Skip to comments.A Vietnam War POW Takes America to tTask Over its Treatment of a Taliban POW (Bergdahl)
Posted on 07/07/2014 3:25:51 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Recently released prisoner of war U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a man I can identify with. On April 20, 1965, I was flying a night combat mission in an A4C Skyhawk over what was then called North Vietnam. My own bombs malfunctioned upon release during a run on enemy trucks. They exploded just below my airplane, blowing the wings and tail section off. Instantly I was in a whirling cockpit hurtling toward Earth, over enemy territory, but managed to eject and parachute to the ground. I spent the next four days on the run through the jungle before being captured. I then spent the next 2,855 days as a captive POW in North Vietnam.
During those years I and other POWs endured terrible conditions and periodic torture sessions for political propaganda, public display and false confessions. We each resisted to our individual utmost but ultimately our captors extracted written confessions (ones that we made as improbable and silly as possible) from everyone.
Ive been asked if I was a POW with U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. The answer is no John McCain was a POW with me. You see, he got there two and a half years after I was captured. John and I were in the same company at the U.S. Naval Academy, so I had a prior personal relationship with him. I say this because I cant understand his hawkish attitude toward getting involved in more wars, let alone his attitude toward the prisoner exchange that led to the release of Bowe Bergdahl. I heard John say the price of exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl, five of our Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was too high because they might be dangerous when released. Maybe he has forgotten that in 1973 our country made an exchange to bring 801 of us back home. The price of that exchange? A country.
We agreed to give up and withdraw our troops in exchange for Vietnam. Could anyone dispute that there were dangerous people in North Vietnam (maybe 30 million of them) at that time? In fact they could and did harm American soldiers for the next two years before we completely withdrew in 1975. So I dont hear McCain complaining about that prisoner swap.
Speaking for myself, Im pretty happy with both of them.
No one could possibly believe the Taliban treated Bergdahl well. Reports so far indicate the Taliban confined him to total darkness in a small metal cage for weeks at a time. They also suggest he was beaten and otherwise tortured during his nearly five years as a POW and that he was extremely ill when he was finally released. Yet there is a clatter of nonsense coming from right-wing pundits and multiple armchair warriors, writing and appearing on national TV, arguing that we should have left Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American POW, in Taliban hands.
Its easy for political hacks and chicken hawk commentators to discount the value of one American soldier, especially when there is a perceived partisan political benefit to doing so. Since he was rescued, Bergdahl has been the target of constant attacks. There have been suggestions that he deserted, that he did not deserve to be rescued and that he was somehow worth less than five members of the Taliban. Even his family has had to endure violent threats and his hometown canceled a parade in his honor because of the vitriol it inspired. In my opinion this is simply un-American, unpatriotic and unconscionable. The circumstances of Sgt. Bergdahls departure from his unit and capture are still being investigated. And he might very well have had the same popular political views now held by a majority of Americans: that we cant win a war in Afghanistan and should get out as soon as possible. Its true that if he did hold those views, he should not have acted on them while involved in active combat duty. And tragically, some of his fellow soldiers may have faced Taliban attacks during the search for him. But none of that obviates our countrys sacred obligation not to leave its fighting men and women in enemy hands. The Taliban held Bergdahl for nearly five years. Five years of brutality at the hands of our enemies.
There are real costs to war. I know that in a way that most of our politicians never will. And there are real risks; make no mistake that releasing five Taliban members was a risk. But to suggest that because there is a risk to trading five Taliban members for our own soldier we should not have done so is cowardly and un-American. Moreover, following that line would put our men and women in uniform at further risk. Why would the enemy keep captured soldiers alive if they knew we didnt value them enough to exchange enemy prisoners for them? I believe this prisoner swap for Bergdahl was brave and honorable. I am disgusted and sickened by the armchair warriors and political hacks that have come out of the woodwork to attack Bergdahls release from captivity. The majority of them are political partisans who oppose everything the president does and they are using this young soldier as a means to attack the president. My hope in all this is that Americans will eventually understand the truth underlying this incident, and that truth is this: We can never give up on our young men and women who we send into harms way. The broader lesson is that we shouldnt be getting into all these needless wars, wars that we cant win or benefit from to begin with. We should use better judgment and diplomacy to avoid the terrible costs in blood and treasure. But who knows? Maybe this incident with Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will create a greater national discussion that will bring sensibility and humanity back to our country. To that end, Id like to offer a personal and heartfelt note: Welcome home Bowe.
