I didn’t even stop to breathe, I jumped right in to season two the very day after I finished season one.
I know. Addicted.
“Serial’s” season two took on a similar, yet very different topic. That of infamous soldier Bowe Bergdahl, the man accused of deserting his platoon who then got captured by the Taliban and was held in captivity for five years. In 2014, the United States Government, who had been trying to negotiate with the Taliban, agreed to release five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl.
And people are pissed.
This season had a bit of a different tone to it. I don’t really know what exactly made it different, possibly because news about this story continued to come while the podcast covered it. But I think it was apparent that the show’s voice, Sarah Koenig, wasn’t as invested in this story as she had been in season one. I guess it’s understandable, this story has been beaten to death over the years, whereas Syed’s case didn’t really gain widespread attention until “Serial’s” coverage.
I don’t know, I just didn’t really feel Koenig’s passion this season.
However, that by far did not affect the careful, thorough tenacity of the journalists to get the story. I have to say, I learned more about the war in Afghanistan than I ever thought I would. This might be kind of sad when you think that this war has been going on pretty much since my toddler-hood (I’m 23.) I remember, in relation to our foreign fighting, often thinking: what the hell is going on? Now I feel I know at least a little bit more.
Now is the time to schedule your ten hours and go listen to season two. I’ll wait.
Okay, I had such a rough time trying to process this story, I actually initiated a debate with my boyfriend during our nightly call, despite being cuddled up in bed and ready to fall asleep. I just needed someone else to voice an opinion so I could ground myself.
Here’s my understanding:
Bergdahl says he had noticed some actions by his commanding officers that concerned him, so much so he was worried about his and his fellow soldiers’ safety. So, he decided to walk from his platoon’s station in Mest to a forward operating base in Sharana. In walking away, the army would activate a dustwun call for all platoons to search for the missing soldier. But Bergdahl never gets to Sharana, because he is kidnapped by Taliban soldiers.
He is then held in captivity for five years while the army searches and searches. All the while, U.S. soldiers, especially from Bergdahl’s platoon, are getting more and more upset. They are in danger every second while they go door to door looking for a man who, it seemed, didn’t even want to be there.
I get their anger, I really do. But some of them said that if they had found him, they would have killed him. It annoys me that our soldiers, although frustrated, really had that much disregard for a human life. They knew the Taliban had him, they know what the Taliban does to prisoners. And they were going to leave him there? Remember, at this point, I think accusations of desertion were just rumor. They didn’t know his story. And you’re still going to leave him there?
So that didn’t make me feel all that great about the army. We all know there’s corruption within the army, okay? It’s just another political thing in my mind. So there’s probably some truth to Bergdahl’s perceptions of corruption and misconduct.
On the other hand, I’m glad those in charge were persistent in looking for him. It’s an army value and they stuck to it. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be in the army.
I had a problem accepting the “diagnosis” that Bergdahl had some schizophrenic tendencies. At first it seemed like a sort of cop-out, but in some ways it makes sense and it fits. But, marry that with the fact that due to some type of break during basic training, he was separated from the Coast Guard. He probably shouldn’t have been over there at all.
A looming question, discussed in episode 11, is whether people died in missions specifically designed to find Bergdahl. Yeah, people probably did, but you’d never know since missions got clumped under the umbrella of the dustwun operation.
Now that he is back, he is working a desk job at an army base in Texas and is labeled as being active duty. However, the army will be taking him to court martial later this year. He faces a life sentence for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, among other charges.
The bottom line: I think Bergdahl had good intentions in his own mind. This was not the way to go about it. He made a bad choice. Originally, he and his family had been under the impression that Bergdahl would not face punishment due to his years of captivity. I think this should have been the outcome.
But apparently, the army just can’t let it go. Again, don’t feel great about the army here.
Aside: Caitlin Coleman, an American woman who was captured in 2012 with her husband while pregnant, is briefly mentioned in the podcast. They are still over there and that really scares me. You can read more about her here.
The other bottom line is, I don’t know what to think. But I’m glad I heard this story.
How do you think Bergdahl’s case should be handled? Do you think he should have been allowed into the army in the first place? How do you feel about the army’s operation? Let’s talk.