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DUSTWUN – On the Bergdahl release issue

The release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (29th Infantry Division EDIT – typo, Bergdahl was in the 25th Infantry Division, specifically the 501st PIR of 4 BCT) in trade for US captured members of the Taliban has created an incredible amount of discussion over the last couple of days. We've all read everything from accusations of desertion to pundits lauding him as a “returning American hero.” Bergdahl went missing from a US military installation in Paktika province on 30 June 09.

While I am inclined to  take the “Hey if you don't want to get captured by the Taliban, don't skulk out of the FOB unarmed asking to if you can hang with the Taliban” line, I absolutely believe in the tenets of “innocent until proven guilty.” I'm also well aware there are usually at least 3 sides to every story – this side, that side and what really happened. Hopefully his post-captivity interviews, the subsequent investigation and any resulting UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) actions will result in Justice being done – whatever that justice is.


I base my personal opinion on the matter based on the perspective of several men I respect. Those who were on the ground or in the air in Afghanistan when he was allegedly captured. These include men of the 75th Ranger Regiment, a retired CSM and others. I don't expect you readers to take their word for it, but I do urge you to look past the media splash (of vilification and accolade alike) and attempt to parse out the truth, difficult as that may be.


Bowe Bergdahl, sitting left, near Malakh Afghanistan 2009. Photo by Sean Smith.

One thing I've recently begun looking through are the comments made by Sgt. Bergdahl's father on assorted questionable pro-Islamist subscriptions made on his YouTube channel, which you can find here: Unfortunately, his subscription to those sites and his commentary could be a lot or nothing. He could be digging for intel, he could be running “pseudo-ops”, he could be supporting a mufsidun cause. I've also started digging into this, though I'm not entirely sure yet what I'm reading (or even if it's real).

There are a lot of questions here – did Sgt. Bergdahl in fact desert his post as alleged? Did he willfully provide aid and comfort to the Taliban or other anti-American forces? If so, in addition to meeting the definition of treason, he directly contributed to the deaths of multiple US military personnel involved in the search. That said, RUMINT is a powerful intoxicant, especially when taken during the tyranny of the moment when no other news is available and all matters seem desperate.

I want to believe we can rely upon our government, Big Army and the UCMJ to give us the true story (within OPSEC/COMSEC/PERSEC parameters), thus vindicating Sgt. Bergdahl if warranted – or confirming that he went UA (Unauthorized Absence) . I want to think that, but my gut tells me only the men on the sharp end at the time will ever know the full truth. This then segues immediately into asking whether or not the trade was worth it. I don't know Mohammed Fazl, Noorullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Muhammad Nabi Omari, but I doubt they were at Gitmo for failing to wash their left hand while cooking shawarma.

What do you think? Am I being too cynical?

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