The cover of Time magazine this past week had a picture of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, and emblazoned under the picture were the words, “WAS HE WORTH IT?” And the answer is … YES!
This was a young soldier who had been imprisoned by the Taliban for approximately five years. After his attempt to escape, he was put into what amounted to a cage or, sometimes, a box. Things were not looking good for this boy from Idaho. You have to imagine what it is like to be in a cage, treated no better than an animal in that situation. This kind of punishment by people you don’t know or understand, and know even less about their religion. They, of course, pretend to be religious warriors for the faith of Allah. These are people who would kill you at the drop of a hat. And anyone who has been there knows that is a fact. It is tremendous pressure on a prisoner trying to live from one day to another.
It is no wonder Bowe Bergdahl learned to speak the language his captors spoke. It is the language of their tribal area of Pakistan. So, if you wanted to tell them you were sick, or “Could I please have another bowl of soup?”, or “My chains are cutting my legs,” you would want to be able to speak their language. It does not show a man trying to placate his captors, but a man who is trying to survive.
From the popular press, you get a feeling this was a young man sensitive to the needs of the civilians in Pakistan. The Taliban doesn’t want their daughters to be educated. The women are to stay in their homes and, if possible, huddled in the dark, not to be seen by anyone other than their husbands and immediate family. With today’s social media, the young women of Pakistan realize this is not the 12th century and they do not wish to be treated as slaves. Any sensitive person would be sympathetic to their situation. It’s easy to see why Bowe Bergdahl would want to help them.
About the issue regarding Bergdahl walking away from his sentry post, it will have to be solved by the Army and not the mad-dog Republican right wing of the American Congress. Justice becomes a bitter and ugly soup when mixed with politics. History should have taught us this by now. But it is obvious some members of Congress want to rip and tear the fabric of one soldier’s time in a foreign prison.
I don’t care if Congress was told about the swap or not. And I don’t care if these were generals of the Taliban situation with enough medals on their chests to resemble the Russian Navy. The intent here was to free an American soldier after he was held prisoner for almost five years. Politics and Congress be damned! If there is an issue here where something must be done regarding this infraction of walking away from his post, the Army should handle it — not those men sitting on their fat bumps attempting to convince us they give anything about the law. It’s the law they are supposed to be working on.
The long and short of this is, if I understand the rules correctly, if Bowe Bergdahl broke the rules, his time in prison of five years probably would cover the situation in an Army court martial. The mother who feels Bergdahl caused the death of her son could be correct. And, more importantly, she might be wrong. When you volunteer to serve, you raise your right hand and swear to uphold the rules, obey the Constitution and obey the officers placed above you. If we wanted to put every soldier in the Army in prison for every stupid mistake they made, there wouldn’t be enough room for all of them.
I don’t know if we should treat Bowe Bergdahl like a hero. But, we should say he volunteered to serve and went into harm’s way and did not come out for about five years. An American soldier, who at least deserves to be home, will be soon. I’ve always thought religion and politics make a terrible mix, and we have learned in Indiana that education and politics make a bad mix. Now, we are learning that judgment of this young soldier from a distance of thousands of miles, enveloped in politics, is a very bad mix.
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.