“Raise your hands if you think he’s a deserter.” This was the question posed by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly of soldiers that served in the same platoon as Bowe Bergdahl. These men came together for the first time since departing Afghanistan to speak out about Bowe Bergdahl.
Six members of Bergdahl’s platoon, including the platoon’s former leader, spoke out on the recent trade of terrorist Taliban leaders for Bergdahl’s freedom.
Sgt. Evan Buetow, the team leader at the time, was asked what he thought about James Rosen’s disclosures about Bergdahl’s conversion to Islam, fraternized openly with his captors and declared himself a warrior for Islam, at least by August of 2012.
Buetow said that the platoon knew that when he left, he had deserted. He also said, “We knew he was trying to find the Taliban, or someone that could speak English so he could talk to the Taliban. That was known to us at the time when we were on the ground after he left.”
Kelly posed that Bergdahl could have had some sort of “god complex” and was attempting to solve the war, but didn’t necessarily mean he was going to conspire with the enemy. Buetow agreed with her.
In fact, Buetow said, “At some point, we’re going to have to listen to his side of the story. America wants to hear what he has to say.”
When asked who believed Bergdahl had deserted, all six members of the team raised their hands, and they affirmed that they had no question of his desertion.
Sgt. Buetow said that they had heard the same reports of Bergdahl’s conversion, but they didn’t have evidence of it.
However, when Kelly said that she would have done whatever to survive, including saying that she converted to Islam and taking up arms against the United States, not only did my stomach sink, but every member completely disagreed with her. “No, no,” they declared in unison.
Spc. Cody Full, Bergdahl’s roommate prior to his deployment, said that he would have done anything from swinging at his captors to trying to steal a gun and shoot them. “I’m not going to be a propaganda piece so that my family can see me on the internet.”
Full also reminded viewers that the motive for Bergdahl’s desertion is irrelevant. “We all took an oath to abide by orders, and you don’t just leave your fellow Americans to join with somebody else.”
Former Squad Leader Justin Gerleve expressed the fact that each of the men individually signed up. “We volunteered. A draft didn’t come through, nothing like that. So for him to sign an oath….he signed an oath to go do his job.”
Kelly referenced an email that Bergdahl sent to his father about atrocities and disillusionment with the Army, which was sent prior to his desertion and was seeming to see if there was sympathy for his desertion based on that.
Buetow said that they saw the same things. “We all saw…I mean not like atrocities… in some like….illegal thing that was going on that was trying to get covered up or anything, but you see your friends and no one….unless you were there, you don’t know what we’ve seen.”
Then the conversation moved to collaboration with the enemy. Again, James Rosen’s piece was referenced with regard to CIA files on Bergdahl. She even pointed out the shooting of AK-47s with the Taliban.
One of the members, Josh Cornelison, a medic who served in the Army, said that Bergdahl appeared to be enjoying himself doing these things.
Kelly pressed him, saying that Bergdahl had tried to escape five times and they put him in a cage. “Would you do it?” she asked.
“You do everything you can to get back to your guys,” he answered. “Because you know that they care about you, you care about them. You put your life down for them and they’re gonna do the same thing for you.”
When asked for the best evidence that Bergdahl intentionally deserted his unit, Buetow said, “The morning we found out he was missing, someone went to wake him up for his guard shift and he was not there. He was not in his tent. His weapon, his bullet proof vest, his sensitive items were left behind, in the tent.”
The position that they occupied was about two acres, according to Buetow, which they searched. He indicated the area was not a fortified structure, only consisting of bunkers, wire, and some trucks.
After a few minutes of searching, they sent out a patrol to a nearby village to look for Bergdahl, not knowing what had happened. According to Buetow, they weren’t ten feet out of where they were, when two boys on their way to school, came up to them and said, “Hey, there was an American crawling through the weeds that way,” and pointed in the direction they saw him. These boys also indicated that the man they saw didn’t have a weapon or gear with him. The boys also found it strange that he was by himself.
Team Leader Matt Vierkant indicated that Bergdahl had spoken to him about walking off into the mountains someday just a week prior to his desertion.
Buetow said that Bergdahl never said he hated America or things of that nature, but he did say that Bergdahl had come to him and expressed frustration and disappointment with the way America was conducting the war in Afghanistan, much like many of the parents who lost their sons aboard Extortion 17.
Gerleve elaborated on Bergdahl’s perception saying, “He thought us going to war was going to be…we were going to go to war, you know it was gun battles every day. The war today is not that way.”
Furthermore, Cornelison said that as soon as the emails from Bergdahl to his father were published and they read them, they were confused because they were not what he had been saying to them. In fact, Cornelison said that far from hating to be an American, “He was wanting to do more aggressive stuff and he was frustrated that we weren’t allowed to do it.”
Finally, the members were clear and in agreement in expressing that after Bergdhal’s desertion, the attacks on them became worse. However, they were not as willing as they were concerning the desertion question to say that was because of Bowe Bergdahl.
Many factors come into play concerning that as expressed by one of the members, including new people in the area, new bomb makers and other variables. Bergdahl may have been involved or he may not have.
So in the words of those closest to Bowe Bergdahl, he was clearly a deliberate deserter, and while they may have in their minds that he may have had something to do in collaborating with the enemy (Sgt. Buetow had previously expressed that the attacks were “very suspicious”), they are unwilling to state that Bergdahl’s desertion resulted in IED attacks on their vehicles and deaths of fellow soldiers.
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