Bowe Bergdahl has been punished enough

“How do I explain to a person that standing in an empty dark room hurts? … How like when you get that feeling when a word is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t quite remember it. That happened to me, only instead I was like… ‘What am I?’”
This is the way American soldier Bowe Bergdahl described his experience as a prisoner of war, to filmmaker Mark Boal. After he deserted his platoon in Afghanistan in June 2009, an action that is considered a grave war crime against the United States Code of Military Justice, Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan, and was held hostage for almost five years. In 2014, President Barack Obama traded five Taliban prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay for the safe release of Bergdahl. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump criticised Obama for this action, claiming that the trade was a terrible deal given that Bergdahl was a “Dirty, Rotten Traitor”. Almost a year later, Bergdahl faces a military trial during which he will be charged with desertion and misbehaviour before the enemy. Having pleaded guilty, this Monday his sentence will be declared, with the possibility of a life imprisonment.
Soon after telling his perturbing account of waking up day after day in a cage, or tied to a bed frame, or in a room so dark and empty that it made him question his existence, Bergdahl talked about a moment he had in which he realised how, right outside the flimsy wooden door that kept him captive, was the entire world. His parents, fellow platoon members, the president, the military, the forces that were shaping his story: all existed outside of his miserable half-existence in that dirty cell. And, in truth, every person who had even a marginal connection to Bergdahl did, in fact, participate in the maniacal whirlwind that arose around his capture. Some worked to keep him hostage, some risked their lives trying to save him and others used him to achieve political gains.
One can’t help but be shocked by Bergdahl’s account of his imprisonment. Even more stunning is the irony of how, after the colossal effort that it took to liberate him, he came back to the United States to potentially lose his freedom once again -this time at the hands of his liberators.
It is a twisted reality that in order to maintain the power and composure of its dominion, all the US military needs is for Bergdahl to once again become that static figure behind a locked door. He must be the point of reference against which they might, once again, establish their rules and expectations, the logical coherence of their empire. It would be truly monstrous to suggest that Bergdahl deserves to suffer even one more day in his life. Bergdahl’s disciplining is not about personal reprimand. We must understand that, for American interests, the payment for his crimes comes not in his suffering, but in the reassertion of US power as an imperious and inviolable potency, both domestically and globally.
Bergdahl has pleaded guilty to all his crimes. He understands and regrets the illegality of his actions. He has suffered more than most are even capable of suffering, as a direct consequence of his actions—not within a legal punitive framework, but through five years of unimaginable torture. Yet, it is not unlikely that soon Bowe Bergdahl will find himself behind the door of punishment once again—for the sake of protecting and maintaining the fragile stability of the entire world outside.

Image: Gel3nauva via wikimedia commons

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8 Responses

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  1. mjgranger
    Oct 26, 2017 - 10:08 AM

    The “twisted reality” is that which you attempt to perpetrate upon your readers here. Bowe Bergdahl is lucky to be alive, and is only alive because his captors suspected (correctly so) that then President Barrack Obama would trade not just some low level Taliban detainees, but high level Taliban LEADERS. You conveniently leave out a recent comment by Bergdahl that his Taliban captors treated him better than U.S. personnel once he returned, yet he claimed no torture by his U.S. holders. So how much weight does it hold when you say he suffered “years of unimaginable torture” at the hands of the Taliban? Six U.S. personnel DIED while attempting to find SGT Bergdahl, also conveniently missing from your tome. There can be no quarter given to deserters. According to the Law of Land Warfare deserters can suffer the ultimate punishment of a battlefield execution. Many experts feel he will not be imprisoned further, and this was before President Trump’s comments were introduced by Bergdahl’s defense team. I appreciate your humanist approach, but even you state that Bergdahl “. . . has suffered more than most are even capable of suffering, as a direct consequence of his actions.” So why all the sympathy? Bergdahl abdicated his responsibilities as a U.S. soldier, exposed his fellow soldiers to mortal danger, reneged on his Oath of Enlistment, and betrayed his honor and integrity for selfish personal reasons. You are on the wrong side of this argument.

    Reply
    • arcticredriver
      Oct 26, 2017 - 01:46 PM

      Major Granger claims six GIs died searching for Bergdahl. This assertion has been repeated many times. But hasn’t it been researched, and found to be untrue? Isn’t that why the Prosecution merely claims that some of those who searched for him were wounded?

