The release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity has raised a number of questions as to whether Bergdahl was captured or deserted his battalion and whether trading five Taliban officials for Bergdahl is a valid exchange to save a soldier. Emails Bergdahl sent his parents cast the question of his intentions in a very different light.
According to the New York Post, Bergdahl’s past before his capture by the Taliban tells the story of a man who was not quite sure of what he wanted to do in life–and, upon entering the theater of war, grew to regret defending his homeland. The newspaper notes that a colleague of his, former Spc. Jason Fry, claimed that Bergdahl “spent more time with the Afghans than he did with his platoon.” Bergdahl had also once attempted to join the French Foreign Legion, long before having any interest in working for the American military.
The most damning revelations from the newspaper, however, are what Bergdahl told his parents in an email the night before he disappeared five years ago into the arms of the Taliban. “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,” Bergdahl wrote in an email. “I am ashamed to be an American. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools,” he wrote to his mother and father.
“The horror that is America is disgusting,” he concluded, after also disparaging his superiors in the military and the operation generally. His father replied, “obey your conscience!”
The next night, Bergdahl walked off, according to those who served with him.
Whether Bergdahl was captured after lagging behind his colleagues or chose to walk away from his responsibilities is a pivotal fact in determining the value of trading five of the most dangerous detainees at Guantánamo Bay for him. Six soldiers died in the search for Bergdahl, and the parents of some whose lives were lost claim that they were given conflicting stories surrounding their sons’ death. What’s more, reports have surfaced that soldiers who knew the real story behind Bergdahl’s capture were “threatened” into keeping it quiet. The “deserter” label appears most often in the media today from those who were at the scene and experienced battle with Bergdahl.
Bergdahl’s words speak for themselves– the soldier was unhappy with working for the United States, and his ideology was incongruent with the mission in Afghanistan. His parents, knowing this, nonetheless expressed pride at his work and his return to freedom. “I’m proud of how much you wanted to help the Afghan people, and what you were willing to do to go to that length,” said his father, Bob, at a press conference after the announcement of the Taliban swap.