Phillip Butler, PhD, a retired U.S. Navy aviator, is a peace and environmental activist who lives on the Monterey Peninsula. For more, visit www.philbutlerphd.com
Does he not understand the POS in question was not captured, but in fact deserted to the enemy and likely gave them useful intel?
Makes all the difference in the world to me.
Apparently Phil feels sorry for the traitor.
I respect this man for his service and for his sacrifice, but his statement simply holds no water for me.
Lord I hate hippies, no matter what flavor they are.
He deserted and then went rogue. Big time difference.
I respect the opinion of those men who served with him before he deserted. I side with them, and if it puts me on the other side of the fence than this former POW, I can live with that.
What would he say if he were rather captured, or his squadron-mates killed, on missions to rescue Jane Fonda?
No more need be said-- However, I thank Mr. Butler for his service to our nation in Vietnam... but he nowadays is a full fledged blivit, that's an old Navy term for "ten pounds of manure in a five-pound bag."
I can understand how someone who was a POW can empathize with Bergdahl but to do so means he has to overlook the fact that Bergdahl deserted and that is how he got where he was.
Bergdahl is a traitor and he should be treated like one.
This man Butler has broken faith with any person who wears or has worn the uniform. He is an ultra-liberal Democrat, and if that is a fact (and it is) he wishes to surrender this country to those who wish it ill.
The author laments how politicized Bergdahl has become...
While completely forgetting who politicized it. Barry brought his parents into the Rose Garden, to make a spectacle over it.
If the nature of his desertion is really still ‘under investigation’, the manner in which Barry gave his ‘seal of approval’ in the Rose Garden speech is beyond stupid. As commander in chief, he polluted the investigation...and as politician in chief, he took a fairly simple desertion case and made it very clear where liberals should line up.
As to the trade - the author forgets to note how Barry has pushed to release the fab five since he first took office, and put the onus on the military and intelligence agencies to prove why they shouldn’t be released. Then, all of the sudden, a prisoner swap? Its all too obvious that Barry wanted to release these very dangerous men. The only real question is why. But window dressing this release as a prisoner swap doesn’t change how dangerous this release was.
But don’t worry...they promised to stay put until after the mid-term elections...not that Barry politicized the situation, or anything like that.
Yep. See my post at #13.
I won’t be to hard on this pilot and former P.O.W. But he is failing to differentiate between captured and deserted.
All evidence points to Bergdahl walking away from his post, and everyone else in his unit seems to support this narrative.
I'd be curious to know how much the Democommies paid the author to dream up this fiction. Did someone get jammed up with a commodities investment, or is upside down on his McMansion?
It matters not to Phil the egregious desertion of Sgt. Bergdahl. Due to the trauma suffered by years of POW incarceration, his mindset operates in very narrow parameters. Logic, in the manner exercised by those not so wounded, is impossible.
I thank Phil for his service, sacrifice, and grievous mental trauma. That being said, I would no sooner expect cogent thought on this topic from him than I would expect to see a Viet Nam era paraplegic dunk the ball at an NBA arena basket.
As someone who have been in a leadership position I would make him accountable for his actions. People died and their families deserve answers.
This former POW is a hard leftist liberal. To me, he surrenders any default respect and cover he gets by supporting the extreme liberal agenda which is deliberately destructive to the United States.
The fact that he cannot distinguish the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture completely invalidates anything he has to say on the subject.
I think most humane and compassionate people might adjust their stance (or at least expose it to considerable reflection) on negotiating with those people if it was a person captured against his will while doing his job.
