Bergdahl mostly seen as traitor
by W. Winston Skinner
Local military veterans – like veterans and other citizens across the country – have varying opinions about Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, but their views are generally negative.
“I think a firing squad is too good for him,” said Tim Gresham of Newnan, who served three years in the Army. Gresham referred to Bergdahl as “that traitor.”
Bergdahl returned to the United States early Friday after his release from five years in captivity in Afghanistan.
There is controversy about the Obama administration swapping five senior Taliban officials – who had been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – for Bergdahl’s release, without consulting Congress. There also are questions about whether Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in 2009 or whether he simply walked away from his unit and into the arms of the terrorist group.
“We do not know all of the facts of the Bergdahl case,” said Newnan photographer Bob Shapiro, who served in the military during the Vietnam War. “I feel sure there is a much deeper story here.”
Shapiro said Bergdahl may be mentally unstable, and he acknowledged the Idaho native could be a deserter. “Whatever the case, he is now in the U.S., and the military will deal with him” through its own court system, he said.
“As for the terrorists, they may just quietly disappear,” Shapiro said.
Mike McGuffey, who served in Afghanistan, agreed Bergdahl’s case is murky, but he was less optimistic about the five Taliban leaders. “I’m not too sure on Bergdahl,” McGuffey said, noting the story is still unfolding.
Still, Bergdahl is “worthless for walking away from his post and leaving his fellow soldiers,” he added.
“As for the Taliban commanders, I know for a fact – 100 percent – they will return to the battlefield. They will be gazed upon as heroes, and in their status in that region will be just under Allah,” McGuffey said.
“Little girls will grow up dreaming of having a husband like that,” he said.
“Once we leave Afghanistan, the Taliban will celebrate a total victory. The Taliban will continue to kill those who oppose their way – and even the children. I have seen it,” McGuffey said.
While McGuffey was in Afghanistan, the Taliban hanged an 8-year-old boy from a tree in his family’s front yard. Their crime was allowing Americans to dig a well for fresh water on their property “so they didn’t have to walk to the river to get water in the same place Afghans took baths,” he said.
He said he also saw Taliban followers digging holes for explosive devices. “While they had a shovel in one hand, they were holding a baby in the other – and digging. They did this because they knew we would not strike with a drone or artillery while he held the baby,” McGuffey said.
“They use women and children as shields on the battlefield,” McGuffey said. “I know how evil they are and (they) have zero rules. … They hate the U.S.”
Returning to the exchange of Bergdahl for the five Taliban leaders, McGuffey said, “Based on what I know, it was a bad swap.”
U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who lives in Coweta County, issued a statement following the exchange. “I am glad Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been reunited with his parents. However, it is highly concerning the Obama Administration authorized the release of five dangerous Taliban terrorists from Guantanamo Bay without first consulting with or notifying congress, as required by law.”
Chad Hill, a veteran who pastors Allen-Lee Memorial United Methodist Church in Lone Oak, said the communication issue does create problems.
“I think the issue here is the president did not communicate with the other branches of government. I think we should have brought him home, but everyone should have been consulted in some way,” he said.
“I think that all life is sacred. Therefore, no question we should have got him back home,” Hill explained. The release of the five men from Guantanamo “not only endangers our soldiers abroad and our security at home, but affects our intelligence gathering efforts,” Westmoreland stated. “There is no guarantee that these prisoners will not resume their terrorist activities, including targeting innocent Americans.”
Bergdahl, who has been recovering at an Army medical facility in Germany since his release last month, "will continue the next phase of his reintegration process" at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
In a statement released early Friday via the Idaho National Guard, Bergdahl's family asked for privacy as they prepare to see their son for the first time in years.
Officials have kept a lid on details of Bergdahl's condition out of concern that he not be rushed back into the public spotlight after a lengthy period in captivity and amid a public uproar over the circumstances of his capture and release.
The Army has not formally begun a new review into the circumstances of Bergdahl's capture and whether he walked away without leave or was deserting the Army when he was found and taken by insurgents. In a statement Friday, the Army said that after Bergdahl's reintegration it would "continue its comprehensive review into the circumstances of his disappearance and captivity."
Republican Senate candidates Jack Kingston and David Perdue were critical Friday about the swap of five terrorist leaders for Bergdahl. Democrat Michelle Nunn was more circumspect but also expressed concerns.
"I believe the burden is on the Obama administration to clearly show that the situation necessitated bypassing congressional notification," she told Morris News Service. "This is another example where distrust and lack of communication between the president and Congress diminishes our nation."
Perdue told Morris News he worries about a return to terrorism by the five men.
"I am deeply concerned that Pres. Obama made a critical decision to release five terrorists which could result in the future loss of American lives. My concern is only compounded by the fact that the president did not appropriately consult with Congress and that there are so many unresolved questions regarding the circumstances that led to Sgt. Bergdahl’s captivity," he said.
Kingston said he is troubled the exchange will set a precedent that might prompt the kidnapping of soldiers, sailors or airmen in the future by groups hoping to free other terrorists. "The president should not sacrifice American security and hard-won prisoners of war over a misguided campaign promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," he said.
Kingston said Obama’s decision is based on an “ideological pursuit” which “ignores the realities of Islamist terror and undermines the ability of our troops to defend the nation."