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What Rolling Stone Knew (And Some Idaho Media Chose to Forget) About U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

Journalist Michael Hastings wrote in 2012 of Bergdahl's disillusion with the U.S. Army and the secret plan to swap five Taliban POWs for the Idaho native.


Soon after the May 31 announcement that Idaho native and U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been freed by his Taliban captors, some Idaho media outlets dropped professional protocols and begin referring to Bergdahl and his family with uncomfortable familiarity, using only their first names. KBOI-TV even chose to underscore its reporting with an orchestral flourish.

But within 48 hours of the announcement, things took a turn. Social media blew up with commentary--much of it from fellow soldiers--that Bergdahl's pending return as a hero was premature at best and flat-out inappropriate at worst. Idaho media may have been well-advised to refer to a 2012 Rolling Stone report from the late Michael Hastings, who painted a very different portrait of the Hailey native. Hastings presciently wrote in 2012 of a then-radical proposal to swap Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners (BW, Citydesk, "Explosive Article on POW Bergdahl to Appear in Rolling Stone," June 7, 2012). Nearly two years to the day of that report, that's exactly what happened.

In the same 2012 report by Hastings, who died in a car accident a year later, we learned that in October 2008, Bergdahl was initially described as "a normal Joe" by his fellow soldiers. But in time, the same soldiers called Bergdahl "Mr. Intensity." In an email sent to his parents on June 27, 2009, three days before he disappeared from his post, Bergdahl wrote about his complete disillusionment with the war.

"Life is way too short to care for the damnation of others as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong," wrote Bergdahl. "I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be American. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting."

Calling the U.S. Army "the biggest joke," Bergdahl said his colleagues were "liars, backstabbers, fools and bullies."

On June 30, 2009, Bergdahl gathered up water, a knife, his digital camera and his diary, and slipped off his outpost. The following morning an acting platoon leader called in a report of a missing soldier--Bergdahl.

Nearly five years later, Bergdahl was free. Following medical treatment at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and San Antonio's Fort Sam Houston, the Pentagon hopes for a thorough debriefing.

Meanwhile, Idaho media is expected to pull out all the stops for wall-to-wall coverage of Bergdahl's Idaho homecoming, perhaps with an orchestral flourish.