I don’t think there is any dishonor in opposing this swap in every single way, shape, or form, due to the circumstances surrounding his desertion.
Agreed. I don’t see any issue with being grateful for Mr. Butler’s honorable service, and for acknowledging the suffering he went through as a POW.
But I am not going to allow that to act as a shield. This is serious, and if he wants to weigh in, I am going to look at his life the same way I look at the life of Benedict Arnold. I can appreciate how valuable General Arnold was to the colonials, but once he fell in with the enemy (as someone who is a hard-core liberal in modern America invariably must) then that becomes part of the entire equation.
I am going to guess that, at the time he got shot down, probably had experience as the officer in charge of a department (Line, Ordinance, etc) before he got shot down.
There are a lot of officers in those positions who aren’t leaders. Some learn and get better, some don’t. Don’t know what category he would be in.
I agree with you except he can distinguish between captured or deserted. He just won’t.
Look the man spent over 2000 days in a POW camp. That will screw up your mind.
He is wrong. Very very wrong. But his head is screwed up.
Yeah i know. I am being generous.
Phil believes the line of the Administration that Bowe served honorably. That’s the story and he’s sticking to it.
How sad. His brains obviously got totally scrambled while in captivity.
I understand the distinction you make.
Given the role of liberalism in dismantling our country (and his complete collaboration on everything they do, social, liberal and military) I am not inclined to be as generous as you are.
I have, for some time, viewed him as a domestic enemy of the Constitution.
If his wingman went north and gave up his plane?
I agree...in most normal people, something would break.
But he is not only allowing himself to be used as a dupe, he believes the leftist agenda and is a spokesman for it.
John McCain was, for a short period, my commanding officer in a training squadron a few years after his release. That is all I know of him, other than what I read in the media.
But the fact he is fully in support of policies which are destructive and allows himself to be used as a bludgeon against conservatives when it suits the needs of the Left, well...that did it for me.
My silent support for this man went on long, long after I should have given it up. I am grateful to some Freepers who took the time to discuss it with me rationally instead of just flaming me to pieces.
I had to come to it in my own time, and getting scorched would have likely just made me stubborn.
But I do respect you for being generous. I don’t believe he merits it, but it is chivalrous of you to extend him that courtesy.
I wonder how Dr. Phil feels about a US Marine down in Mexico chained to a bed?
His whole life, especially in childhood, was scrambled.
when he got back, his wife had dumped him.
He is a peace activist in California.
He says he doesn’t know what he’s going to do with his war memorabilia when he’s gone.
The media hunts for these guys. There are hundreds of former POWs, but they find this guy.
The guy is a full blown nut case.
Here are his writings on everything from Aids Awareness 1992, to why he won’t vote for McCain 2008, to the “Swift Boating” of John Kerry 2004, to “internet myths about Jane Fonda”, etc, etc.
I don’t think it’s generous at all.
NOT at All.
There are hundreds of former POWs who have had healthy productive lives and who tell of their time of captivity served with honor and distinction.
To take one guy’s word, whom the media hunted down for his activity with the promoters of ‘social justice’, a man who is self described as having ‘given up on God’ because of the way one misguided preacher acted toward blacks, while other POWs turned to God, is not generous to those POWs at all.
How Freepers don’t smell a liberal hit piece from a mile away, I do not know, but just Stop.
Being a POW, or getting crucified, CAN, not WILL, as you claim, scramble your brain, but certainly not necessarily.
That's all you need to know.......
Does this guy govern? No? Then i really don’t give a fig what he says.
If he takes the reins of power it is different then a private citizen commenting. Much as the author can’t distinguish between a captured soldier and a deserter, you can’t distinguish between a private citizen saying whatever the hell he wants to say and a politician with power. Or a media person with power. Big difference. Walk in his shoes first. He is not John Mccain. He is a broken war horse. Leave him in the pasture and bring him an apple.
“the man spent over 2000 days in a POW camp. That will screw up your mind.”
