Friday, June 13, 2014

Bergdahl diaries show poetic sensitivity

Soldier was previously discharged early from Coast Guard

Express Staff Writer

    Diaries written by Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl released to The Washington Post on Wednesday provide insight into the poetic and perhaps unstable moods of a soldier who was captured five years ago by the Taliban.
    “I’m worried,” Bergdahl reportedly wrote in a journal before he deployed to Afghanistan. “The closer I get to ship day, the calmer the voices are. I’m reverting. I’m getting colder. My feelings are being flushed with the frozen logic and the training, all the unfeeling cold judgment of the darkness.”
    A few pages later, he wrote, “I will not lose this mind, this world I have deep inside. I will not lose this passion of beauty.”

You cannot throw a tender artist’s soul into war, and then hold them accountable to the expectations of a media machine.”
Kim Harrison
Bergdahl friend

    The diaries were released by Bergdahl friend and former Ketchum tea shop owner Kim Harrison, who the Post reported was entrusted by Bergdahl to make arrangements for his body should he not return alive from the war in Afghanistan.
    The diaries reportedly span the year before he allegedly walked off his base in Paktika Province of Afghanistan on June 30, 2009. The Post reported that U.S military knew about the diaries five years ago, but did not disclose details about them.
    “I am the lone wolf of deadly nothingness,” Bergdahl reportedly wrote in his journal before becoming a captive of the Taliban.
    The Post reported that Bergdahl had “dreams of walking away—to China, into the mountains, or, as he says at one point, into ‘the artist’s painted world, hiding from the fields of blood and screams, hidden from the monster within himself.’”
    The reports of the diaries complement sentiments shared by Bergdahl’s father, Bob Bergdahl, who in a 2010 Rolling Stone magazine interview discussed at length the romantic ideas his son had about joining the military to help defenseless people living under despotic regimes.
    “In 2008, he spoke to a family friend who was working as a missionary in Uganda about going over to Africa to teach ‘self-defense techniques’ to villagers being targeted by brutal militias like the Lord’s Resistance Army,” Michael Hastings wrote in Rolling Stone. “He [Bergdahl] and his father even fantasized about the creation of a special-operations unit to ‘kill these f***s’ in Africa, imagining that ‘someone needed to run an op with some military people dressed up like U.N. people’ to take out warlords in Darfur and Sudan.”        The Post article reports that Bergdahl left the Coast Guard with an “uncharacterized discharge” in 2006. An unnamed Army spokesman told the Post that Bergdahl would have required a waiver to then join the military.
    “With two wars raging in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008, the Army was meeting recruitment goals by issuing waivers that allowed people with criminal records, health conditions and other problems to enlist,” the Post stated. “According to a 2008 Army War College study on the subject, the Army was issuing waivers at a rate of one for every five recruits at the time.”
    Harrison, who about 10 years ago ran Strega tea house and art space on First Avenue in Ketchum, and then a spa at the same location, employed many young people, including her two home-schooled children, Kayla and Shane. Shane and Bowe Bergdahl worked together laying the pavers around the Strega tea shop, about five years before Bergdahl joined the military.
    The Washington Post reported that Harrison “decided to share Bergdahl’s journal and computer files with the Post because she is concerned about the portrayal of Bergdahl as a calculating deserter, a characterization she says is at odds with her understanding of him as sensitive and vulnerable.”
    In a follow-up interview with the Post on Wednesday, Harrison said she “wrestled with her decision to share the journal, finally deciding to do so with a long-form newspaper writer because she felt it would be the best way to capture what she considered to be Bergdahl’s complexity and character.”
    The paper also included a written statement from Harrison:
    “I hope with my whole being that what I have decided to do will have the intended effect. Love and compassion. Understanding that you cannot throw a tender artist’s soul into war, and then hold them accountable to the expectations of a media machine. Unfit for combat does not mean unfit for an inspirational and exceptional life.  He is worth protecting. He is courageous and noble. He is loved.”

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