      As to why Bergdahl would assert the Taliban treated him better than the US… Maybe this is a reflection that he expected the Taliban to treat him badly, and he did not expect other GIs to treat him badly. Trump dipped deep into his reptile-brain, and said Bergdahl should be thrown out of a plane, without a parachute. Bergdahl no doubt wasn’t surprised for Taliban leaders to say terrible things about him, but why shouldn’t he be disturbed by Trump’s comments? Trump’s advisors should have tried harder to have him keep his mouth shut. Balance of powers, et cetera — Trump should know that verdict and sentencing are not his responsibility. Trump’s terrible unfair comment may bother him more than years of torture, when at least he been accepted by his fellow countrymen to look forward to.

      Major Granger asserts deserters can be given a battlefield execution. Woah! If an officer tells his or her troops to advance, and one guy instead hides in his foxhole, or runs away, and the officer draws their pistol, and tells him to join the advance, or he will shoot — isn’t that the only circumstance when a deserter can be summarily shot?

      Major Granger asserts that Bergdahl left the base for “/selfish, personal reasons/”. Hasn’t it been made clear that Bergdahl thought he was a whistleblower, who was trying to make his way to HQ, to report what he regarded as serious infractions? That makes him an altruist, even if, for the sake of argument, his concerns were misplaced.

      Bergdahl was

      Reply
  2. Patrick Shrier
    Oct 26, 2017 - 10:17 AM

    Bowe Bergdahl should be facing the death penalty for what he did. That it cannot be proved any soldiers died looking for him is not the point. The point is that he deliberately abandoned his duties and by his actions placed his fellow comrades in danger. I do not expect anyone but veterans and especially combat arms veterans to understand that. He deserves the exact same punishment meted out to Pvt Slovik in 1944, nothing more and nothing less. Bergdahl is a disgrace to the uniform he wears and a dishonor to the United States.

    Reply
  3. arcticredriver
    Oct 26, 2017 - 10:55 AM

    Bergdahl’s decision to plead guilty… I’ve read arguments that he probably wasn’t technically guilty of desertion — just being AWOL. I read that there is a clock running, when one is AWOL, and one should only be charged with being AWOL, if one is at large when that clock runs out. Bergdahl, however, was quickly captured by the Taliban, so he was AWOL less than a day, and the clock that would have turned his AWOL into desertion still had considerable time to run.

    I hope, when he is sentenced, his motives are born in mind. Bergdahl thought he was a whistleblower, who wanted to report something
    serious to his superiors — who were at a base he thought he could walk to, in a day or so. So he wasn’t trying to desert.
    He genuinely thought he was doing the right thing.

    Back when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, half a dozen MP were punished — the ones who were photographed were punished. One of them, the Sergeant, Ivan Frederick, said he had serious doubts about how they were being directed to treat their captives. He testiIt is a possied he raised his concerns, and asked his superiors for a copy of the Geneva Conventions, so he could decide for himself whether the directions they were given complied. He testified he was mocked by his superiors.

    Sadly, at many of those remote bases, junior officers did routinely order their men to rough up, or even torture, Afghan captives. It is documented some Afghan captives died as a result of this treatment. Hardly anyone was punished for these atrocities. No, I don’t know that Bergdahl wanted to blow the whistle on this kind of law-breaking. It is a possibility. Mind you, he may have lost his marbles, and wanted to blow the whistle on something perfectly mundane, that wasn’t a crime.

    Still, I hope his good intentions are taken into account.

    Reply
    • David James Vernon
      Oct 26, 2017 - 12:51 PM

      You need to look up desertion and awol. There is no timetables. Absent without leave is not the proper term for what he did which was desertion of his post without being properly releaved at a time of war in the face of the enemy. He wasn’t captured. He surrendered.

      Reply
      • arcticredriver
        Oct 26, 2017 - 01:52 PM

        You assert “/He wasn’t captured. He surrendered./” Is this based on any actual substantive source? He said he left the base thinking he could make his way to the regional HQ. Did you think he left the base planning to seek out and surrender to the Taliban? That’s crazy. Do you have any reason to disbelieve what he actually said, and believe this, instead?

        Reply
  4. Michael
    Oct 26, 2017 - 12:00 PM

    Article was written by someone with no trigger time behind a weapon in combat, by someone who never had to depend on the soldier next to them in a foxhole, by someone who doesn’t know the meaning of honor and duty and courage. I speak for every soldier who ever served in combat when I say fuck Bowe Bergdahl. He is a deserter in wartime in a combat zone. He gets no sympathy from me.

    Reply
  5. Jack
    Oct 26, 2017 - 08:13 PM

    This worthless oxygen thief. The author should be pilloried and flogged. Bergdahl should have been judged by his peers in the barracks and found outside hanging from a telephone pole. Waste of government resources to coddle a liberal in any event.

    Reply

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