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Section A: General News


Bergdahl: Traitor, survivor, or in between? Former Paratrooper Speaks Out


Bergdahl: Traitor, survivor, or in between? Former Paratrooper Speaks Out
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel answers questions from troops at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, after the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held prisoner by the Taliban for five years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez)


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Martin Kufus
WCN Exclusive
June 4, 2014
5,127 views
34 comments

The long-term consequences of trading five captured Taliban leaders for an American paratrooper captured almost five years ago in Afghanistan will ripple for some time to come. It very well might prove to be a negative precedent. I agree, moreover, with any observers who cynically note that President Obama -- raised by Marxist parents who doubtless imbued a latent contempt for the U.S. military -- jumps at every chance for a photo op with our servicemen and women or their families. That said, I also believe it is too early to definitively label Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a “traitor” or question the behavior back home of his family.

Bergdahl, who was released on May 31, has an endless string of Army debriefings ahead.

If in the weeks and months to come it is determined he 1.) did openly profess anti-American and anti-war sentiments, 2.) went AWOL from his unit in Afghanistan, 3.) aided his captors in combat against fellow Americans, whether through direct participation or provision of sensitive information, and/or 4.) otherwise did not meet the standards set for American POWs, then the UCMJ will be trotted out against him. Note that this is the same Uniform Code of Military Justice that was used -- arguably, not to full effect -- against a real traitor: former low-ranking intel analyst Bradley Manning, whose hissy-fit against the Army resulted in the largest release of classified information in U.S. military history. (Instead of a hangman’s noose, though, Manning instead will get a sex change at taxpayers’ expense ... even as honorably serving veterans die waiting for VA treatment.)

It is possible, even likely, Bergdahl divulged information that benefited the enemy at a tactical level. He might even have said some things on camera under extreme duress that he now would renounce or regret. But what non-veteran civilians, including media talking heads, seem to misunderstand -- and this is a respectful reminder -- is that the U.S. military decades ago abandoned the standard of “name, rank, and serial number only” for POWs.

It was during the Vietnam War these unrealistic expectations had to be reconsidered. One of the many lessons from Vietnam was the need for reality-based training for a worst-case scenario of the capture and then torture, deprivation, interrogation, and attempted “brainwash” of American troops. Contemporarily, Sgt. Bergdahl’s unit likely went through pre-deployment training in SERE: survival, evasion, resistance, and escape. One of the maxims of SERE training is that an American POW subjected to serious violence and other abuse (as at the notorious“Hanoi Hilton”) eventually will give in -- or die.

One of the pioneers of SERE training was Army Special Forces Col. Nick Rowe, a South Texas native. He wrote an excellent book, Five Years to Freedom, that documented his 1963-68 jungle captivity and abuse by the Viet Cong. The (then) lieutenant was one of the few American POWs who successfully escaped in Vietnam.

As an Army NCO, I had the privilege in 1985 to voluntarily train under Col. Rowe and his handpicked cadre at Camp Mackall, N.C., near Fort Bragg, in a 30-day SERE Instructor Qualification Course. During this training, a few days of which were in the classroom but mostly in the Carolina outback, I learned about the fine line a POW can walk between the challenge of staying alive -- which can mean surviving brutal interrogation -- and keeping the faith with fellow POWs and America. (Col. Rowe, by the way, was assassinated in 1989 by Communist guerrillas in the Philippines. I shed a tear when I unexpectedly saw his obituary in the New York Times.)

Maybe that’s what Sgt. Bergdahl did: giving small doses of information or talking traitorously in order to stay alive. Then again, maybe he did materially betray his country. Or, maybe the truth -- and only he really knows -- is somewhere in between. But, Bergdahl can (and I hope, will) provide a wealth of been-there, done-that intel about survival in prolonged captivity among the Taliban, some of the most evil people on the planet. This unique information could advance SERE doctrine and curricula -- and perhaps give future POWs a survival edge.

A former colleague of mine in the Internet exposure of military-hero phonies (those publicity-seeking scumbags who falsely claim elite-unit duty and/or combat heroism) was quoted not long ago in the mainstream media. Her late husband had been a Vietnam POW. “Mary Schantag, chairman of the P.O.W. Network, an educational nonprofit group founded in 1989, said it’s futile to speculate [about Bergdahl’s conduct]. ‘He is an American soldier in enemy hands. Period. Bring him home,’ she said.”

For the present, I also will reserve judgment on this young soldier and his almost-five years to freedom.

Martin Kufus, a former Russian-speaking paratrooper in the Army, was the WCN news editor and senior reporter from 1997 to 2002. He also was the assistant editor of Soldier of Fortune magazine in Boulder, Colo., 1995-97.
 

Your Opinions and Comments

 
extiger  
CA  
June 9, 2014 10:52am
 
Grouch, Your welcome. Coincidence a real President honoring a real Hero.

 
PRAIRIE GROUCH  
GRAND PRAIRIE TX  
June 9, 2014 9:13am
 
ex tiger....Thanks. I had not seen this video and will watch it again. What amazes me about this giant of a man is the retention of his sense of humor after his journey through the hell of war.

 
extiger  
CA  
June 9, 2014 8:03am
 
Grouch Link is good.

 
extiger  
CA  
June 9, 2014 8:00am
 
Grouch Sorry looks like its a WCN glitch. Copy the link to your address bar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oUtJxE4sjs

 
PRAIRIE GROUCH  
GRAND PRAIRIE TX  
June 8, 2014 4:08pm
 
extiger... And your point is ? Using the info given, I could not link to the video.... Perhaps you could provide the gist of it.

 
extiger  
CA  
June 8, 2014 11:55am
 

 
BlackHorse  
Next Door  
June 7, 2014 9:21pm
 

 
BlackHorse  
Next Door  
June 7, 2014 8:51pm
 
They have turned out the lights at the Texas Republican Convention. The dust is settling from the train wreck broadcast live from the floor of the Convention Center. Believe that a few from one group battled a few from the other... More ›

 
PRAIRIE GROUCH  
GRAND PRAIRIE TX  
June 7, 2014 4:48pm
 
Senior Citizen..... What video are you speaking about ? It's a given that proper security measures were not in place as mentioned in a previous comment. I think that you probably just got caught up in the blame herd mentality.... More ›

 
Senior Citizen  
Wilson County  
June 7, 2014 4:03pm
 
People on the ground performed ... yes. But what I don't understand is that if the White House/Clinton knew that riots were happening because of a video that they apparently knew about, why they did not have extra security measures... More ›

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