serial bowe bergdahl deserter whistleblower

When it comes to the second season of Serial, one thing is for sure—listeners are likely to be every bit as divided in their opinions, as they were about the innocence or guilt of Adnan Syed, the subject of season one’s hugely popular podcast.

As Sarah Koenig detailed last week, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, fully admits walking off base and into the wilds of Afghanistan back in July 2009—but, what’s contentious is the reason why he left his post—he’s been painted as a cowardly deserter, however, the 29-year-old maintains that he’s actually a whistleblower, or would have been, if he hadn’t been captured by the Taliban, and held hostage for five long years.

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Bergdahl’s disappearance sparked a massive, unprecedented manhunt, at great financial cost to the U.S.—in addition to the death of six of his fellow soldiers, and uncountable civilians—and, not surprisingly, the Army is pissed.

So pissed in fact, that Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, announced on Monday that Bergdahl will be facing a general court-martial, on charges of desertion and “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.”

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It's the highest charge that can be brought against him, and carries a possible life sentence, or even the death penalty (although that's highly unlikely in this case).

Given the fact that Bergdahl was held prisoner by the Taliban for five years, some may think he’s already been punished enough—the officer overseeing his preliminary hearing certainly thought so, he recommended Bergdahl be referred to a special court-martial and face no jail time at all—however, when you consider the sheer scale of the manhunt his disappearance sparked, it’s easy to understand why many military personnel are out for blood.

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In yesterday’s podcast, Koenig spoke to several of Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers, as well as Afghan reporter, Sami Yousafzai, former U.S. Army Major Jason Dempsey, who was stationed in Afghanistan at the time, and even the Taliban, in her bid to dive deeper into what went down in the days and weeks following Bergdahl’s disappearance.

Bergdahl’s decision to walk off base immediately set off a DUSTWUN—Duty Status, Whereabouts Unknown soldier—alarm, forcing an entire battalion of soldiers out into Taliban enemy grounds, unable to wash or sleep or eat a full meal for weeks at a time, as they hunted for him.

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It’s easy to see why many of those soldiers are angry at Bergdahl—to say the least—in fact, several of them told Koenig that if they had found him they would have wanted to have shot him for placing so many people’s lives in danger.

Which kinda makes you think, maybe it was just as well for Bergdahl that he did get captured by the Taliban, who at least fully appreciated the value of keeping him alive, as a financial and political bargaining tool—even likening him to a “golden chicken" during an interview with Yousafzai.

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The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s capture could prove key to either backing-up, or debunking, his claim that he walked off base to garner media attention so he could go public with concerns he had about Army policy and leadership.

Bergdahl has maintained that he was captured by the Taliban in the open countryside—as he attempted to make his way to FOB Sharana, gathering "intelligence" on the way—that a bunch of Taliban fighters appeared on motorbikes from seemingly nowhere,  surrounded him, and took him hostage.

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However, the Taliban tells a different story—they claim they were tipped off by locals that an American was hiding out in a Kochi (a large tent that nomadic tribes live in) and that they went there to capture him.

As Koenig points out, if the Taliban is telling the truth, and if he was hiding out with nomads—and that’s obviously a big IF—it could seriously damage Bergdahl’s whistleblower story, and make it appear much more likely that he WAS in fact trying to desert, rather than “seek out intelligence” on his way to FOB Sharana as he alleges.

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One thing is for sure though—after playing a protracted cat and mouse game with the U.S. Army, back and forth across Afghanistan, the Taliban finally managed to get Bergdahl over the border and into Pakistan—and, that’s where Koenig will be continuing from next week.

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serial bowe bergdahl taliban capture

Serial is back, focusing on a whole new subject matter—which, if the first episode is anything to go by, is like Adnan Syed’s story......on steroids.

For the second season of the hugely successful podcast, investigative journalist, Sarah Koenig is focusing on the mysterious disappearance of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan, and his subsequent capture by the Taliban.

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Bergdahl spent five long years being held hostage—and, initially, when he was brought home to Hailey, Idaho, he was greeted with fanfare—but, his homecoming was soon tarnished, and Bergdahl was turned into a traitorous deserter by the media, as the supposed “true” story, and the purported details surrounding his disappearance, came to light.

But, if there’s one lesson to be learned from the first season of Serial, it’s that the details of real life events and people’s actions—and the results that stem from them, are rarely black and white, right and wrong—and, the story of Bowe Bergdahl proves to be no exception.

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Bergdahl’s release back in May 2014, was controversial from the get go, with the Obama administration coming under fire from the GOP after details of the deal that secured his freedom came to light—five Guantanamo Bay prisoners were let go in exchange for Bergdahl.

Criticism grew yet further however, after it came to light that Bergdahl had purposely deserted his post, and seemingly willingly walked into the arms of the Taliban.

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Back in March, the 29-year-old was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, he remains on active duty while awaiting trial, and if convicted he faces a court martial and the possibility of life in prison.

Bergdahl has not spoken to the media since his release, but has been in close contact with filmmaker Mark Boal, who wrote and produced The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.

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Boal recorded their conversations, and it’s through these tapes that we are able to hear Bergdahl tell his story, in his own words, for the first time.

The first episode of Serial’s second season, titled DUSTWUN—or duty status, whereabouts unknown—details the events surrounding Bergdahl’s decision to leave his base, taking just a compass and a bottle of water with him.

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According to Bergdahl, the accusations that he was a deserter are unfounded—he claims that he’s actually a whistleblower, and that he chose to abandon his post, and wander into enemy grounds, in hopes of sparking a massive manhunt, with the belief that would provide him with the media spotlight he required to go public with concerns he claims he had about his unit’s leadership.

It’s a truly bizarre story, to say the least—and, Bergdahl admits that he quickly came to realize the gravity of the situation within pretty much minutes of leaving base and wandering into Afghanistan, back in June 2009.

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"I'm going, 'Good grief, I'm in over my head,’” Bergdahl recalls thinking at the time.

"Suddenly, it really starts to sink in that I really did something bad. Or, not bad, but I really did something serious."

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Indeed.

Episode two delves deeper into Bergdahl’s purported motives for walking away, and, just like Adnan Syed’s story before him, one thing is for sure—keep an open mind, because, often, the truth is way way stranger than fiction.

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For more entertainment, world, music and pop culture updates and news, follow Max Page on Twitter