Scapegoating Another American Veteran

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a still from a recent video released by the Taliban.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a still from a recent video released by the Taliban.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a still from a recent video released by the Taliban.

Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is home after five years of captivity. I know it’s difficult for those who would like to scapegoat another veteran (just last week it was General Shinseki), this time as a political diversion for their culpability in initiating, supporting, and/or ignoring an illegal war in Iraq, and a futile, misguided 13 year travesty in Afghanistan that cost thousands of American and hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi lives, to appreciate or celebrate his liberation. Though I pledged to friends and relatives who suffered through my many rants that I would no longer comment on this disgraceful train of events, I am compelled to offer one final tirade of scattered observations and thoughts.

  • Regarding the prisoners that were released in exchange for Sergeant Bergdahl, they were not al Qaeda, the ones allegedly responsible for bringing down the towers (if you believe the official story). They were Taliban who had been held in Guantanamo for many years without trial. The Taliban are not international terrorist, they have not, and I think it safe to say, will not ever come here and threaten the American homeland. Their purpose, their raison d’être, is to restore a Fundamentalist Islamic state in Afghanistan, where THEY live. Now, it may be true that they may have had some direct or indirect connection to the war against Americans but if so only because we invaded and continue to occupy their country (what is it now 13 years?) and continue to drone kill their women and children. Fighting the invader and occupier is not to be a terrorist; it is to be an “insurgent,” or more accurately, a “freedom fighter.”
  • Regarding Sergeant Bergdahl’s father’s beard and his invoking Allah rather than Jesus or some other deity in his White House speech, what is the relevancy of his religious preference? Even if Robert Bergdahl is a Muslim, (he is not, the family is devote Calvinist, a branch of Christianity), when has practicing Islam become illegal in this country that prides itself on religious freedom?
  • Regarding all this speculation of wrong doing, the swift boating of a soldier just released from 5 years in captivity, aren’t we innocent until proven guilty in this country? Or has that changed? Besides, he is an American soldier and we don’t abandon our soldiers to the “enemy.”
  • Regarding his intentions in walking away from his unit. Based upon his emails to his father just before his “disappearance,” it is more likely that Bergdahl was motivated not by treason but by becoming convinced, rightfully I think, of the war’s futility, immorality, and waste, and the devastating effect it was having on Afghans and Americans alike. I don’t call that desertion or a being a traitor, I call that moral awareness and courage.
  • Regarding the motivation of some who are quick to condemn Sergeant Bergdahl,  I think, at least in part, this demonization is motivated by a concern that his act of conscience may inspire another G.I Movement, not unlike the “mutiny” that contributed to ending the Vietnam War as documented in the important film “Sir, No Sir.” According to the warrior’s ethos, this tool of compliance, the brother/sisterhood of the warrior forged in boot camp and reinforced on the field of battle requires that we stay and fight regardless of whether the war is winnable, legal, or moral. It warns that to act in accordance with one’s conscience and walk away is to violate the code, the bond, of the warrior, and cause the injury and death of fellow Servicemen and Women.
  • Regarding the outrage of “concerned” patriots in response to the claim that some five or six soldiers lost their lives searching and attempting to rescue Sergeant Bergdahl, why is there not equal outrage about a war that has dragged on for 13 years, a war everyone admits to be unwinnable and a complete fiasco?  Why is there not equal outrage at the FACT that some 2400 American soldiers died in Afghanistan and almost 5,000 in Iraq, wars that accomplished NOTHING, except maybe to fatten the coffers of Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, etc?

So, as we investigate the circumstances of Bergdahl’s behavior, as I’m sure we will, let us also investigate the criminality of the REAL war criminals, the ones that are truly responsible for the futile, unnecessary, perpetual wars for profit and for the deaths and injuries of thousands of Americans, Afghans, and Iraqis. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hold the war criminals accountable for their crimes?

Though the airwaves are flooded with speculation and innuendo, from what I can ascertain from the limited information that is available, Berghdahl was neither a traitor nor a deserter. Rather he saw the futility and immorality of the war, made a decision of conscience, and walked away. I applaud him for that. He displayed the courage that I lacked when I continued to participate in the Vietnam War even after I realized it was a lie. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all soldiers just refused and walked away? I wish now that I had as well.


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Camillo “Mac” Bica, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He is a former Marine Corps Officer, Vietnam Veteran, long-time activist for peace and justice, and the Coordinator of the Long Island Chapter of Veterans for Peace.

His philosophical focus is in Social and Political Philosophy and Ethics, particularly the relation between war, morality, and healing. Bica's books include "Beyond PTSD: The Moral Casualties of War," (Gnosis Press, 2015) and "Worthy of Gratitude: Why Veterans May Not Want to be Thanked for Their "Service" in War" (Gnosis Press, 2015). Articles by Dr. Bica have appeared in numerous philosophical journals and online alternative news sites.


  1. As many have pointed out, the details are not at all certain. For those who allude to the deaths of 6 Americans as justification for condemning Bergdahl, perhaps the facts here are “murky” as well. http //

  2. David E. Lohman Jr. · Top Commenter–
    “I still reserve myself over this issue because I don’t trust Obama or the media propaganda. This story from the beginning smells like BS.”

    Ditto that. Smells like PSYOP to me. Seems to be working too, based on the knee-jerk ranting, arguing and inciting/mockingbirding going on in various message boards. I’m still trying to figure out its purpose other than a distraction, but NOTHING gets this much MSM coverage unless its an OP of some kind.

  3. There were six soldiers killed looking for this man. Now he may be a deserter. Six. Many more were wounded. Now if that is not enough this president broke the law. There is a law governing presidents and how they do things. Like you, like me, we are supposed to follow the law. Hasn’t he insulted the U.S. one too many times? Hasn’t he thumbed his nose at us and our ways once too often? This “deal” stunk to high heaven..NO I do not believe the 9-11 story line. They may not be the terrorists they are portrayed to be, but, we have laws guiding a president’s behavior. There is such a thing called respect for the law. Sorry but, this is not sitting well with me.

    • It very well could be. This is what you get when you listen to the mainstream media. Very possibly the entire story is false and we all should be happy any soldier comes home in any way he can. Wars based on lies bring more lies and the real result is human tragedy.
      I only wish, hope and pray the real culprits of, and in, all this like the Bush’s, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Rice and the others will their just do for screwing up and leaving us the world we have today. Thanks.

    • Strange how every one says, ” if he does that one more time there is going to a lot of people mad”. How many times does that have to be said? It is like a parent admonishing a child with “If you do that one more time I’ll …”. It seems to me no one has the guts hold the line, to draw a line in the sand an stick with it. Why does this man get the breaks? Just because he is black, because he is president, because …

  4. I cannot help but notice that many of those criticizing Bowe Bergdahl are armchair cowards who have never served in the military for even one minute. I think that those who think they have a right to criticize Bowe Bergdahl should first demonstrate their patriotism by volunteering for service themselves.

    Thanks for this article, VT. The criticism of Bowe Bergdahl is usually more veteran bashing.

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