Written by Julia Rodriquez, Opinions Editor
According to CNN, Army Private First Class Robert Bowdrie “Bowe” Bergdahl, could be facing life in prison on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
On June 30, 2009, Bergdahl went missing from his combat outpost in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. Finally in May 2014, he was released from the Taliban after being held captive for five years. However, his release did not come free. The U.S. traded five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay for his freedom. In order to give the defense time to prepare, the judge has postponed the trial until February 2017. This means a new commander-in-chief will be in office by the time of the trial.
“Serial” podcasts chronicle all of the details of the investigation. Listeners move from pity to anger as they learn about the horrors Bergdahl faced and the sacrifices made for him.
“In this blackened dirt room, it’s tiny,” Bergdahl told the interviewer in the first episode, “DUSTWUN.” “And just on the other side of that flimsy little wooden door, that you could probably easily rip off the hinges, is the entire world out there. It is everything that you’re missing; it is everybody. Everyone is out there. That breath that you’re trying to breathe, that release that you’re trying to get. Everything is beyond that door. And, I mean…I hate doors now.”
Then in episode four, “The Captors” the listener hears about how Bergdahl mentally survived the torture of being left alone in a cold room and being cut slowly with razors.
By episode six, “5 O’clock Shadow,” the listener’s pity begins to fade as the reasons for Bergdahl abandoning camp are explored. One event, according to this episode, was when he went on a mission to recover a destroyed vehicle. The mission turned into a six-day operation because of various attacks, one of which was a Taliban ambush. No one was hurt and when they returned Bergdahl expected a congratulations from his commander. Instead, the first thing his commander said was, “What, you couldn’t shave?” in regard to the fact that they hadn’t brought razors on the mission.
The episode continues by explaining the event that pushed Bergdahl to abandon camp. He and a few other men were digging out a foxhole in heat above 100 degrees. They received permission to remove a few articles of clothing to keep cool, though it was against regulation. However, their commander showed up and yelled at them for being out in the open, unarmored and exposed.
These are the main reasons for abandonment, but it seems there must be something else wrong, either with the situations or with Bergdahl. The situations don’t seem extreme enough to want to cause a DUSTWUN (duty status—whereabouts unknown). In the first event it was unprofessional to make a statement about not shaving when a congratulations was due, but the listener can guess there is an air of humor to it. Perhaps the commander was trying to make light of the situation.
The second event did not seem unreasonable. Although it was hot, it seemed completely understandable that the commander would be concerned with his men’s safety.
Episodes seven and eight “Hindsight,” answer the speculation of Bergdahl’s reasons for leaving. It becomes very clear that there is something mentally off with Bergdahl.
According to these episodes, Bergdahl experienced a breakdown only a few weeks into Coast Guard basic training. A psychiatrist recommended discharging him because of “adjustment disorder and depression.”
After being discharged from the Coast Guard, Bergdahl said he felt like a failure. He planned to redeem himself by joining the army. He needed a wavier in order to join another branch after his breakdown, but because of the need for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was easier than usual to get one.
Some may say that Bergdahl’s five years in captivity should serve as his punishment for abandonment; however, the fact that he still does not think he did anything wrong means he has not learned a lesson.
The way the justice system is supposed to work is as a form of correction for criminals, hence the term “correctional institution.” Because Bergdahl still does not see the wrong in his actions, he has not been corrected. This means his five years in captivity should not serve as his punishment. According to “Serial” podcasts his abandonment caused multiple deaths in attempts to recover him. Additionally, the U.S. suffered a setback by giving up Taliban prisoners.
Bergdahl should do some time, however not life. Ultimately it is the military who is at fault for letting a mentally unstable man back in. February of next year will tell all.