With Regards To Bergdahl’s Release – Updated x2

June 5, 2014

Updates below.

Below is my response to this diary:

For me refusing to participate in the carnage that is Afghanistan takes more courage than going along with it. Our soldiers have committed plenty of their own crimes against the people there. It is no secret that our own have often treated the Afghan people like shit. It seems from what I have read this is what drove this young man to want to walk away from it all.

I am waiting to hear what he has to say, if he ever gets to tell his side of the story. I know it bugs the hell out of a lot of my fellow vets that Bergdahl left his position (I will hold off on calling it desertion until he is prosecuted for such). My question is, is there really any honor in staying if your fellow soldiers are abusing the very people they are supposedly there to help? Are all those that served in Afghanistan, or Iraq for that matter, heroes by default?

Do not misunderstand me, I am not calling this man a hero. But I do think that there is a certain sanity in walking away from something that you can no longer consciously participate in, even if doing so will be quite unpopular, to the point that you may forever loose your own freedom.

As everything at this point is speculation, I will withhold my final judgement of him until I know more. And I will not forget that mine is but one opinion amongst many. Even what I have written here and elsewhere is based more on emotion and my own speculation than any real facts. What I will not do is parrot right-wing talking points, nor will I call for his head out of some archaic sense of honor.

If anything good were to come from this, I would wish that we as a nation would finally take stock of the past 13 years and finally come to terms with our own guilt. A guilt that comes from sending our men and women off to foreign lands to fight wars that have no ultimate objective, no way to ‘claim victory’ at the end of the day. A guilt that is drenched in the blood of countless faceless peoples who never posed a real threat to our lands. A small band of lunatics attacked us on a fateful day 13 years ago. What happened afterwards will be looked back on as insanity.

Update – I want to share this reply to my above comment:

A good insight into the war as a whole!

“I know it bugs the hell out of a lot of my fellow vets that Bergdahl left his position”

I am sure you can understand this, even if you don’t agree with it.

And that point is why many vets who are progressives feel the way they do. People trying to paint it as listening to the RWNJs just don’t understand. The lack of dependability of a fellow soldier in your unit in a combat zone is what bothers vets. In the field you only have each other, and abandoning your unit in a combat zone is just plain reprehensible. If he felt like he could no longer serve, he should have went through proper channels and gotten discharged or sent to another unit.

and my response:

I can understand that position.

We band together out of a sense of camaraderie. What else can we do in that situation? Thrust into combat, lives on the line, our strength, our very survival, is dependent on those around us, just as their survival is dependent on us. We must move as a unit. Live as a unit.

I can also see the ultimate folly of war, especially this one. And I can say with certainty that I would rather a person walk away if they are not of the mindset spoken of above than have them by my side. If this was his reason, if he was disillusioned and no longer capable of carrying out his mission, then he was a danger to those around him. Let us speculate for a minute that this is indeed the case, and that he honestly thought he could make it out of the country on his own. If so he is guilty of being a fool, of being far too sure of his own abilities and skill.

Should he instead have gone to his chain of command? Perhaps, though I doubt it would have done any good. His complaints would most likely have fallen on deaf ears. Or worse it would have caused him to be thrust deeper into the very travesty he wished to escape from. Those in command can be fickle that way.

So yes, I can understand your point. At the end of the day his worst mistake was signing up at all. For if he was not prepared to stay, to participate, and to die with his unit regardless of his own personal feelings, then he had no business being there in the first place. Such is the mindless nature of the military.

I do have to wonder if the vets that are appalled by this man’s actions are equally ready to cast disdain upon their fellow soldiers who committed the countless crimes against the Afghan and Iraqi peoples which we as a nation seem to collectively refuse to acknowledge.

Update 2 – Another aspect to this I feel needs included here (As I have been in several conversations on this topic today, below is another comment I made in a different diary on the subject of whether those traded for Bergdahl are terrorists or enemy fighters. I think this is an important distinction):

So I guess we should just start parroting the right-wing talking points many of us here have spent countless hours pushing back against. The Taliban was A-OK with our government and corporate masters back in 1999. They only became the enemy when they refused to give up bin-Laden. Were they shit bags before that? Hell yes. But when the US wanted a pipeline deal their evil was ‘not so bad’ to get in the way.

It has driven me nuts how the word terrorist has been abused in this country. Everyone suddenly became one (it has been hurled at those of us on this site too). Most people in Afghanistan didn’t even know about 9/11 until we showed up guns a-blazing. A lot of the people we have been fighting were ‘radicalized’ by our invasion. But they all get called terrorists.

Let’s not confuse the issue here. The war is winding down, we did a prisoner swap. If the American public is still too damn stupid to understand what happened over the past 13 years then yes we have a problem. But let’s not aid the Right in their spin.

Juan Cole at Informed Comment sums it up:

Obama clearly saw this prisoner swap in the light of the imminent end of hostilities in Afghanistan, as an early implementation of steps that would have to be taken swiftly in 2017 anyway, to meet US treaty obligations under international law. Those politicians demanding that officials of the former Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan remain in Guantanamo forever with no charges filed against them and after hostilities have ceased are asking for a Star Chamber, for something that is un-American and which is illegal in US law.

I want to also point out that there has been a considerable amount of flip flopping on the Right. Countless people on that side of the spectrum have been spending their time and energy backtracking on their previous calls to bring Bergdahl home. Many are even now scrubbing their websites, Twitter feeds and the like of any past support for his rescue from the Taliban. We are seeing a deliberate whitewash in action.

One last note. I highly recommend reading this piece:

Dead or alive, we get our people home, whatever the cost, that’s the one promise that must never be broken.

The day we forget that, the day the fear of “what will the terrorists think” becomes more important to us than that sacred obligation, that’s the day America dies.

Whether or not Bowe Bergdahl is a hero or a deserter or just a hapless fool who screwed up under the enormous pressures of war, he’s still an American.


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