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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Soldier Calls ‘PR Campaign’ Against Bergdahl ‘Disgusting’

A sign announcing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits outside Zaney's coffee shop where Bergdahl worked as a teenager on June 2, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A sign announcing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits outside Zaney’s coffee shop where Bergdahl worked as a teenager on June 2, 2014 in Hailey, Idaho. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A new video out from the Taliban shows his release to American special forces on Saturday, as the debate continues over whether Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a deserter, defector or hero.

Here & Now’s Robin Young speaks with Matthew Farwell, a former infantry soldier in Afghanistan who helped write a 2012 Rolling Stone profile of Bowe Bergdahl.

Interview Highlights: Matthew Farwell

On the criticism Bergdahl has received from members of his unit

“The unit itself appeared to have discipline and morale problems. You can review footage from Sean Smith of the Guardian, who embedded with them for a month. And when reviewing that footage, as a former infantryman, I looked at the way those soldiers were conducting operations, and I was stunned with the lack of professionalism.”

“So you’ve got soldiers who have come back from a pretty hellish deployment, had to shut up about it for five years, and now, the bubble’s burst and they can finally talk about it, and they’re directing a lot of the anger that is natural for any soldier to feel after a war directly at Bergdahl, which I think is unfair.”

On allegations that soldiers died looking for Bergdahl

“Applying any direct causal relationship — you know, Bowe Bergdahl and those soldiers dying — and I have the greatest sympathy for those families and those soldiers. I have a brother who was killed serving his country. I know how horrible that feels. But, you know, I don’t think it’s fair to lay that directly at Bergdahl’s feet, and the fact is, it’s a bad area. Any time that you flood that zone with soldiers, there are going to be fatalities. So I think it’s kind of a weak link, and it’s an emotional argument that resonates with people, but isn’t necessarily factual.”

On the “PR campaign” surrounding Bergdahl’s release

“I think it’s fairly interesting and somewhat disgusting how politicized this has been.”

“The political game being, you know, playing typical Washington games of using U.S. soldiers as pawns and props to make a political argument. Also, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, the parents of Bowe, are lovely people, they are good Americans, and they have been through hell in the past five years, and I think the amount of disrespect they’ve been getting from all sides has been absolutely disgusting.

Video: Guardian footage from Afghanistan that includes Bergdahl

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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