by APOORVA KETHIDI Staff Writer
United States Army soldier Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was released by the Taliban on May 31, 2014 after five years in captivity.
Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan in June 2009 at the age of 23. Following the release, he arrived at a German hospital to undergo the minimum 72-hour decompression period of his “Phase III Reintegration.” It was a three step processes in which Bergdahl was reintroduced to American Society by the Southern Command.
Southern Command, which deals with all reintegration cases, developed this protocol after the Vietnam War to help with the flood of hundreds of returned Prisoners of War (POWs). Since 2007, they have treated an Army contractor held hostage in Ethiopia for three months, three Pentagon contractors held in Colombia for more than 5 years, an Army civilian held in Iraq for two months, and a U.S. service member held in Colombia for over four months.
Bergdahl’s whereabouts and reasons for being where he was when captured were unclear by many people, including members of Congress, who believe that he was a deserter.
In order to get Bergdahl out, the U.S. swapped five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay with the Taliban. The Obama administration has come under fire from members of Congress who have accused him of breaking the law with the swap.
Critics have noted the deal did not feature a 30-day notice to Congress that is required when prisoners are released from Guantanamo Bay. The 2013 version of the National Defense Authorization Act that says Congress must be notified of releases from Guantanamo Bay “not later than 30 days before the transfer or release of the individual.”
The administration, however, has frequently said Bergdahl’s life was in danger, requiring immediate action from the president. Caitlin Hayden, the White House security spokesperson, said in a statement Tuesday that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, acting on behalf of the president, determined the normal notification process could endanger Bergdahl’s life.
“The swap for Bergdahl may have returned him to America, but it was not a smart move by Obama because no one but him and a few other people, not including Congress, knew. It was very risky,” said freshman Alyssa Schnorrbusch.
Congress is especially worried that this is just a repeat of Sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins.
Jenkins deserted his unit in South Korea in 1965 and crossed into the North, thinking the regime would ship him to the Soviet Union and he could go home from there. The North Koreans imprisoned him and made him do propaganda work until his negotiated release in 2004, whereupon the U.S. Army put a uniform on the old man, put him in jail for 25 days and, finally, discharged him dishonorably.
“I heard about the incidence with Jenkins and I do not believe that it is like what happened with Bergdahl. With Jenkins, it was confirmed that he was a deserter, but with Bergdahl, he could have simply been kidnapped,” said freshman Abbie Hoppe.
The effort to find Bergdahl is also indirectly connected to the deaths of six U.S. Army soldiers: Lt. Darryn Deen Andrews, Sgt. Clayton Patrick Bowen, Morris Lewis Walker, Sgt. Kurt Robert Curtiss, Matthew Michael Martinek, and Sgt. Michael Chance Murphrey. They were assigned to search for Bergdahl after his capture.
The celebration at the 28-year-old Sgt.’s home town of Hailey, Idaho that was previously planned for June 28 was cancelled due to the controversy over the circumstances of Bergdahl’s departure from his platoon and the handling of his release by the Obama administration. Furious phone calls and e-mails from all over the country flooded the town.
Bergdahl is currently in the process of adapting to American society again.
Why do you think Obama chose to make a swap for Bergdahl?