You are insulting every other honorable man who served our country honorably in POW camp whose minds are not only not screwed up, but who continue to serve our country and it’s founding principals.
Remind me. What am i selling?
It’s in the post you are responding to. In quotes.
I’ll try again, but I can see now we’re not spending valuable time here.
That being a POW will do this to you.
No. It is not true, and that is proven by former POWs.
I don’t give a tinkers damn if you agree with me or not. I think that that is the root of your confusion.
I thought I understood the nature of the comment...DariusBane WAS being “generous”, in my opinion.
I know, because I saw myself in my treatment of McCain for a long time.
I knew inside what he was, but didn’t want to reconcile myself to it.
As for POWs and veterans of every stripe, just because most of them didn’t crack doesn’t mean it isn’t possible or even excusable for one of them to crack. And even if one person cracks, it doesn’t necessarily translate to dishonor on that person or even the people who didn’t crack.
Just my two cents on it.
The North Vietnamese did a number on this guys head...Same as John McCains
We are talking in the context of a John Kerry type in fact a John Kerry supporter talking about a deserter in sympathetic terms to an ideological paper
To say that being a pow will mess you up is wrong
It can mess you up but the story is not that all of these guys are messed up. The opposite is true
So why even try to support this guy?
And why bring down the rest in order to do it
That’s not generous
And if you want to go and bring McCain in, he’s a senator. He can either be same or go home no excuses in that position
It is instructive that i have disagreed with every point that the author makes. But i am on the naughty list because i won’t crucify the old fool...
For the record, for the logical, to say that he is typical of POWs and to say that being a pow will necessarily ‘scramble ones mind’ is not factual and it is not generous to the other POWs who serve to this day with honor
Who said anything about typical. Yes i do find your lack of charity appalling. I generally see a lack of charity exhibited by people with limited life experience. That’s probably not you though.
Again, for the record, when one says being a pow WILL mess up ones mind, the implication, of course, is that anyone who has been a pow is messed up
But that is not true
The fact is that their are many six year Hanoi Hilton survivors who have led healthy productive lives and are not pointing on bergdahl in public
So your original statement the only one we’re talking about is not generous to these men
You make too many assumptions. Your just trying to pick a fight. Problem is, my opinion is mine and mine alone. I am not trying to change your opinion. It is what it is.
it is not generous to say that being a POW will mess up ones mind
Ok. So being a POW has never ever EVER messed up anybody’s mind ever? Ok.
Butler’s article is very confusing, as is the man. A brave combat flier who was tortured and held in pretty bad conditions, along with most of the other American fliers who were captured. Probably did his best to resist the No. Vietnamese and for this he should be admired and respected.
However, he rambles in his stories and this shows that he failed to study history.
There weren’t “30 million No. Vietnamese” at the time of the war. Demographic numbers ranged from about 16-18 Million NVN in the mid 1960’s, outnumbering the SVN by about 2-3 Million (whence came their overwhelming manpower pool for their PAVN forces).
ALso, Bergdahl was not a traditional POW, captured on the battlefield, but was a mixed up AWOL, if not deliberate deserter.
While we can commisserate with his reportedly bad treatement by the Haqqani Network (not the Taliban per se), to release 5 top Taliban leaders was insane and will lead to the deaths of more Afghanis, Americans, and coalition soldiers. They live to kill and be killed. In other words, they are pathologically insane, and pose both an imminent and long-range danger to civilized people everywhere.
We were not allowed to “win” in Vietnam (a point about which I agree with him) but he apparently supports the Democrats who destroyed our victory in Iraq by pulling out our troops in such a deliberately reckless fashion, as we are seeing today.
I have friends who are/were (deceased) POWS, most of whom underwent not only torture for long periods of time, but who also saw their co-prisoners (both military and civilian), die in front of them (by execution or medical maltreatment or torture).
They have not turned against their country. If nothing else, they have renewed their devotion to protecting America, even as illness and age work against them. One last fight to wage, till their dying days. No whining, no crying, no quitting.
Just once more into the breach, and proud of being able to do it!