these soldiers for speaking out against one of their own, to which one replied tersely: “…maybe if you knew the truth and the sacrifices made from people in our units in Alaska to find this **** you wouldn’t feel the way you do. I feel worse for the kids who have to grow up fatherless cause their daddies died looking for this punk.”

It turns out that six American soldiers died trying to locate Bergdahl.

A report in The New York Post chronicles how Bergdahl sought to join the French Foreign Legion before joining the U.S. Army and how he seemed particularly mistrustful of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

According to that report, complicating things even further are revealing emails that were exchanged between Bergdahl and his family.

“I am sorry for everything here,” Bergdahl reportedly wrote in an email to his parents just prior to his capture. “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.”

“I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools,” Bergdahl concluded. “I am sorry for everything. The horror that is America is disgusting.”

Then, on top of everything else, the five Taliban leaders who were exchanged for this man have been widely described as some of the most dangerous detainees from Guantanamo.

Now don’t get me wrong here. The powers that be were in between the proverbial rock and a hard place on this one. There is no way around the fact that an American soldier was considered to be a prisoner of war and absolutely in the hands of enemy forces – and therefore was absolutely subject to a rescue effort.

Nobody wants to see our soldiers held against their will. And really, that seems to be where the proverbial rub is in this particular case. Did Bergdahl willingly abandon his post because he was sympathetic to the other side? And, if that is indeed the case, just how far did his abandonment of American interests go since?

Given what we now seem to be finding out about this man, which surely our intelligence community had at least some knowledge of beforehand, it appears this particular negotiation was little more than a total lose-lose for those interests.

With all of that said, you can be sure that plenty more facts need to come to light about this particular case before a final assessment should be made - and in the interest of fairness, his side of the story needs to be part of that enlightenment.

Until all of the facts are presented, it is probably best for all of us to bite our lip and hold our emotions intact in regard to final judgment regarding this case. In the meantime, keep your eyes and ears wide open on this story.

One can only hope what we learn won’t turn our joy for Bergdahl’s freedom into a feeling of betrayed rage.

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