The New Manchurian Candidate? (with bonus commentary)

The New Manchurian Candidate? (with bonus commentary) June 7, 2014

I’m afraid the anti-Bergdahl crowd may have jumped the shark.  Current claims are that (a) he converted to Islam in 2010 and declared himself to be a mujahid, (b) seemed reluctant to leave his captors, and was even tearful and comforted by them, and (c) was shaved completely in accordance with Islamic practice for suicide bomber (OK, this last connection was suggested by a commenter on a blog post I read this morning).

Which all starts to remind of the plot of The Manchurian Candidate.  No, not the bad remake in which the returned soldier was brainwashed to serve a right-wing plotter, but the original, in which the Commies brainwashed him for their own purposes.  Of course, in that movie, the character didn’t know that he was brainwashed, and these accusations all center on the notion that Bergdahl knowingly and intentionally switched sides, either before or during his captivity — with further claims that claims of his mistreatment were an elaborate deception and he was relaxing comfortably the whole time.

Guys, really, how likely is this?  Let’s not get carried away and turn into the equivalent to Truthers, please.  Yes, Bergdahl didn’t have his head on straight — but let’s not turn this into a Hollywood plotline.


I’m going to write the following without links, since it’s based on things I read yesterday or the day before, but:

Apparently, there’s a duration distinction between being AWOL and desertion:  AWOL refers to leaving your unit without authorization, and desertion to being gone for 30 days or more.

The Pentagon, or at least the administration, is saying, “we don’t know if he is a deserter” and everyone is flying off the handle because of the testimony of his fellow soldiers that he left his post voluntarily.  But if he was captured by the Taliban — and genuinely captured, rather than turning himself in to them — within the first 30 days, then he has a somewhat ambiguous status.  He didn’t intentionally desert, in that case, but he wasn’t a POW, necessarily, either.  And if he in some manner reached out to the Taliban, then rather quickly discovered that his imagined notions of what the Taliban are all about were just fantasy, and at that point became a captive, well, that’s even less clear.

And it’s likely that we’ll never know — because even in the extreme case that Bergdahl was a collaborator from start to finish, of course, he’d have a story that says otherwise, and only if he makes the mistake of providing details which are readily disproven by known facts, can we actually know that he’s fibbing.

(And, yes, there is the chance that the Pentagon and the administration could know, or discover some facts that discredit their assertion that Bergdahl’s life was worth releasing 5 top Taliban, and keep that hidden.  And, yes, it is looking more and more like my guess that the ultimate goal was releasing the Taliban, and Bergdahl was just cover, is the explanation.)

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