Did Sergeant Bergdahl Desert The Army Or Did The Army Desert Him?
“Deserter” might be the appropriate label for SGT Bowe Bergdahl, America’s only prisoner of war until he was released last week in a controversial swap for five Taliban detainees. It is an ugly word, ripe and sticky with betrayal. It means a soldier sworn to defend his nation has left his post without permission, and with no plan to return. He has abandoned his comrades. It is worse than away with out leave, for AWOL soldiers come back and face the appropriate disciplinary action. It leaves you short, just short, of being a traitor.
But it is just as likely that Bergdahl was the one deserted by an Army that could not keep up with the mental health needs of deployed force.
Among the many heated words and inflammatory assertions in the week since his release, there are just two really relevant facts: First, Bergdahl left his base alone without permission and walked unarmed into hostile enemy territory. For any American, walking off into Paktika province in 2009 was a stupid and dangerous move, basically suicidal. He is very lucky to be alive. Second, Bergdahl had gone AWOL before, probably more than once. He had a history of this kind of behavior. We have also heard that he may have been disillusioned with the war and may have wanted to go off into the mountains.