Sunday, June 1, 2014

How Well Do We Know Bowe?

Yesterday morning I was sleeping in after a late night of riding along with a Sheriff's Deputy as part of my chaplaincy duties when a friend and former parishioner contacted me to tell me that the BBC was reporting that SGT Bowe Bergdahl had been released from Taliban captivity. She knew of my concern for his captivity, that I'd kept him in prayer, and that I'd done what I could to keep him within people's awareness -- until yesterday many people weren't aware of his existence and captivity. Much of the public's emotions seemed to go from joy (at the release of a U.S. soldier), to questions (about the prisoner swap), to in many cases anger and accusations that he is a traitor.

I had followed his case to one degree or another since shortly after learning of his capture in 2009. LTC Ralph Peters, a military analyst whose work I'd followed for a number of years, famously made some indelicate comments to Bill O'Reilly that caused controversy. Following that there wasn't much news other than occasional releases of film clips and a report -- later dismissed as Taliban propaganda --that he'd joined the Taliban. Then, in late 2011, there were reports that he had escaped captivity for several days before becoming re-captured. I was, quite frankly, convicted of having forgotten him; I added him to the "all military personnel and those currently deployed" section of my prayer list and purchased (and have since worn) a bracelet with his name on it (see below).

I will continue wearing it until he's back on U.S. soil, probably later this week.

Does this mean that I'm comfortable with the prisoner swap? No, I'm not. It almost certainly wasn't a wise move and may have serious ramifications for our security in the future; it also was a decision about which SGT Bergdahl, who was a Private First Class when captured (servicemen and women who are classified as prisoners of war or missing in action are automatically promoted up to the grade of Colonel or Navy or Coast Guard Captain), almost certainly wasn't consulted. Was his father's now-deleted tweet something I would've written? No, but neither was it particularly traitorous (a number of friends of mine, particularly of a Libertarian bent have expressed similar sentiments) nor do they indicate that he's secretly converted to Islam (for the record, the homeschooling family are members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church a quite conservative denomination that is unequivocal about the uniqueness of Christ), but, again, those comments weren't made by SGT Bergdahl.

The circumstances surrounding Bowe Bergdahl's disappearance and capture need to be examined and no doubt  they will. He remained under the Uniform Code of Military Justice throughout his captivity (and does to this day) and the United States Army will no-doubt examine and investigate his conduct and take appropriate action, which is as it should be. We as a country do not leave soldiers in the hands of our enemies. Period.

So give thanks for his safe return and hope for and demand a detailed accounting for what happened, but I would urge those reading this to withhold judgement until all of the facts are in.