A military document publish at the time Bowe Bergdahl was captured was titled ”(CRIMINAL EVENT) KIDNAPPING”. There is no evidence that Bergdahl deserted, despite the noisy accusations of some media commentators and politicians. He is innocent of wrongdoing unless he has been proven guilty by legitimate judicial proceedings. The threats and abuse his family and community have been suffering must stop. The circumstances of his capture need to be investigated before everyone jumps to conclusions based on a politically motivated media circus. Bowe Bergdahl asked his team leader about leaving the base on the night he was captured, instead of sneaking off as any practical deserter would have done. According to an article in Rolling Stone:
; In the early-morning hours of June 30th, according to soldiers in the unit, Bowe approached his team leader not long after he got off guard duty and asked his superior a simple question: If I were to leave the base, would it cause problems if I took my sensitive equipment?
Yes, his team leader responded – if you took your rifle and night-vision goggles, that would cause problems.
Bowe returned to his barracks, a roughly built bunker of plywood and sandbags. He gathered up water, a knife, his digital camera and his diary. Then he slipped off the outpost.
Bowe Bergdahl had taken the official instructions about winning the hearts and minds of the local citizens seriously. He had been trying to learn the local languages and would have needed to find native speakers to practice his new language skills. He had been practicing his language skills with Afghan police stationed at the top of a hill adjacent to his base.
How he slipped off the base is another matter of debate. The observation post was rectangular, shaped like a horseshoe, perhaps 150 yards long by 100 yards wide. One end backed up to a hill near where a contingent of Afghan National Police was staying and was not fully encircled with concertina razor wire; Sergeant Bergdahl had been increasingly spending time with the Afghan policemen, who helped provide security for the back of the outpost.
A classified report written by military investigators after Bowe Bergdahl was captured indicated that this was not the first time he had walked away from the base, which had very lax discipline. Pvt. Bergdahl had not been reprimanded when he had taken earlier hikes, and he had returned in time to carry out his assigned duties. A retired office made claims in the media that Bergdahl left a note in his tent saying he was deserting. The classified report did not mention any such letter.
The ‘letter’ might have been a reference to the e-mail Bowe Bergdahl sent to his father on June 27. Two days earlier a friend of Bergdahl’s, Lt. Brian Bradshaw, had been killed by a roadside bomb. Bowe Bergdahl was completely disillusioned with the war effort in Afghanistan. Three sergeants he had respected had been transferred to another company. His commanders were not able to provide effective leadership to his troubled unit. Bowe Bergdahl wrote to his father:
“In the US army you are cut down for being honest… but if you are a conceited brown nosing shit bag you will be allowed to do what ever you want, and you will be handed your higher rank… The system is wrong. I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools.” The soldiers he actually admired were planning on leaving: “The US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies. The few good SGTs are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same.”
In the second-to-last paragraph of the e-mail, Bowe wrote about his broader disgust with America’s approach to the war – an effort, on the ground, that seemed to represent the exact opposite of the kind of concerted campaign to win the “hearts and minds” of average Afghans envisioned by counterinsurgency strategists. “I am sorry for everything here,” Bowe told his parents. “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, that they have no idea how to live.” He then referred to what his parents believe may have been a formative, possibly traumatic event: seeing an Afghan child run over by an MRAP. “We don’t even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks… We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them.”
Three days after sending the e-mail to his father Bowe Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban.
June 30, 2009 — Bergdahl, who is serving with an Alaska-based infantry regiment, vanishes from a base in Afghanistan’s Paktika province near the border of Pakistan.
July 2, 2009 — Two U.S. officials tell The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Bergdahl had “just walked off” his base with three Afghans after his shift.
July 6, 2009 —The Taliban claims that five days earlier a drunken American soldier had come out of his garrison and was captured by mujahedeen.
July 18, 2009 — Taliban posts video online showing Bergdahl saying he was “scared I won’t be able to go home.” Bergdahl also says he was lagging behind a patrol when he was captured.
Dec. 25, 2009 — The Taliban releases a video showing Bergdahl apparently healthy and making a lengthy statement criticizing the US military operation.
April 7, 2010 — Taliban releases 7-minute video showing Bergdahl pleading for his freedom and to be returned home.
