Defending Bowe Bergdahl
Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 4:08PM
Tom Hayden

It was October 1967 that I was invited to Cambodia to take brief custody of three American soldiers being released in a gesture from the National Liberation Front (Vietcong). At the time I was an innocent 28 years old, the age of Bowe Bergdahl when he was released in a prisoner swap last year after five years of grueling captivity. I had a flashback to those times when Army General Robert Abrams ordered that Bergdahl be court-marshaled as a deserter despite far more lenient misdemeanor recommendations from the army lawyer who held a preliminary hearing in September. That officer concluded that there should be "no jail sentence at the end of this process" for Bergdahl. (See LA Times, Dec. 15, 2015.) Donald Trump wants Bergdahl executed, while the Republican Party supports General Abrams. Bergdahl is a scapegoat for Americans who can't seem to win a forever war. Additionally, at least seven or more American POWs held by Hanoi were released after the war, though they were accused of issuing anti-war statements from their cells. None went to prison.

The link between the 1967 release from South Vietnam and the sudden news about Bergdahl is the common charge of collaborating with the enemy. Whatever search and rescue our forces attempted for the three Americans in captivity back then prisoner failed for five years.  Pitzer was deeply worried that he had been a translator and teacher of English to his captors He feared that he would be court-marshaled for collaborating with the enemy. This may have explained his fervent comments over the phone and when was arrived in New York that he had been tortured, mistreated but never "brainwashed." I never doubted that he taught English and did translations for the "enemy, which seemed understandable given that was eating insects in the jungle for survival. Shortly after returning to the States, Pitzer was invited to throw out the first pitch of the baseball season as Nixon's special guest.

The same suspicions and rumors of collaborating with the enemy permeate the Bergdahl case, without any evidence so far. Bergdahl was severely isolated and tortured while held in utter isolation for five years. Was it Obama's duty to leave him in captivity?  There is no question that his behavior suggested PTSD or disorientation, and that American soldiers and resources were strained by the search for Bergdahl, but "no soldiers were killed or wounded during the hunt "for him", according to the preliminary investigation and the Times' account.


Perhaps General Abrams and the Republicans are irate because Bergdahl says publicly that he wanted to protest failed leadership of his unit in Afghanistan, which he says put soldiers' lives at risk. He also is holding conversations on the podcast "Serial" with Mark Boal, who won two Academy Awards for "Hurt Locker" and wrote "Zero Dark Thirty. You can listen at

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