Freed US POW Bowe Bergdahl, Family Vilified by Hawks

Political Row Has Many Questioning Father's Long Beard

Freed in a prisoner of war trade with the Taliban on Saturday, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is in stable condition in Germany today, and likely to return to the US reasonably soon. Controversy beat him back home by several days.

In addition to the psychological scars of years in captivity, Sgt. Bergdahl is also going to be facing growing questions surrounding his alleged “desertion” before his capture, and emails that expressed some opposition to the occupation of Afghanistan before that.

Hawks who were attacking the prisoner exchange simply for hawkishness’ sake have also seized on this story, and reports of other soldiers in his unit calling him a “traitor” were added to the narrative so instead of objecting to general recovery of US POWs, they were objecting to this particular POW.

Sgt. Bergdahl’s father, Robert Bergdahl has also found himself at issue among the hawks, with his suspiciously long beard and knowledge of Pashto leading to allegations he is some sort of Islamist. The elder Bergdahl actually began learning Pashto after his son’s capture, and considered going to Pakistan to try to negotiate for his son’s release himself.

Bergdahl and his family are likely to try to focus on getting him back to good health and putting his life back on track after years as a prisoner, a huge challenge in and of itself, but the questions and the political ramifications of his freedom are likely to follow them all for quite some time.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of