The night before he was captured Private Bergdahl went out of the base with his camera, but left his rifle and night goggles behind as his team leader had instructed him. The next morning he did not show up for morning roll call. He was reported missing at 04:30 and a search was started at 05:35. The following information from a military report describing the Bergdahl capture as a “(CRIMINAL EVENT) KIDNAPPING” has been edited and reformatted to make it easier to read:
At 0430Z, TF 1 Geronimo reported a B Co missing soldier after he did not show up for the
0900L morning roll call at Mest OP, grid 42SVB 59236 47877 Yahya Khail District, Paktika. A full search was ordered.
At 0535Z, TF 1 Geronimo initiated DUSTWUN procedures for the missing soldier.
At 0645Z, all remaining units had reported in 100% accountability. Geronimo TOC ordered blocking positions set in and around Mest OP. . . .
At 0940Z, a Pathfinder and tracking dog team arrived at Mest OP in support. . . .
At 1012Z, LLVI receives traffic that an American Soldier with a camera is looking for someone who speaks English. At 1303Z, Graphic 33(2x F-18) arrived on station in support.
At 1309Z, FF receive intelligence that a U.S. soldier has been captured.
The following intercepted conversation reported the Bergdahl kidnapping from the Taliban point of view:
1- W ARE READY FOR THEM.
2- ALL THE NUMBERS ARE MESS IT. WE ARE WWAITING FOR THEM.
1- LOL THEY KNOW WHERE HE IS BUT THEY KEEP GOING TO WRONG AREA.
2- OK SET UP THE WORK FOR THEM.
1- YES WE HAVE A LOT OF IED ON THE ROAD.
2- GOD WILLING WE WILL DO IT.
1- WE WERE ATTACKING THE POST HE WAS SITTING TAKING EXPLETIVE HE HAD NO GUN WITH HIM. HE WAS TAKING EXPLETIVE, HE HAS NOT CLEANED HIS BUTT YET.
2- WHAT SHEAM FOR THEM.
1- I DONT THINK HE W
2-YES LOOK THEY HAVE ALL AMERICANS, ANA HELICOPTERS THE PLANES ARE LOOKING FOR HIM.
1- I THINK HE IS BIG SHOT THAT WHY THEY ARE LOOKING FOR HIM.
3-CAN YOU GUYS MAKE A VIDEO OF HIM AND ANNOUNCE IT ALL OVER AFGHANISTAN THAT WE HAVE ONE OF THE AMERICANS.
1- WE ALREADY HAVE A VIDEO OF HIM.
Another Taliban interaction on the same report:
1- I SWEAR THAT I HAVE NOT HEARD ANYTHING YET. WHAT HAPPENED. IS THAT TRUE THAT THEY CAPTURED AN AMERICAN GUY?
2- YES THEY DID. HE IS ALIVE. THERE IS NO WHERE HE CAN GO (LOL)
1- IS HE STILL ALIVE?
2- YES HE IS ALIVE. BUT I DONT HAVE THE WHOLE STORY. DONT KNOW IF THEY WERE FIGHTING. ALL I KNOW IF THEY WERE FIGHTIING. ALL I KNOW THAT THEY CAPTURE HIM ALIVE AND THEY ARE WITH HIM RIGHT NOW.
This was followed by the chilling:
UIM SAYS “CUT THE HEAD OFF”
Clearly there had not be any desertion arranged with the Taliban. Perhaps Bowe Bergdahl could have told us why he left the base that night, or maybe he just felt a need to spend a few hours away from the kind of military outpost that made him think of a friend who died two days before in an explosion. A young man who grew up outdoors in Idaho may have wanted to walk in fresh air away from his stifling grief and anger.
Accusations of desertion point to the package with books, his computer and a journal Bowe Bergdahl sent to his parents shortly before he was captured. It is not clear if he mailed the package before the death of his friend or afterwards. It is clear the Bowe Bergdahl did not really fit in with the other guys. If there had been hazing about his philosopy books, and jokes about language studies on his computer he might well have sent them to his father. Bowe’s father would have understood him and listened.
[The classified military report is] said to confirm certain other details relayed in recent accounts, including that Sergeant Bergdahl shipped his computer and a journal home before he disappeared. It also confirms that he left behind his body armor and weapon — an unwieldy SAW machine gun — taking with him water, knives and a compass.
Bowe’s last e-mail to his father had ended:
“I am sorry for everything, The horror that is america is disgusting. There are a few more boxes coming to you guys, Feel free to open them, and use them.”
