Cross-posted from antiwar
Is US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a traitor or a martyr, a coward who walked away from his unit or a symbol of how a misconceived war used US soldiers as pawns in a losing geo-political game?
This is going to be the issue as the prisoner swap with the Taliban takes incoming fire from Republicans like John McCain and others opposed to "negotiating with terrorists." Yet the real issue goes deeper than that: Bergdahl was profoundly disillusioned by the war, and his capture by the Taliban would never had occurred if he hadn't walked off base -- in plain language, deserted, as this 2012 Rolling Stone piece by Michael Hastings makes clear. In his last email to his parents, sent just before he walked, Bergdahl wrote:
"The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be American. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting."
Bergdahl goes on at length, indicting a military system that punished competent soldiers and rewarded the "conceited brown-nose shitbag" who's "allowed to do whatever [he] wants." In spite of his pro-military outlook, which had prompted him to join up in the first place, he realized he had joined "the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies." Bergdahl was no anti-military hippie: he'd long wanted to be a soldier and even tried to join the French Foreign Legion before enlisting in the US Army. A 23-year-old idealist who took soldiering seriously, Bergdahl was shocked to learn that the best officers "are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same."
It wasn't just a military machine run from afar by incompetents that riled him, it was also the nature of the mission itself: