I don’t know if SGT Bergdahl voluntarily walked off his camp and surrendered to the enemy or not. Just because a few fellow Soldiers in his unit say that doesn’t make it so. The most powerful communication system in an Infantry company is what we used to call “S-5–rumor control.” I’ve never been in a unit that wasn’t essentially a knitting circle with automatic weapons. Young Soldiers, for whom boredom is an almost constant companion (punctuated by moments of sheer terror) can give the most catty junior high school girls’ clique a run for their money. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong, but I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in it without some corroboration. So I’ll hold off judgment on that. It’s also been brought up that he supposedly sent some emails to one or more people expressing doubts about US military actions. So did I. So have a lot of guys who then went out and did the very best they could do for their buddies and their country. It’s irrelevant anyway.
We’re getting out of Afghanistan, and the treaties to which this nation has repeatedly pledged itself require that we release Prisoners of War and repatriate them home. Taliban are distinct from Al Qaeda in this respect because Taliban could be considered the government forces of Afghanistan (whether legitimate, loved, respected, or not) while AQ isn’t anything but a bunch of thugs under international law. So this idea that we gave up valuable prisoners for one guy and that makes it a bad deal is bullshit on its face. We were going to release them. We were REQUIRED to release them under international law that we largely wrote. Whatever intelligence value they had was long since wrung out of them, in some cases literally. One of them had laid down his arms and pledged to work with the new government of Afghanistan prior to the Pakistani government taking him prisoner more as a propaganda tool and removing a potential political problem than anything else, I am given to understand. So we got something we wanted for doing something now that we would have done in a few months for nothing anyway. That’s not exactly brilliant poker, but it was pretty well played.
We don’t leave our people behind. That’s an Army value. The people ranting about this whole thing either don’t understand or don’t care about that simple concept. Whatever SGT Bergdahl may have done or not done, we don’t leave our people behind. If it hasn’t already, the Army will shortly start a 15-6 investigation, so called in reference to the Army Regulation that describes such things. You’ve probably heard the term “Board of Inquiry.” They are essentially the same thing. When the Army has concluded what the circumstances of SGT Bergdahl’s capture and captivity were, then they’ll make some decisions, but I’ll just note for the record that US POWs have rarely been punished for their actions or inactions while in enemy hands. Many, many of the POWs in Viet Nam, including John McCain signed documents created by their captors confessing to war crimes and indicting their fellow POWs and the US. Former CW4 Michael Durant, taken prisoner by a Somali warlord after being shot down in the battle of Mogadishu (Blackhawk Down) made problematic statements to a TV camera that were subsequently shown around the world. None of these men were ever subjected to disciplinary action upon repatriation to my knowledge.
So I’m glad that SGT Bergdahl will be reunited with his family, at long last.
UPDATE: For another take by somebody who was there, read this from a blogger whom I’ve read and generally respect.
UPDATE 2: You should all read this level-headed handling of the situation in Gawker.
UPDATE 3: Rolling Stone article from 2012.
On a side note, a wedding in New Orleans is more fun than any human being should be allowed to have, the National WWII museum and the Audubon Aquarium there are both amazing, and fried unbreaded fried catfish, boiled crawfish, shrimp bisque with andouille sausage, cornbread, saute’ed vegetables and fresh salad with bourbon and soda on the rocks is the perfect meal.