Last night, Fox News analyst Ralph Peters had the opportunity to back down from his heinous accusations against Taliban POW and Army Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl on Fox's O'Reilly Factor.
Unfortunately, Peters chose to reiterate his conjecture on the situation surrounding Bergdahl's capture. The video is available on YouTube.
Peters claims that the "Army knows" that Bergdahl deserted his post. However, the Army has refused to comment on the situation, citing operational security and concern for the Bergdahl family. In fact, in an effort to protect the identity of the missing soldier and his loved ones, the Pentagon deliberately withheld Bergdahl's name from the public for more than two weeks, until the Taliban released its illegal propaganda video of their prisoner.
What's worse about this second interview is that host Bill O'Reilly agrees with Peters' baseless assertions and suggests that the media is being too easy on Bergdahl. O'Reilly suggests that Bergdahl must be "crazy" for abandoning his post, expounding on his guest's speculation, and suggests that Bergdahl does not deserve our legitimate concern.
The hateful rhetoric spewed by Peters and O'Reilly has absolutely no place in this discussion and certainly cannot be construed as news. As Peters admits in his interview, he is not a combat veteran and he never commanded in combat during his 22 years in the military. O'Reilly has never served. How could either of these men know about being held as a prisoner of war? As a combat veteran of the war in Iraq, I'm personally insulted by their comments.
In my line of work, I've had the unique opportunity to speak with some of our nation's brave former POWs. Every time, I hear that there is only so much a prisoner can do to resist. Our enemies are brutal. As we saw in the Bergdahl video, this young soldier fears for his life. He was forced into making his statements about the U.S. presence in Afghanistan because American withdrawal is what the Taliban is demanding in exchange for Bergdahl's life. How dare anyone criticize a young man trapped in a situation that so few of us could legitimately empathize with.
I remember my own limited Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) training during Army AIT and prior to my deployment to Iraq. While it is true that it is our duty, as soldiers, to resist and escape, even the U.S. military acknowledges that everyone has a breaking point. Did Peters miss this block of instruction in his 22 years of service?
Bergdahl is a prisoner of war. Our nation needs to rally behind the young soldier, his unit in Afghanistan, and his loved ones in Idaho. We must continue to demand his safe return. Fox News should be ashamed for giving Peters and O'Reilly this kind of forum to propagate their unfounded and morally reprehensible messages.
For all we know, Bergdahl was taken against his will by the Afghan soldiers he was purported to have left the base with, and subsequently sold to Taliban warlords, as initially reported. During my time in Iraq, I know that many of our local "allies" liked to play both sides of the ball. Reporting that he is a deserter or a traitor is utterly tasteless--especially when you know that his parents and his girlfriend are probably watching.
AMVETS has drafted a letter of its own to Fox News executives demanding an apology for the network's continued skewed commentary on this issue, which will be available on the official AMVETS Web site later today.
Pfc. Bergdahl and his family remain in our thoughts and prayers today, and I leave you with this: Let's stop speculating on circumstances we know nothing about, and just remember that a young man from Idaho raised his right hand and swore to defend our nation in a time of war. He deserves our respect and he deserves to come home safe.
(Photo: Official U.S. Army photo of Pfc. Bergdahl, courtesy of Fort Richardon Public Affairs.)