Sgt Bowe Bergdahl was born and raised in my state of Idaho. For five long years, his community has agonized, along with his family, about his detention in Afghanistan. The young man was 23 years old when he stepped into the arms of his captors. Legitimate questions surround his departure from his post and subsequent role as an international pawn. Whatever the circumstances of his disappearance, he was definitely a prisoner of the Taliban during those five years.
I find it astounding that so many Americans are stoning the man, his family, and President Obama’s negotiations to obtain his release. Make no mistake, I always thought there was something a little odd about his parents and possibly his disappearance. But I’m a little odd too, and odd is not a crime in America. The Bergdahls live in Sun Valley, Idaho. For those of you who may not know, this little village has transitioned from an old ranching/mining community to a wealthy celebrity la la land—a part of the state most natives dismiss as fantasy, much as Wyomingites dismiss Jackson Hole as a playground for out-of-touch, stinking rich, urbanites. In addition, Bergdahl’s parents, Robert and Jani, are of my generation, that 60s-ish generation of wild children and flower power. Come on folks, they named their kids Bowe and Sky. These are not your average by-the-book Idaho rednecks. Given his background, I am not surprised that idealistic young Bowe marched off with the Army to change the world. It is also easy to anticipate that such a background would instill a questioning mind and Bergdahl was obviously questioning America’s military presence in the middle east and his own participation in that mission.
Bergdahl was a prisoner of an American enemy. For five long years, this American boy lived by the calculated “generosity” of his captors, the Taliban. Other American heads have rolled into the desert. He and we never knew if Bowe’s head might be the next. He joined the military to serve his country. Perhaps he regretted that. Perhaps he acted improperly on that regret. He may have deserted. He may have simply gone off his rocker. (It wouldn’t be the first time an American soldier has lost it and endangered fellow soldiers.) We, the people, have no right to prejudge Bowe’s guilt or innocence. That is for a military tribunal to decide. In America, every man, woman, and child is innocent until proven guilty. That is the most basic tenant of our court system.
Begdahl is home. He is not a hero. He is a fallen soldier. His future is unclear. Americans do not (or should not) leave American citizens (including soldiers) in the hands of captors. Did The President act illegally? Again, I do not know. That is another question for the courts. But if Bowe were your son, daughter, mother, or father, you would be thankful to have him back on American soil. The questions won’t end, but let’s refrain from casting stones. That is what tribes do. We are better than that, aren’t we?