Bowe Bergdahl’s friend had just been blown to pieces by a bomb. Bowe Bergdahl had seen a child flee down a dusty street, unable to escape a crushing armored vehicle. He had listened to other soldiers joking about the death of a child. He knew he could also die at any moment. Bowe Bergdahl read books on philosophy and ethics. He liked dancing in the ballet. Bowe Bergdahl might have been tired of jokes involving his books and computer and journal. He had grown up taking long walks with he needed to clear his head for a few hours.
[Bowe] often did his own thing – making 30-mile treks and taking up karate, paragliding, fencing and ballet. There are multiple testimonies to his desire to help others: shovelling snow, doing errands, teaching.
“He was a very good dancer, muscular and flexible. The girls trusted him when he was doing lifts,” said Sherry Horton, his ballet teacher, who shared a house with him at one point.
Bowe had friends and a girlfriend but could be socially awkward, Horton said. “Girls liked him but he’d miss the cues. He was observant, quiet, but would come out with the best one-liner of the night.”
. . . . Former platoon comrades said he was a loner who lost faith in the mission and the US.
Bowe Bergdahl has been accused of deserting, and traitorously joining the Taliban. There is no reason to believe that he wanted to join the Taliban. The available evidence makes it clear that he was a prisoner of war who tried to escape his Taliban captors.
During his time in Tampa as commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. James Mattis said he saw no evidence to confirm that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, released in a prisoner swap last week, collaborated with his captors.
“I have never seen one bit of verified or confirmed evidence of that,” Mattis said in a phone interview with The Tampa Tribune. “Not one bit. You hear things and it was second- and third-hand.”
On the ABC program “This Week” Susan Rice said that Sergeant Bergdahl “served the United States with honor and distinction and we’ll have the opportunity eventually to learn what has transpired in the past years.”
Later White House press secretary, Jay Carney said, “Sergeant Bergdahl put on the uniform of the United States voluntarily and went to war for the United States, voluntarily. That takes honor, and it is a mark of distinction.”
WASHINGTON — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has told medical officials that his captors locked him in a metal cage in total darkness for weeks at a time as punishment for trying to escape, and while military doctors say he now is physically able to travel he is not yet emotionally ready for the pressures of reuniting with his family, according to American officials who have been briefed on his condition.
Captured in an attack on his unit in Paktia province in Eastern Afghanistan, the only glimpses his family and the outside world have seen of him over the past several years have come through intermittent video transmissions released by his captors to confirm his continued detention. In the first of these videos released in 2009, Bergdahl can be seen visibly choking back tears as he describes his life in detention, “Well, I’m scared,” he says. “It’s very unnerving to be a prisoner.” From what little intelligence that has come out about his life in captivity since, it is known that as recently as 2011 he made an escape attempt from his captors only to be recaptured and confined permanently in shackles to prevent any further attempts. The last video footage released of him, also in 2011, shows a young man who appears haggard and scared, a far cry from the smiling military photograph of him before his deployment to the Afghan battlefield.
Conservative politicians and media personalities have accused Bowe Bergdahl of causing the death of six of his fellow soldiers. The New York Times has a description of the search efforts after the capture of Bergdahl and of the fatalities among soldiers in region where Bergdahl disappeared:
Two soldiers died during the most intense period of the search after Sergeant Bergdahl’s June 30 disappearance. Both were inside an outpost that came under attack, not out patrolling and running checkpoints looking for him. The other six soldiers died in late August and early September.
[O]f the six men killed in August and September, two died in a roadside bombing while on a reconnaissance mission, a third was shot during a search for a Taliban political leader and three others were killed while conducting patrols — two in an ambush and one who stepped on a mine.
Still, those villages and insurgents were in the overall area of responsibility for the soldiers, and the logs make clear that the region was an insurgent hotbed. A log on May 21, 2009, for example, said it had historically been a “safe haven” for the Taliban.A retired senior American military officer, who was briefed at the time on the search for Sergeant Bergdahl, said that even though soldiers were instructed to watch for signs of the missing American, they would have been conducting patrols and performing risky operations anyway.
Defense secretary Chuck Hagel said “I don’t know of any circumstances or details of US soldiers dying as a result of efforts to get Bergdahl.”
Until we know more about what happened the night he was captured, we should all just celebrate the recovery of our POW. Bowe Bergdahl has not yet been allowed to see his family because the medical staff have announced that his health is too fragile for them to visit him. When he is able to explain what happened there will be plenty of time to discuss the circumstances of his disappearance. No matter what happened, this should not be a country that leaves people behind.