Skip to comments.Bergdahl is doing the right thing: Analysts who second-guess the captured G.I. are a disgrace
Posted on 07/22/2009 6:58:51 AM PDT by marthemaria
U.S. Army Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, is no longer a combatant in the Afghanistan war. Instead, he is now playing a part in an increasingly desperate information war being waged by the Taliban. Pfc. Bergdahl was recently identified in a video distributed by his captors, the Afghan Taliban, a religious-based insurgent group now fighting American, NATO and Afghan government forces under the command of Mullah Omar.
Despite the nature of the conflict, Bergdahl is not a prisoner of war - he is a terrorist hostage. The difference is important. The United States government classifies persons held against their will in several different categories, depending on the captor and the circumstances of conflict. In a war where one state is a signatory of the Geneva Convention, the soldiers taken off the battlefield are prisoners of war. In an insurgency war against irregular and unlawful battlefield combatants - bandits, terrorists or even armed civilians or vigilantes - soldiers captured are considered hostages.
Like all hostages, Bergdahl is under immense psychological stress. His fate rests on the unknown and his life and freedom are in the hands of others. Already, he has managed to make it well past a point where other, more hardnosed soldiers would have been killed.
This is impressive. Servicemembers whose deployment demands special skills to resist intense captivity situations are given Level "C" Code of Conduct training at the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) schools, where I have been an instructor.
From what we know, Bergdahl did not receive this intensive training. He did, however, receive the introduction to the Code of Conduct, military guidelines set down to help a captive keep the faith with his country and other captives. Before deployment almost all U.S. servicemembers and government civilians watch a one-hour video on surviving hostage imprisonment. In this video, which was developed using in-depth intelligence about terrorist captivity, I played the role of an Al Qaeda cell commander who educates the viewer that a hostage does have cards to play.
The message we communicate is this: The duty of an American soldier in hostage captivity is to resist wisely; comply but not collaborate; attempt to escape if possible, and return home with honor.
Bergdahl seems to be succeeding so far.
All hostages must first humanize themselves in the eyes of their captors. Humanization is a critical skill. It is neither treason nor collaboration with the enemy. Some compliance is acceptable - including appearing on videotape, reading the poorly written forced statements, engaging in discussions about family and friends and requesting basic good treatment. Added up, these behaviors show the captive as a human being, not a dehumanized, hated caricature that is easy to dispatch.
Barring a demonstrated history of joining and fighting for the Taliban, second-guessing Bergdahl's behavior and statements - as some commentators like Fox News analyst Ralph Peters are already doing - is pointless. Peters' on-air rant on Sunday, essentially daring the terrorists to kill an American serviceman (with the caveat that they should do so "if" he turns out to be a deserter), was disgraceful. No matter what the circumstances of capture, this type of fiery talk denigrates the memory of everyone who has ever died at the hands of a terrorist.
This is the very type of macho rhetoric we train SERE students to avoid. Civilian authorities and unit commanders must withhold judgment of what a hostage does under duress until after repatriation.
On the other hand, the Taliban are exploiting this young man for the express purposes of convincing the world through the media that they control wide swaths of Afghan countryside and that the American army is weak, scared and locked up on their bases.
It is a compelling story but one that is instantly belied by the very fact that it took eight years to engineer the capture a low-level American soldier. Incredibly, the video seeks to make Bergdahl the spokesman for the Taliban's efficacy in warfighting. However, the videotape may have inadvertently pointed to an altogether different stratagem on the part of the Taliban. It is indicative that they fear they are losing the global propaganda war and with it the Muslim world's support.
A point of proof is that Bergdahl survived not only the first stages of captivity, but a multi-staged trip to a refuge on or across the Pakistan-Afghan border. The orders to move him must have come from the highest levels of command, so this outcome reveals a desperate need to show a more compassionate side of their insurgency to the world.
Additionally, by treating Bergdahl better than expected, the senior leadership in the Taliban appears to reject Al Qaeda's slash-and-burn tactics of immediately killing each American hostage. Al Qaeda's fighters believe in the extremist concept of al-Wala wal al-Bara - a complete, total and unwavering enmity to all that do not believe their cult-like practices. This goes for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Al Qaeda terrorists would have killed him on the spot.
If the Taliban are making a conscious choice, sincere or otherwise, to appear to be more chivalric, Bergdahl may be on the side of safety - at least for now. On the other hand, this successful abduction may embolden the foreign fighters of Al Qaeda to attempt similar feats, and then to produce videos with more predictable endings.
This guy is reported to be a deserter, if he did desert, he has no one to blame for his predicament but himself.
BTW, anyone that is portraying enemy generated video, etc of hostages/POWs as anything other than propaganda is not to be trusted. They are either willfully collaborating or at best ignorant. Since at least the Korean War, I can't think of one POW/military hostage interview, video tape, etc that wasn't deceptive exploitation.
I saw Peters call him a deserter last night...and, in fact he very well may have deserted.
However, this doesn’t make him a Taliban sympathizer...just a confused young man who deserted his post and got captured by terrorists. He still deserves to live.
I hope this ends well for him...I hope.
I hope this ends well for him...I hope."
I feel the same. I saw him in the film that was released over the weekend and I surprised myself, given how he might have come to be there, how moved I was by his situation. He seemed very young, frightened and confused. My heart goes out to him and his family. I pray that he is released very soon.
It’s not even known if he really is in the hands of the Taliban. Someone commented that he’s actually with friends he met off base, who are making it look like he’s a prisoner.